Keith Raniere, founder of cult-like group NXIVM, sentenced to 120 years in prison

Jon Campbell, New York State Team
·4 min read
Keith Raniere
Keith Raniere

ALBANY, N.Y. – NXIVM founder Keith Raniere was sentenced Tuesday to 120 years in prison for his role in leading a criminal enterprise that included a cult-like sorority where women were sexually exploited and branded with his initials.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York announced the sentence in a tweet.

Prosecutors were seeking a life sentence for Raniere, 60, who was convicted of seven felonies last year after a wild six-week trial where jurors heard explicit testimony about his polygamous sexual preferences and the many ways he manipulated his devoted followers into performing sex acts or forced labor.

For more than 15 years, Raniere led the Albany, New York, company he founded, NXIVM, which was a purported self-help organization whose participants paid thousands of dollars for various classes and coursework. But prosecutors alleged NXIVM was in actuality a criminal enterprise whose members viewed Raniere as an all-knowing guru and called him "Vanguard."

Raniere and NXIVM were recently the subject of HBO's documentary series, The Vow.

"Raniere recruited individuals into organizations he founded, purportedly for their own benefit, and then exploited them—for power, for profit, or for sex," the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's Eastern District wrote in a recent filing. "The sentence imposed on Raniere should reflect the immeasurable damage he has done to his victims."

Protests after police fatally shoot Black man: 30 Philadelphia officers injured, one run over by truck

Raniere convicted of seven felonies

At trial last year, prosecutors played audio recordings and displayed emails that showed Raniere secretly led a NXIVM subgroup known as DOS, an all-female organization whose members were known as "slaves" who reported to "masters" and were required to give up nude photos and compromising information as collateral.

The "slaves" were branded on their pubic area with a logo containing Raniere's initials, while some were ordered to follow low-calorie diets as they were groomed for sex with Raniere, who was secretly the organization's top "master."

Jurors convicted Raniere of forced labor conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, sex trafficking and racketeering charges, which included underlying acts of child pornography possession, identity theft and child sexual exploitation, among others.

In recent court filings, Raniere's legal team has asked Garaufis to sentence Raniere to no more than 15 years in prison while also laying the groundwork for a potential appeal.

Raniere "continues to assert his complete innocence to these charges" while recognizing a jury convicted him of the crimes, attorneys Marc Agnifilo and Paul DerOhannesian wrote in a Sept. 19 filing laying out their sentencing preferences.

"The jury’s verdict, however, did not reflect the quality of the evidence, but rather was a product of a media campaign involving witnesses who were motivated to testify falsely, a heavy-handed prosecution that threatened potential defense witnesses and, most respectfully, an unfair trial where, we believe, the Court was not provided with full, candid information from the prosecution," the attorneys wrote.

A photo of a brand featuring Keith Raniere and Allison Mack's initials. Women who were part of DOS, a secret sorority connected to NXIVM, received the brand on their pubic area.
A photo of a brand featuring Keith Raniere and Allison Mack's initials. Women who were part of DOS, a secret sorority connected to NXIVM, received the brand on their pubic area.

At trial, prosecutors detailed how Raniere possessed sexually explicit photographs of a 15-year-old follower and accused him of effectively keeping her sister imprisoned in her own room for nearly two years for showing interest in another man.

Jurors also heard from a one-time "slave" who was told to strip naked and was blindfolded. Another woman was then told to perform a sex act on her as Raniere watched and the scene was videotaped.

NXIVM built up a series of influential followers, including Clare Bronfman, a wealthy heiress to the Seagram's liquor fortune who bankrolled many of Raniere's efforts and lawsuits against detractors, and Allison Mack, an actress best known for her role as Chloe Sullivan on the CW's Smallville.

Bronfman and Mack were among a handful of NXIVM leaders who pleaded guilty to crimes connected to the organization. Bronfman was sentenced to 6 3/4 years in prison, while Mack is awaiting sentencing.

Clare Bronfman: Seagram's heiress and NXIVM backer sentenced to 6 3/4 years in prison

Raniere continues to have a series of devoted followers, including many who wrote letters to Garaufis in support of him.

Among them were Nicki Clyne, an actor known for her role in the Sci-Fi Channel's Battlestar Galactica series, who submitted an affidavit in support of Raniere's bid for a new trial, which Garaufis rejected last week.

Raniere's sentencing is scheduled to begin Tuesday morning and last for much of the day, as several of his victims plan to deliver statements to the judge.

Follow reporter Jon Campbell on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN

'The Vow': Everything you should know about alleged cult NXIVM, subject of HBO's new docuseries

More: Toni Natalie tells all about life with NXIVM's Keith Raniere, her ex

This article originally appeared on New York State Team: NXIVM founder Keith Raniere sentenced to 120 years in prison