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NXIVM Keith Raniene Gets 120 Years In a Vacuum With No Phone Access Despite COVID

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - The Source

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Oct 26 – In the NXIVM case, Keith Raniere was sentenced t0 120 years today - with, despite COVID, no remote access, and no additional overflow courtroom to allow attendance with social distancing. 

  After hearing from former NXIVM members, EDNY Judge Garaufis imposed a sentence of 120 years. EDNY said, "Keith Raniere, the founder and leader of Nxivm, was sentenced today to 120 years in prison by United States District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis in federal court in Brooklyn. Raniere was convicted by a federal jury in June 2019 of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, sex trafficking, attempted sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy. The Court also imposed a fine of $1,750,000. At the sentencing hearing, the Court heard victim impact statements from 15 individuals, including “Camila,” the victim who was sexually exploited by Raniere when she was 15 years old. A hearing on victim restitution will be held at a later date." Will that hearing be as needlessly restricted?

The previous:  "ORDER: The court received the Inner City Press's 934 Application that a telephone link be provided by the court for today's sentencing of Defendant Clare Bronfman at 4:50am this morning. The Application is DENIED. The court has reserved seating in the courtroom for members of the press, and has established two additional courtrooms as well as the court cafeteria as overflow rooms for both the press and public to watch the proceeding by live video. Credentialed members of the press interested in attending the proceeding should contact court security and will be given priority seating in the overflow rooms. Ordered by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis on 9/30/2020." Photo here

Inner City Press wrote to the judge, hours before the proceeding:

September 30, 2020

Hon. Nicholas G. Garaufis Senior United States District Judge  U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York  225 Cadman Plaza East, Room 1426 S Brooklyn, New York 11215

Re: Press access in USA v. Bronfman, et al., 18-cr-204-3 (NGG-VMS) 

Dear Judge Garaufis: This is a Press request that the Court's sentencing of Clare Bronfman in the above-captioned case be made accessible to the public and press by listen-only telephone link, in the same fashion as other proceedings to which far less First Amendment presumption of public access attaches have been, at least in the SDNY and EDNY, during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  

 This request is made on behalf of Inner City Press, which has reported on this case (see, this and also e.g., this: "Raniere to Be Sentenced Oct. 27," "Thanks to the good offices of the Inner City Press, some of the judge’s comments are shared" ) and in my own personal journalistic capacity.     While the EDNY, like the SDNY, has remained partially open during the COVID-19 pandemic, still restrictions on entry by some remain (for example, for those who have traveled to other countries or particular other US states in the past 14 days).   

 For that reason, in the SDNY where I daily report on cases on the CourtCall, Skype and AT&T platforms, even scheduling conferences and civil cases which have just begun to be held in-person are still made available to the press and public via a listen-in telephone line.    As the Court clearly knows, there is substantial public and press interest in Ms. Bronfman's sentencing and in other of its cases. Inner City Press became aware less than 12 hours ago that there would be no telephone or other virtual / socially distanced access to the proceeding, but rather "Overflow Courtrooms: 2E North and 2F North" and then "in the cafeteria seating area on the 3rd floor of the courthouse."  

 In the SDNY courthouse at 500 Pearl Street, the cafeteria has been closed for months amid the pandemic, while the courthouse has been open, at least to the press and court personnel, every work day since March. By contrast, the EDNY Brooklyn courthouse was recently closed to the public due to COVID-19 issues.  

 In this context it seems clear that listen-only telephone access to Ms. Bronfman's sentencing should be afforded, including under the applicable Constitutional case law on the rights to the public and press to access to court proceedings, particularly criminal and especially sentencing proceedings.  See also, this and this.    

If there is any doubt about, or opposition to, this request, this is a request to be heard (telephonically) by the undersigned. This request is made on a separate basis - First Amendment presumption of public and press access, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic - from the defendant's families request to participate made in Docket No. 933. Reference is also made to Chief Judge Mauskopf's subsequent Administrative Order 2020-24 of September 29, 2020.    Please act on, and docket, this request, prior to the sentencing. Respectfully submitted,  Matthew Russell Lee Inner City Press

   On August 18 Judge Garaufis held a proceeding with Bronfman's lawyer and the US. Inner City Press live tweeted it (as it is requested to do with the sentencing) --

From August 18: Bronfman's lawyer: She did not enter any guilty plea to any RICO count. She is not responsible for any enterprise. RICO imputes mens rea onto an actor even for unintended results, resulting in no fine tuned analysis. The PSR treats her like a RICO pleader. This is not RICO--

Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis: You don't need to lecture the court about the racketeering laws. I've been at this job for 20 years. The issue here is whether we need a Fatico hearing. Don't interrupt me. We're not going there.

 AUSA: We've asked defense counsel what portion of the pre-sentencing report they object to and want a hearing on. No answer. Just arguments. Like that she didn't provide financial support to Raniere. That can be proved with bank records.

 Bronfman's lawyer: The PSR said she helped Jane Doe 3 to enter the US. But that was in 2003. Ms. Bronfman was in Europe doing shows. She didn't spend one dime to facilitate sex trafficking. These are material misrepresentations.

Bronfman's lawyer: If the government will agree she did not join a sex cult, we can save a lot of time. She did not plead guilty to RICO. Only 2 counts. 

Judge Garaufis: I know what she pleaded to. This is not new news.

Judge Garaufis: Maybe she would withdraw her guilty plea and go to trial on this. But if she wants a Fatico hearing, she will have to be cross examined too. It's not a criminal trial. It's by the preponderance of evidence.

 Judge Garaufis: There is plenty of evidence that alludes to that Ms. Bronfman did not just write checks and then go riding her horse through Europe. Who did she have? Ah, Mister Avenatti. She said he was her consultant. 

Bronfman's lawyer: We're ready for a Fatico

Bronfman's lawyer: I can't speak to what previous counsel did. We are looking at things fresh. We are comfortable going to a hearing on this.  Judge Garaufis: I will need to hear from Ms. Bronfman, not her mother or her sister or some friend out in Fiji.

 Bronfman's lawyer: We will bring forward witnesses. If we bring forward claims about what Ms. Bronfman was thinking -- Judge Garaufis: She was writing checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars for this enterprise. It took a year to get the financial records. 

Judge Garaufis: If anything slowed this down it was not getting the financial records. I'm not done. I'll read everything you submit. Maybe you'll working things out with the government, on the facts. But I'm not going to be rushed. It may not be on Sept 30.

 Bronfman's lawyer: I don't agree we caused the delay.

Judge Garaufis: You can put whatever you want in your submission.

Bronfman's lawyer: What are the dates?

Judge Garaufis: Your reply Sept 21. Have a nice day.

On August 14, there was this on Raniere:

Judge: If you are asking to meet your client in the courthouse, I would have to make a record as to why. First you should reach out to the warden, to see if a meeting can be arranged in the MDC. And advise the Court via letter. You don't have to list the date. 

Judge: I'm trying to arrange as much confidentiality as I can in this proceeding. Now, as to sentencing submissions. Could government file its by Aug 28? Then the defendant's by Sept 17. I'll sent Oct 9 for individuals' statement for the defendant. Next, victims 

Judge: Any victims who wish to attend the proceeding and/or make an in-person statement could submit to the court one week before sentencing. It will be under seal, with copies to the defense. The victims should not be the subject of inquiries by the press

 Judge: We'll have to use several courtrooms, including in the old courthouse. I'll consult with the District Executive.. Let's meet October 27 at 10 am for sentencing.  

  Inner City Press will continue to cover this and other EDNY (and of course SDNY) cases. This is US v. Raniere,  18-cr-204 (EDNY). 


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