Keith Raniere, the former head of purported self-help group NXIVM, was convicted Wednesday on federal charges accusing him of keeping women as his “sex slaves.”
A jury in federal court in Brooklyn took less than five hours to find Raniere guilty on all counts of sex-trafficking and other charges accusing him of coercing women into unwanted sex using systematic shame and humiliation.
The sorority, sometimes called “The Vow,” was created “to satisfy the defendant’s desire for sex, power and control,” Assistant U.S. 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 one of his followers starting at age 15. Prosecutors said he took a series of nude photos of the teen that were shown at trial, one by one, to the eight women and four men who comprised the jury.
Raniere, 58, was arrested at a Mexican hideout in 2018 following an investigation his Albany-area group, that once had an international following with a foothold in Hollywood but was called a cult by critics. His adherents included TV actress Allison Mack, best known for her role as a friend of a young Superman in the series Smallville, and Seagram’s liquor fortune heiress, Clare Bronfman.
Raniere’s organization began to crumble amid sensational reports about The Vow alleging its members were held down and branded in ceremonies at a “sorority house” for them that had a mock dungeon.
“Keith maintains his innocence. It’s a very sad day for him,” Raniere’s lawyer Marc Agnifilo told reporters. “I think he’s not surprised, but he maintains that he didn’t mean to do anything wrong.”
Raniere is scheduled to be sentenced on September 25th.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.