Keith Raniere, once revered as the “Vanguard” by members of his notorious cult NXIVM, has been found guilty of all seven charges against him — racketeering, sex trafficking, conspiracy, forced labor, identity theft, sexual exploitation of a child, and possession of child pornography.
It took jurors less than five hours to reach their verdict, according to the Associated Press, bringing an end to a lurid six-week trial. NXIVM marketed itself as a self-improvement organization, but prosecutors said it was akin to a cult — one rooted in abuses of power by Raniere and his most devoted followers.
The jury heard from witnesses who said dozens of women were brought into an inner circle, where participants were divided into “slaves�� and “masters.” They were required to turn over “collateral” — such as nude photos — that could be used against them if tried to leave the group. Some were branded with the initials of Raniere and actress Allison Mack, a former high-ranking NXIVM member who has since pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges related to the case.
Witnesses said Raniere wielded sexual control over his followers, and that they were encouraged to sleep with him. One woman was reportedly told that she needed to seduce Raniere in order to heal her sexual abuse trauma. Another claimed she was confined to a room for two years after she told Raniere that she was romantically interested in another man. Prosecutors also alleged that Raniere had a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl, who would become his first slave, and that she sent him images “constituting child pornography.”
“This trial has revealed that Raniere, who portrayed himself as a savant and a genius, was in fact, a massive manipulator, a conman, and crime boss of a cult-like organization involving sex trafficking, child pornography, extortion, compelled abortions, branding, degradation, and humiliation,” Richard Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, told reporters after the verdict was issued, according to NPR.
Raniere’s sentencing will be held in September. He faces up to life in prison. Raniere’s lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, told NPR that “Keith maintains his innocence and we do intend to appeal.”