Actress Allison Mack appeared in court again for her role in an alleged sex cult — and she seems to have given herself a make-under.
On Tuesday, the former Smallville star, who is free on a $5 million-dollar bond, arrived at the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, N.Y., wearing a denim jacket, a white blouse, and loose black pants with her blonde hair tied into a ponytail and the lightest of makeup.
Her basic and casual look contrasted wildly with the nature of her charges. In April, as People reported, Mack, 35, was charged with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and forced labor conspiracy for allegedly luring female members into the organization NXIVM under the guise of “female mentorship.”
According to People, which quoted a New York Times Magazine story, Mack claimed responsibility for the idea to brand women with her and NXIVM co-founder Keith Raniere’s initials using a cauterizing pen. “I was like: ‘Y’all, a tattoo? People get drunk and tattooed on their ankle “BFF,” or a tramp stamp,’” read Mack quotes, per People. “‘I have two tattoos and they mean nothing.’”
Mack and Raniere, both of whom pleaded not guilty, face a minimum of 15 years in prison if convicted. NXIVM is currently not in operation, per a Tuesday note on its website.
Tuesday was Mack’s second court appearance. In May, while out on bail, the actress attended a hearing wearing a cranberry-hued button-down shirt, a black blazer and matching trousers.
Mack’s dressed-down look was uncharacteristic — she’s often appeared on the red carpet wearing sheer or low-cut clothing and bright patterns. But, according to Los Angeles-based criminal defense attorney Tiffany Feder, Mack’s role as defendant requires an entirely new aesthetic.
“Anyone who walks into a courtroom should have the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and appearances are everything,” Feder tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Defendants should look like everyone else — conservative, not overtly stylish, but also not matronly.”
Beauty does make an impact in court: A study called “When Emotionality Trumps Reason“ conducted by Cornell University found that defendants deemed “attractive” received lighter punishments than those considered less attractive. It’s unclear whether clothing played a role in those decisions, but past research has proven the psychologic effects of fashion.
Mack has three challenges: She’s a woman, she’s a celebrity, and she’s facing specific charges that are sexual in nature, all of which pose a risk to be judged harshly for her appearance.
“Female celebrities are already judged by the public before they appear in court and those charged with salacious crimes benefit from not dressing in a way that evokes stereotypes,” says Feder.
Feder maintains that attorneys don’t nitpick over their client’s clothing colors or brands, however, they do advise that outfits don’t encourage discussion. “The goal is to have a fair day in court.”
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