The founder of the sex sect NXIVM, sentenced to 120 years in prison

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Keith Raniere, sentenced in New York for human trafficking and sexual exploitation, is unrepentant and maintains that he is innocent until the last moment of his trial

The leader of the sect who marked his sex slaves as cattle will spend the rest of his days in prison. Keith Raniere, founder of NXIVM (pronounced Nexium), was sentenced this Tuesday to 120 years in prison in a New York court. Raniere, 60, had already been convicted in June of last year of crimes including human trafficking, sexual exploitation and possession of child pornography. Vanguardia, as he was known among his followers, maintained that he was innocent until the moment he was sentenced and he was never sorry for his crimes.

The hearing against Raniere has had as protagonists his victims. More than a dozen women responded to the Brooklyn court’s call to confront their abuser for the last time: people who were marked without anesthesia with a cauterizing pen, financially ruined and forced to engage in sexual acts with the guru against their will. “Keith Raniere is a dangerous person, who has used people to make his own perverse wishes come true in each of his businesses,” said India Oxenberg, a victim of the sect, in an interview with EL PAÍS days before the sentence. “He is a threat to society and if he was released, he would continue to harm more people,” he added.

The trial uncovered a series of atrocities, such as the sexual abuse of Camila, a Mexican teenager, and the isolation of the victim’s sister, with whom she also had sexual relations, in a room for two years. “The first time I was 15 and he was 45,” the young woman declared. “I still have wounds that he left in my body that will never be erased, wounds that carry immense psychological and emotional pain,” he added: “That’s why I’m here, to prevent him from almost destroying someone else again.” His father, still convinced of the teachings of NXIVM, has testified in favor of Raniere.

“It robbed me of almost 17 years of my life and my job,” said Ivy Nevares, Raniere’s former Mexican partner, in a recorded statement for the court, equipped with screens to release testimonies. “He lied to me, abused me, exploited me and tortured me,” he said in a transcript published in his blog. Despite the fact that more than half of the leader’s close circle was from Mexico, none have faced legal consequences. “There were other [perpetradores] Also, some wander through New York, others hide comfortably in Mexico, ”added Nevares.

“It seems that I am the devil,” Raniere said in a podcast recorded from jail released this week. “I am innocent,” he insisted in his first public statements since he was arrested in the Mexican resort of Puerto Vallarta in March 2018: “There are people who hate me for all kinds of reasons, probably many of those reasons are valid, [pero] most of the ones I’ve seen are not. “

The last visible NXIVM followers have launched in the last few days a campaign orchestrated by its leader to avoid his fall: with a press conference in which they accuse tampering with evidence and dances outside the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center to encourage him and to denounce the US prison system. Raniere also offers a reward of $ 25,000 for whoever demonstrates that he was wrongly tried and another $ 30,000 in “awards” for essays on his case. “The trial was a sham,” said Eduardo Asunsolo, one of the few Mexicans who has had contact with the guru since his arrest, in an interview published by this newspaper two weeks ago.

Marc Agnfilo, his lawyer, has distanced himself from the desperate actions of his client’s acolytes, but has advanced that the verdict is likely to be appealed. NXIVM was founded in 1998 in Albany, the capital of New York, and promoted courses that cost several thousand dollars under the facade of “self-improvement.” The pyramid scam allowed Raniere to squeeze his former followers. Among the more than 18,000 members of her community include Allison Mack, actress of Smallville; Clare Bronfman, heir to the Seagram liquor empire; Emiliano Salinas, son of former Mexican president Carlos Salinas and head of the franchise in Mexico until 2018, and Rosa Laura Junco, daughter of the newspaper’s owner Reform. “They were the ones who probably contributed the most money, ”Oxenberg said of the Mexican members.

In late 2015, following a process of misogynistic indoctrination and emotional abuse, Raniere instructed women in her inner circle to create DOS, a parallel structure within NXIVM made up of only women, and prepare others to take a lifetime vow of obedience. . The promise was to improve their lives. In 2017 the hoax was exposed: Raniere wanted a harem with dozens of women at his disposal, who were coerced with “penances” such as extreme diets and the threat of revealing compromising information, such as intimate photographs. The sect also applied legal terrorism techniques, often from Mexico, filling in lawsuits and threats aimed at ruining defectors.

Behind bars and abandoned by most of his entourage, the sentence consummates the fall of Raniere, but opens a long way between possible appeals, new accusations against his accomplices and the unknown that the group is still active under other names, a suspicion that spreads in the community of defectors. The latest installment in the NXIVM legal saga put the spotlight on the guru, but the lights ended up shifting toward the victims: the destroyed families, those who lost everything, those who were humiliated and branded. The entourage finally got their voice back and claimed their lives.

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