NXIVM cult leader Keith Raniere has been sentenced to 120 years behind bars after a dramatic hearing where he was confronted by 15 of his victims.
Raniere, 60, had been facing a maximum sentence of life in prison after being convicted of sex trafficking of children, conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit forced labor in June 2019.
As the founder of NXIVM, the court had heard how the cult-like group kept women on starvation diets, branded them with his initials, and ordered them to have sex with him.
His sentencing was delayed on Tuesday because so many people had shown up to attend it. India Oxenberg, the daughter of Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg, was one of those who spoke.
She said Raniere treated her like his ‘human science experiment’, calling him an ‘entitled little princess’ and a sexual predator. She lamented that she ‘may have to spend the rest of my life with Keith Raneire’s initials seared into me.’
Raniere’s lawyers asked that he be sentenced to 15 years. But after telling the judge he had ‘no remorse’ for the crimes because he ‘didn’t commit them’, Judge Nicholas Garaufis handed down the sentence that means he will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Branding Raniere ‘ruthless and unyielding’ in crimes that were ‘particularly egregious’ because he targeted girls and young women, Judge Garaufis said: ‘To him, the brave victims … are liars. Mr. Raniere remains unmoved. … [He] has therefore failed to demonstrate remorse.’
He handed down the unusually high sentence in federal court in Brooklyn after hearing anguished statements by victims of a sex-trafficking conspiracy that resulted in Raniere’s conviction last year, along with unrepentant remarks from the defendant himself.
‘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.
Because of social distancing rules, fewer people are allowed in courtrooms now than before. More than an hour after Raniere’s scheduled hearing time, court officials were trying to determine whether or not they should open a second courtroom for the overspill of media and victims who had shown up at Brooklyn Criminal Court on Tuesday.
Eventually, it got underway with the statement of a woman who called herself Camila. Raniere moved her and her sister to the US from Mexico in 2005. She called him a ‘monster’.
Fifteen women gave victim impact statements on Tuesday. Among them were former girlfriends of Raniere and former victims. They labeled him a ‘parasite’ and a ‘psychological terrorist’.
‘He screwed with my mind for so long. It is difficult for me to utter his name, so I will only refer to him as ‘he’.
‘I can still hear his voice in my head — it continues to be a daily struggle,’ Camila said.
She also told the court that she was 15 and he was 45 when he raped her. He denies it.
‘He manipulated me for what he wanted.
‘I became unreachable to my parents, my brother, my friends until I had nobody to worry about me. He knew the things that mattered most to me and what I feared and used that against me,’ she said
Raniere was convicted of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and attempted sex trafficking but not rape.
‘He told me to keep it a secret, and he would ask me to sneak out of the home to meet in a place where we were isolated from everyone.
‘He took naked pictures of me — the experience of being photographed is seared in my memory,’ she said.
She also told the court that he forced her to weigh less than 100lbs and that he once made her get an abortion.
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 the 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.
Former NXIVM member and supporter of Raniere, Marc Elliot, said: ‘We all should be fighting for due process no matter how much you don’t like it or how inconvenient it is. Because if someone or society ever turns on you, you better hope to God that due process and laws are still standing to protect you.’
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Source: Daily Mail