Keith Raniere loses 120-year sentence appeal for NXIVM crimes


Keith Raniere appeared in a 2017 NXIVM YouTube video.

NXIVM Founder Keith Ranierewho ran a so-called sex “cult” involving women branded as his “slaves” failed to have his 120-year sentence commuted after his sex trafficking conviction.

On Friday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected its more restrictive definition of “commercial sexual activity,” which its attorneys argued would have excluded his conduct. The three-judge panel agreed that the law’s requirement to prove the transmission of “something of value” includes the sexual satisfaction he received from his victims.

In 2003, Raniere founded NXIVM as a supposed self-help organization whose members would pay thousands to attend workshops around New York state. Two years later, Raniere founded a secret society made up of “masters” and “slaves” within the organization known as DOS. Kleinville actress Allison Mackwho was also in federal prison as one of Raniere’s convicted accomplices, was one of the “masters” in the group, with Raniere at the top of the pyramid.

Another prominent member of NXIVM was Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfmanwhose 81-month prison sentence was also imposed approved.

Many years would pass before the activities within DOS – short for Dominus Obsequious Sororium, which loosely translates from Latin to “master of the slaves” – would come to the fore. Initiation ceremonies included the branding of female initiates, in the words of one of the victims, “like cattle.” Among the insignia burned into her skin were Raniere’s initials, which the women were unaware of.

As the Second Circle Judgment states, the women would have to be naked while saying, “Master, please brand me. It would be an honor, an honor to carry for the rest of my life.”

An order of restitution accompanying Raniere’s ruling compensated the branded women for “past and future” plastic surgery costs to remove the markings.

The federal sex trafficking law describes a “commercial sex act” as an act in which “each person is given or received something of value.” Raniere’s lawyers argued the law was “intended to punish sexual exploitation for economic gain.”

US Circle Judges Guido Calabresi, Jose Cabranes and Richard Sullivan disagreed with this narrow interpretation, noting “the broad meaning of ‘any'”.

Cabranes, the lead author of the statement, noted that Congress used the word “any” three times in the statute.

“Congress’s repeated use of the word ‘any’ in its definition of ‘commercial sex’ supports a further understanding of the specific phrase at issue here, ‘anything of value,'” the statement said.

The Opinion notes that “both intangible and tangible values” such as “entertainment”, “intercourse or the promise of intercourse” could be included.

After establishing such a broad definition, the judges found that the government’s evidence presented to the jury easily satisfied it.

“The government has actually produced evidence in court that DOS ‘masters’, including Mack, obtained ‘things of value’ by instructing their DOS ‘slaves’ to engage in sexual activity with Raniere,” it said it in the 24-page statement. For example, the government presented evidence that Mack was able to maintain and strengthen its privileged position in the DOS hierarchy because of the relationship between Raniere and one of Mack’s ‘slaves’, Nicole. The government also presented evidence that Raniere expected DOS “masters” to receive approximately 40 hours of “work” per week from their various “slaves.”

Although Raniere denied there was any evidence of coercion, the Second Circuit found that testimonies from his victims showed otherwise. DOS members would be forced to provide compromising materials held as “collateral” prior to their inauguration.

“Nicole testified that she felt ‘[n]o Choice’ to ‘tell’ in compliance with Mack’s order [Raniere] the [she] would do anything he asked [her] to do,'” the statement said. She further testified that she had provided Mack with ‘collateral’ in the form of letters, among others, involving her family members in criminal activities, a sexually explicit video and a letter about a prominent former romantic partner who could ‘ruin’ [Nicole’s] career.'”

Raniere’s attorney did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s email seeking comment.

Read the verdict here.

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