NXIVM guru gets 120 years in prison in sex-slaves case

NEW YORK (AP) — Disgraced self-improvement guru Keith Raniere, whose NXIVM followers included
millionaires and Hollywood actors, was sentenced to 120 years on Tuesday for turning some adherents into
sex slaves branded with his initials and sexually abusing a 15-year-old.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis called Raniere "ruthless and unyielding" in crimes that
were "particularly egregious" because he targeted girls and young women in the sex-trafficking
conspiracy that resulted in Raniere’s conviction last year.
He handed down the unusually stiff sentence in Brooklyn federal court after hearing the words of 15
victims call for a long prison term to reflect the nightmares and anguish they’ll confront the rest of
their lives.
As he announced the sentence, Garaufis noted that Raniere labeled some of the victims’ claims lies. The
judge told a woman who Raniere ordered to be kept in a room for two years when she was 18: "What
happened to you is not our fault." He said that went for the other victims too.
Raniere, who looked at victims as they spoke in the courtroom, maintained his defiant tone, although he
said he was "truly sorry" that his organization led to a place where "there is so much
anger and so much pain."
"I do believe I am innocent of the charges. … It is true I am not remorseful of the crimes I do
not believe I committed at all," Raniere said.
Prosecutors had sought life in prison, while a defense lawyer told the judge Raniere should face 20 years
behind bars.
The sentencing was the culmination of several years of revelations about Raniere’s program, NXIVM, which
charged thousands of dollars for invitation-only self-improvement courses at its headquarters near
Albany, New York, along with branches in Mexico and Canada. Adherents endured humiliation and pledged
obedience to Raniere as part of his teachings.
NXIVM has been the subject of two TV documentary series this year, HBO’s "The Vow," and the
Starz series "Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult."
Prosecutors said Raniere, 60, led what amounted to a criminal enterprise, inducing shame and guilt to
influence and control co-conspirators who helped recruit and groom sexual partners for him. Raniere was
convicted on charges including racketeering, alien smuggling, sex trafficking, extortion and obstruction
of justice.
After victims spoke for 2 1/2 hours, the judge grew impatient and a bit angry when defense lawyer Marc
Agnifilo sought to portray his client’s organization as "doing good" for women before things
turned bad for some.
"I’ve heard enough about Mr. Raniere’s theories," Garaufis snapped.
The judge said Raniere groomed a 13-year-old girl so that "two years later he’s having sex with a
15-year-old girl."
At another point, he cut Agnifilo off as the lawyer tried to argue victims were not always factually
correct.
"You’re starting to tire me out here," the judge said. "It’s pretty clear he took
advantage of people sexually."
Earlier, India Oxenberg, the daughter of "Dynasty" actor Catherine Oxenberg, called Raniere an
"entitled little princess" and a sexual predator and lamented that she "may have to spend
the rest of my life with Keith Raneire’s initials seared into me."
Another victim said she had the initials removed from her body by a plastic surgeon.
The likelihood of leniency had seemed to dissipate with the recent sentencing of Clare Bronfman, 41, an
heir to the Seagram’s liquor fortune, for her role in NXIVM, which has been described by some ex-members
as a cult. Bronfman was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison. Prosecutors had only sought five
years.
Ex-followers told the judge that Bronfman for years had used her wealth to try to silence NXIVM
defectors.
Reniere’s followers called him "Vanguard." To honor him, the group formed a secret sorority
comprised of female "slaves" who were branded with his initials and ordered to have sex with
him, the prosecutors said. Women were also pressured into giving up embarrassing information about
themselves that could be used against them if they left the group.
Along with Bronfman, Raniere’s teachings won him the devotion of Hollywood actors, including Allison Mack
of TV’s "Smallville." Mack also has pleaded guilty to charges in the case and is awaiting
sentencing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Hajjar told the judge only a life sentence would protect the public because
Raniere otherwise "would be committing crimes today, tomorrow and in the future."
Outside court afterward, Barbara Boucher, who described herself as the first whistleblower of Raniere’s
scam when she left the group 11 years ago, said recovering from her time in the organization was
traumatic and the sentencing left her "shell shocked" and "enormously relieved."
"It’s pretty amazing," said Boucher, who recalled her role in helping to build the organization
when she first viewed it as a kind of Camelot.
"This is a 20-year book and this is the last chapter of the book and when I leave here today, that
book is closing," she said.