Keith Raniere, the mastermind behind the purported “self-help” group NXIVM, which he used to recruit and groom women for sexual exploitation, has been sentenced to 120 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
The sentence, handed by judge Nicholas Garaufis, comes more than a year after Raniere was convicted, following a six-week trial: In June 2019, a jury found him guilty on all seven criminal charges against him, which included racketeering, sex trafficking, forced labor, obstruction of justice, and child pornography.
Raniere’s fall — and the subsequent collapse of NXIVM — can be traced back to October 2017, when the New York Times published a disturbing investigation of a hierarchal “sex cult” within NXIVM, in which female “sex slaves” were subjected to ritual humiliation, branded with Raniere’s initials, and exploited for sex. In March 2018, Raniere was arrested, as were five other women with ties to NXIVM, all of whom have since pleaded guilty to the racketeering charges against them. (Of the five, only Seagram liquor heiress Clare Bronfman, who used her immense wealth to bankroll NXIVM’s activities, has been sentenced.)
Ahead of Raniere’s sentencing, a total of 15 people took the stand to deliver harrowing testimonies about the abuse they suffered at the hands of Raniere. Many of them were former “sex slaves” in the cult “DOS,” which is short for Dominant Over Submissive. In one victim statement, according to the New York Times, a woman identified as Camila — who had a 12-year relationship with Raniere that started when she was 15 and he was 45 — recounted that Raniere forced her to be available for sex whenever he pleased and that he forced her to drop her weight to below 100 pounds. “I want to move on,” she said of the abuse, “but he has damaged me in so many ways.” India Oxenberg, the daughter of actress Catherine Oxenberg, said in court, “You are a sexual predator, and you raped me.” Testimonies went on for hours.
Raniere’s lawyers have long argued that the sexual acts in which their clients engaged were consensual and that his “victims” could not be portrayed as such as they had joined NXIVM of their own volition. (As the Times reports, many people were drawn to NXIVM in the hopes that the organization could help them overcome their insecurities, and after women were recruited into DOS, an effort lead by Smallville actress Allison Mack, they were required to hand over compromising photographs and information about themselves, which Raniere and Mack would use to blackmail them).
In the months leading up to his sentencing, federal prosecutors say that Raniere has proven himself to be “unrepentant,” with absolutely “no empathy for his victims.” Raniere has not disputed this characterization — rather, he’s embraced it. “He is not sorry for his conduct or his choices,” his lawyers wrote in a court filing last month, adding that he “intends to fight this case with all of his might, confident that he will one day be vindicated.” In an attempt to overturn his conviction, according to court filings, Raniere has tried to create a podcast dedicated to his case and hold a contest — featuring a $25,000 cash prize — to find mistakes in his prosecution.