Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

NXIVM founder Keith Raniere sentenced to 120 years in prison

Keith Raniere in HBO’s The Vow
Keith Raniere in HBO’s The Vow
Screenshot: HBO

Keith Raniere, leader of the NXIVM cult that counted Smallville’s Allison Mack among its leadership, was sentenced to 120 years in prison today after being convicted last June on the charges of sex trafficking, racketeering, and forced labor conspiracy. The sentencing comes after numerous impact statements from former NXIVM members, including India Oxenberg, the daughter of actor Catherine Oxenberg.

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“I hope the judge gives him life in prison. I think he’s a dangerous man and that if he’s released, he will do exactly what he’s always done. And that puts me and other women and men at risk,” India said in a CBS This Morning interview on Tuesday.

Another woman, identified only as Camila, accused Raniere of sexually abusing her when she was 15 and he was 45. “He wanted me to believe that my only value came from how he felt about me,” she told the courtroom, per The New York Times. “It has taken a long time to process the trauma he caused.”

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Raniere’s six-week trial, as well as today’s verdict, will be explored in more detail in the second season of HBO’s The Vow, its docuseries about the MLM and self-help cult. As illustrated in both The Vow and Starz’s Seduced: Inside The NXIVM Cult, Raniere allegedly cultivated a secret female-only corner of the organization called DOS, where women were ordered to have sex with him after being branded with the initials of he and Mack. Women in DOS were also forced to provide nude photos and other forms of collateral to help ensure their secrecy.

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“In every aspect of his conduct, Mr. Raniere has acted like the law does not apply to him,” Garaufis said before doling out the sentence (via Rolling Stone). “Unfortunately for him, it does.”

“You are not a leader, a mentor, or a guru,” Sarah Edmondson, a former DOS member featured on The Vow, said during a videotaped statement played for the courtroom. “You are a liar, a parasite, and a grifter.”

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In her impact statement, India recounted the unhealthy diet Raniere forced on her. “You wanted me to look like I was 12 years old; hungry, weak and easily manipulated,” she said.

Raniere maintained his innocence in a recent interview with Dateline, though he did apologize for his “participation in all of this pain and suffering,” noting that, as “the leader of the community,” he “clearly participated.” In a court filing last month, his lawyers wrote that he “is not sorry for his conduct or his choices.” He stood by that in a statement made before court prior to sentencing, saying, “I do believe strongly I am innocent of all the charges, but it is also true I see all this pain.”

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Raniere tried and failed to secure a new trial this week after accusing Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of corruption. “One of the things that’s most important in our country is the justice system,” he told Dateline. “And although, you know, people can hate me and do, and think I’m an odious type of character—you know, awful, actually—both the devil and a saint should be able to get the exact same treatment under our justice system.”

Claire Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagrams liquor fortune and one of NXIVM’s biggest bankrollers, was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison earlier this month for both conspiracy to conceal and harbor aliens for financial gain and fraudulent use of personal identification information. Mack, meanwhile, pled guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy last year. She has yet to be sentenced.

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Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

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