NEW YORK—“Justice is finally being served, and it can’t be bought,” Toni Natalie, an ex-girlfriend of Keith Raniere, remarked outside the U.S. district court where the leader of the NXIVM secret society faced a hearing on July 25.
Raniere sat just feet away from Seagram billionaire heiress Clare Bronfman and former “Smallville” actress Allison Mack, as their respective attorneys sat among them, at a status hearing on July 25.
Also present was Nancy Salzman, the president of NXIVM, who sat further away from her old colleagues because there was not enough room for her and her attorney at the table. Not present were Salzman’s daughter Lauren and the society’s bookkeeper, Kathy Russell, who both stayed behind bars for not meeting the conditions of their recent bail attempt.
The members of the society were arraigned at the U.S. Eastern District Court in Brooklyn, on sex trafficking and racketeering conspiracy charges stemming from a superseding indictment filed against them on July 24.
All defendants pleaded not guilty to all counts mentioned in the indictment.
New York-based NXIVM masqueraded as a self-help company that ran “executive success programs” and other self-help curricula. In wake of the recent allegations, the company announced the suspension of all operations until further notice.
Just before the hearing’s 2 p.m. start time, Bronfman, who wore a white long-sleeve with slacks, was the first to enter the court. She could be seen chatting with her attorneys with a composed expression on her face.
Bronfman was the group’s largest financial backer, contributing at least $150 million, according to Frank Parlato, a whistleblower who first broke the story about the society’s schemes.
At another point before the hearing, Mack, dressed in a denim jacket, faced Bronfman and whispered to her, as an attorney sat between them. Mack appeared nonchalant throughout the hearing and stared at the ceiling multiple times with a blank look on her face.
As Raniere, who was arrested in March this year, entered the courtroom, he appeared to smile at both Mack and Bronfman.
Judge Nicholas Garaufis pushed the date for jury selection from October this year to Jan. 7, 2019, after government prosecutors argued that they will need time to go through a growing trove of documents, as evidence continues to trickle in. Garaufis added that the date could be pushed back even further.
Lead prosecutor Moira Penza said they are working as quickly as they can in providing the discovery files, adding that they have received around 60 electronic devices alone. Prosecutors also said in court that they planned to examine Raniere’s email account.
NXIVM recruited members on the condition they gave up personal, often embarrassing, information about themselves, including compromising images or videos, as “collateral.” Once inside, members were regularly required to provide additional collateral to ensure they kept secret the society’s activities and inner workings.
U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said in a statement, “As alleged in the superseding indictment, for over a decade, Keith Raniere was the leader of a racketeering conspiracy in which he and members of his inner circle committed a broad range of serious crimes from identity theft and obstruction of justice to sex trafficking, all to promote and protect Raniere and Nxivm.”
Outside the court after the hearing, Raniere’s lawyer Mark Agnifilo, called the accusations against him “groundless propositions.”
“They are crazy, they are wrong. Thousands have taken these courses,” he said. “It’s not a sex-slave cult. These are adult choices people make.”
The judge has repeatedly blocked Raniere from posting bail.