Keith Raniere, NXIVM sex-cult leader, sentenced to life in prison

·Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
·3 min read

NXIVM founder Keith Raniere has been sentenced to 120 years in prison. In 2019, he was convicted of multiple federal crimes, including sex trafficking, extortion, sexual content featuring children and forced labor for running a criminal organization that prosecutors say operated as a “sex cult.” The case has captured worldwide attention and is the subject of HBO’s true-crime documentary The Vow.

Raniere was in a New York court Tuesday where he heard hours of victim statements from 15 women who testified about sexual abuses they faced in DOS, the secret female-only sorority within NXIVM. In DOS, women — known as “slaves” — were forced to engage in sexual acts with Raniere, put on strict diets and branded with his initials. He relied on an inner circle of slave “masters” to carry out his commands.

Among the victims who spoke was Camila, now in her 30s, who said Raniere repeatedly summoned and abused her for 12 years. She said the relationship with Raniere, then 46, began when she was only 15. The sexual content featuring children charge stemmed from her testimony.

According to the Daily Beast, Camila said Raniere “hid his abuse behind concepts of value and nobility,” as NXIVM was touted as a self-help organization.

“But there is nothing noble about abusing a child,” Camila declared as Raniere reportedly remained emotionless throughout the hearing. “I hold scars on my body from him that can never be erased.”

India Oxenberg, daughter of Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg, claimed Raniere starved her to look like a 12-year-old and “raped” her. She recalled in court how she waited for Raniere “naked like a piece of meat” and was “a branded, brainwashed sex slave,” according to the New York Post. Oxenberg called Raniere a “sadist” who got “pleasure from watching our skin burn.”

Raniere has shown no remorse for his crimes, which is why prosecutors asked for life imprisonment, noting his “complete lack of acceptance of responsibility.”

“Raniere’s post-conviction prison calls and emails reflect that he is unrepentant, has no empathy for his victims, and would continue to commit crimes if released,” the government wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

In an email Raniere sent last year, he maintained that “the sorority is good — not just good and even noble, but great — and vitally important for women and humanity.”

The judge ruled Raniere is forbidden from contacting anyone affiliated with NXIVM. The court also imposed a fine of $1,750,000.

Raniere founded NXIVM in 1998; its expensive self-empowerment courses drew a crowd of Hollywood actors, socialites and entrepreneurs. Smallville star Allison Mack and Clare Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram liquor fortune, were some of Raniere’s high-ranking associates. Both co-conspirators, along with three others, were indicted on racketeering conspiracy and related crimes.

“The 120-year sentence imposed on Keith Raniere today is a measure of his appalling crimes committed over a decade,” said acting U.S. Attorney Seth D. DuCharme. “Raniere exploited and abused his victims emotionally, physically and sexually for his personal gratification. It is my hope that today’s sentence brings closure to the victims and their families.”

Catherine Oxenberg thanked the court for putting Raniere behind bars.

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“Raniere’s reign of control over the women he scarred, both physically and emotionally, is the making of a horror story. It is inconceivable to think of the sexual exploitation, abuse, seclusion, and mind control his victims suffered — at his direction. Today the judge has given him 120 years to think about whether or not the torture he inflicted on others for 2 more than a decade, and the distress he brought to their families, was worth it in the end,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney.

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