Elizabeth Williams via AP, File
A verdict has been reached in the trial of Keith Raniere.
On Wednesday afternoon, a jury in a Brooklyn federal court found the co-founder of NXIVM guilty of all counts including racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and attempted sex trafficking. The jury also found that the government proved all charged racketeering acts.
The jury began deliberating at 9:25 local time meaning a verdict was reached in a matter of hours. Keith faces up to life behind bars.
“Over the last seven weeks, this trial has revealed that Raniere, who portrayed himself as a savant and a genius, was in fact, a master manipulator, a con man and the crime boss of a cult-like organization involved in sex trafficking, child pornography, extortion, compelled abortions, branding, degradation and humiliation,” Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement after the verdict. “His crimes, and the crimes of his co-conspirators, ruined marriages, careers, fortunes and lives. The evidence proved that Raniere was truly a modern day Svengali.”
During the trial, group members came forward and alleged they were pressured to have sex with Keith. While the defendant pleaded not guilty, he did not testify in the case and his defense attorney did not call any witnesses.
“You may find him repulsive, disgusting and offensive. We don’t convict people in this country for being repulsive or offensive,” defense attorney Marc Agnifilo shared in closing arguments according to CNN. “Unpopular ideas aren’t criminal. Disgusting ideas aren’t criminal.”
Prosecutors, however, had a different view on the case when they spoke to jury members one last time.
“The defendant tapped into a never-ending flow of women and money,” prosecutor Moira Penza shared. “[He was] a crime boss with no limits and no checks on his power.”
In recent months, five women including Smallville actress Allison Mack pleaded guilty to lesser charges, leaving Keith as the only one going to trial following a months-long federal investigation into NXIVM and DOS—the alleged secret society that included 15 to 20 women whom Keith would have sex with (while they were instructed to be faithful to him).
DOS, according to prosecutors, is an acronym for the Latin “Dominus Obsequious Sororium,” which roughly translates to “Master of the Obedient Female Companions.”
Throughout the legal process, Keith’s legal team argued that NXIVM was a “wonderful humanitarian organization” whose members have “sought to end the violence in Mexico, have introduced tools useful to people with difficult conditions, such as Tourette’s syndrome, have pioneered multi-linguistic schools for young children, who would become proficient in multiple languages and later multi-cultural adults, and have developed approaches to help people lead happier, more productive, more enriched lives.”
Prosecutors, however, alleged that NXIVM—a purported self-help organization based in Albany, N.Y.—resembled a pyramid scheme in which participants could only move up the ladder by paying more and recruiting more people. To even get the chance to meet Keith, participants usually had to complete a 16-day course that cost $7,500.
Sentencing is expected to be announced at a later day.