Keith Raniere, the NXIVM founder convicted of running a cult-like criminal enterprise, is in court Tuesday facing a life sentence. The hearing is underway in a Brooklyn, N.Y., courtroom with the first victim, identified only as Camila, testifying how she was sexually abused by Raniere starting at age 15.
Camila said Sept. 18, 2005, was her “anniversary” with Raniere, then 46, a date he insisted they both recognize. According to the New York Times, Camila’s voice was trembling as she recalled Raniere repeatedly summoning her, sexually abusing her and taking nude pictures of her during their 12-year relationship. She said she attempted suicide once.
“He wanted me to believe that my only value came from how he felt about me,” Camila told the court, speaking publicly about the abuse for the first time. “It has taken a long time to process the trauma he caused.”
Camila said Raniere had “damaged me in so many ways,” including that she had to have an abortion “at his direction.” Her two sisters also had a relationship with Raniere and were forced to get abortions. Camila called out Raniere for hiding “his abuse behind concepts of value and nobility.”
“But there is nothing noble about abusing a child,” Camila stated as Raniere looked away, according to The Daily Beast. “I hold scars on my body from him that can never be erased.”
Former DOS member Sarah Edmondson — who helped expose the organization — called Raneire a “liar, parasite, and a grifter” in court.
“In a curriculum that focused on personal growth — you have taken none,” she said, adding it took plastic surgery to remove the branding of Raniere’s initials near her pelvis. The Daily Beast described Raniere as emotionless.
Fifteen victim statements were read about the trauma caused by Raniere and DOS, the women-branding sorority within NXIVM. Prosecutors argued the secret female-only group founded by Raniere operated as a “sex cult.” The women, referred to as “slaves,” were kept on restrictive diets and were forced to hand over “collateral” material for blackmail, like sexually explicit videos.
Raniere relied on an inner circle of individuals, including Smallville star Allison Mack, to carry out his orders. These “masters” would direct their “slaves” to engage in sexual acts with Raniere. Former member and “slave” India Oxenberg, daughter of Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg, spoke Tuesday, telling Raniere, “You played doctor and I was your human science experiment.”
India told CBS News ahead of the hearing she’s hoping Raniere gets sentenced to 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,” she declared.
Catherine wished her “darling” daughter “love and support” ahead of what’s sure to be an emotional day. “It is the first time she will get to address her abuser Keith Raniere — a man who lacks any moral compass. Finally he is held accountable for his crimes. Praying for life with no parole,” the actress wrote.
Raniere, known as “Vanguard” by his loyal followers, has supporters at Tuesday’s hearing. Battlestar Galactica actress Nicki Clyne, who was his “partner” for 10 years, is in attendance. Clyne also happens to be the wife of Mack, one of Raniere’s five co-conspirators that were indicted. Mack is who recruited India into DOS under the guise it was a female empowerment group.
Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for Raniere.
“Raniere recruited individuals into organizations he founded, purportedly for their own benefit, and then exploited them — for power, for profit, or for sex,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum obtained by Yahoo Entertainment. The government also pointed out Raniere’s “total denial of culpability for the crimes of which he was convicted.”
In one email to Clyne sent last year, Raniere wrote he believes “the sorority is good — not just good and even noble, but great — and vitally important for women and humanity.”
“Raniere has demonstrated a complete lack of acceptance of responsibility for his crimes of conviction,” prosecutors wrote. “Raniere’s post-conviction prison calls and emails reflect that he is unrepentant, has no empathy for his victims, and would continue to commit crimes if released.”
Raniere continues to show no remorse. He spoke to Dateline in an episode that aired Friday and declared he’s “innocent.” He claimed federal prosecutors “scared away witnesses” who could have helped with his defense.
“This is a horrible tragedy with many, many people being hurt,” Raniere said. “There is a horrible injustice here. And whether you think I’m the devil or not, the justice process has to be examined.”
On Friday, the judge denied Raniere’s request for a new trial.
Raniere’s defense team is seeking the minimum of 15 years in prison. They claimed during the six-week trial everything that happened in DOS was consensual.
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