Women victims of alleged cult leader Keith Raniere are preparing to testify against the so-called “Vanguard” as his trial begins next week in federal court.
Raniere, 58, stands charged with sex trafficking, racketeering, sexual abuse of a minor and extortion among other crimes for his alleged use of his organization to coerce and blackmail women into serving him as sexual slaves. Raniere will stand trial alone after five women, once his closest subordinates, agreed to plead guilty. It is expected that some of his former lieutenants may also appear at the trial to testify against the man whom they once professed to worship.
Former Smallville actress Allison Mack pleaded guilty in April to racketeering charges for her role leading NXIVM’s secret sex-slave sorority, DOS. Claire Bronfman, the heiress to the Seagram’s liquor fortune and three other women who once served as top subordinates of Raniere also pleaded guilty in April. Mack has previously been accused of recruiting at least 25 women to serve as sex slaves for Raniere.
As part of the initiation into the sorority, women were branded with Raniere’s initials and had to provide the organization with incriminating or embarrassing materials — such as evidence of committed crimes or explicit nude photos — that would be leaked if they refused to obey Raniere. During the trial, several women are expected to share testimony of the horrific pain inflicted upon them as part of a branding ceremony.
Another woman likely to speak at the trial has alleged that she was imprisoned in the home of one of Raniere’s supporters after she disobeyed his order not to become romantically involved with anyone other than him. Prosecutors are also reportedly prepared to show photos of a naked 15 year old in bed with Raniere to prove he exploited underaged girls.
Speaking to the Times, one former follower of Raniere’s said that she was humiliated to admit that she had let herself be fooled by the alleged cult leader.
“I had never thought of myself before as a naïve person,” she said, “but now I have lost trust of my own judgment.”
If found guilty on all charges, Raniere could face a sentence of life in prison.
Read the full story at the New York Times.