NXIVM founder Keith Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison on Tuesday.
Raniere was convicted last year for racketeering, sex trafficking, sexual exploitation of a child and human trafficking, among other charges that accused him of coercing women into unwanted sex using systematic shame and humiliation. In March 2018, Raniere was arrested in Mexico, where he fled last fall after the New York Times published a report about alleged NXIVM practices like branding women. Raniere had initially pled not guilty to all charges, and was facing up to life in prison. Days prior to his sentencing, Raniere was denied a request for a new trial.
Prosecutors described him as the leader of a “criminal enterprise” who recruited people at the supposed self-help company to exploit them for “power, for profit, and for sex,” according to CNN.
Then-U.S. Attorney Richard Donohue said that Raniere was nothing more than a “massive manipulator, a con man and the crime boss of a cult-like organization involving sex trafficking, child pornography, extortion-compelled abortions, branding, degradation and humiliation,” according to the New York Post.
At the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanja Hajjar said Raniere “maintained control over his followers and his criminal organization … by ensuring that no one questioned him… No one could challenge his authority. The defendant used shame and humiliation as ways to break people down.”
Prosecutors said Raniere deserves a life sentence, although Raniere’s lawyers argued that nobody was “shot, stabbed, punched, kicked, slapped or even yelled at,” so he should get no more than 15 years in prison, according to the New York Times.
NXIVM was marketed as a “community guided by humanitarian principles that seek to empower people,” and he offered self-help workshops, but it was more sinister than that. For example, he created a master-slave group for women where they were branded with his initials above their genitals and had to submit to sex with Raniere and had to give up “collateral” for blackmail.
Raniere managed to recruit members like “Smallville” actress Allison Mack and “Battlestar Galactica” star Nicole Clyne, as well as India Oxenberg, the daughter of “Dynasty” star Catherine Oxenberg.
During the sentencing hearing, 15 victims spoke out about the abuse, and Raniere’s first sex slave named Cami spoke of the “monster” she said controlled her with his “cruelty and manipulation,” according to her written statement. She said she met Raniere when she was 13, and “from the start, I could not feel comfortable around him.” She said he impregnated her and her two older sisters and then forced them to have abortions. She was a 15-year-old virgin and he was 45 years old, she said, when he first raped her.
“It has been difficult to rebuild myself, but not impossible: I am and will continue to grow stronger than he ever allowed me to know I was,” she said.
India Oxenberg told the Brooklyn federal judge Raniere starved her to look like a 12-year-old while raping her, and she recalled “the horror of hearing his voice in the darkness” when he ordered her to get naked. She spent seven years with NXIVM and said she spent over $100,000 on its “curriculum.”
“You are a sexual predator, and you raped me,” Oxenberg said. “When you touched me, I recoiled.”
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