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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 10 December, 2019

Leader of alleged 'sex-cult' found guilty on charges of sex-trafficking in New York

A number of famous faces including Smallville actress Allson mack were members of the group.

Image: Youtube/Keith Raniere Conversations

THE LEADER OF a sex cult in New York has been found guilty on charges of sex trafficking, extortion and conspiracy. 

Keith Raniere was the leader of Nxivm, a purported life coaching group that prosecutors said extorted money from followers and enabled him to sexually exploit female devotees. 

A jury in federal court in Brooklyn took less than five hours to find Keith Raniere guilty on all counts of sex-trafficking and other charges accusing him of coercing women into sex.

“Raniere was truly a modern-day Svengali,” Brooklyn US attorney Richard Donoghue said outside court, calling him a manipulator who “ruined marriages, careers, fortunes and lives.”

His lawyer Marc Agnifilo said Raniere plans to appeal the verdict. His sentencing is scheduled for 25 September. 

“Keith maintains his innocence. It’s a very sad day for him,” Agnifilo said. “I think he’s not surprised but he maintains that he didn’t mean to do anything wrong.”

Raniere (58) once had an international following including a number of famous faces through his cult-like group Nxivm.

His adherents included Smallville actress Allison Mack, heiress to the Seagram drinks fortune Clare Bronfman, and a daughter of TV actress Catherine Oxenberg of Dynasty fame.

“This was a very frightening group,” Oxenberg said after the verdict. Her daughter India left NXIVM after her mother became an outspoken critic of it.

“I had to save a child who was caught in the grips of this cult, so I wasn’t going to stop until I succeeded,” Oxenberg said.

Prosecutors had told jurors that Raniere was known as ‘Vanguard’ and revered as “the smartest man in the world” among some followers.

A sorority made up of some NXIVM members, sometimes called The Vow, was created “to satisfy the defendant’s desire for sex, power and control,” assistant US attorney Moira Penza said in closing arguments. 

Among the more damning allegations against Raniere were that he had some women branded with his initials and that he started having sex with a follower when she was 15-years old.

Prosecutors said he took a series of nude photos of the teen that were shown at trial to the eight women and four men who comprised the jury.

Raniere kept the photos stashed in his private study as “a trophy” of “his sexual conquest,” Penza said.

The defense argued Raniere was a genuine believer in unconventional means for self-improvement and that all his sexual encounters with female followers of Nxivm were consensual.

His behavior could be seen as “repulsive and offensive, but we don’t convict people in this country for being repulsive or offensive,” Agnifilo said in his closings.

With reporting from Associated Press. 

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