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Attorneys for NXIVM Sex Cult Leader Want Him in ‘Sensitive Needs Unit’ Due to Nature of His Crimes


Keith Raniere in a 2017 video.

NXIVM founder and convicted sexual abuser Keith Raniere, 60, is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison after getting a 120-year sentence, but his attorneys are still working on an appeal. Now the lawyers are trying to get Raniere placed in a “sensitive needs unit” or “drop-out yard” while he remains in federal lockup.

“In light of the media interest in this case and due to the nature of the offense conduct and other matters discussed during the hearing, we request that the Court recommend to the Bureau of Prisons that Mr. Raniere be housed at a facility that has a special or sensitive needs unit (sometimes called a ‘drop-out yard’), such as USP Allenwood,” wrote attorneys Marc A. Agnifilo and Teny R. Geragos in a letter obtained by Law&Crime.

It is a truism that defendants convicted of sexual crimes have a figurative target on their backs in prison. Well, Raniere was convicting of abusing a considerable number of women, including a 15-year-old girl.

Attorneys for the defendant also ask that their client be sent to a facility that is within an eight-hour driving distance to New York City.

The federal prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania–which Raniere’s lawyers cite as an example of a prison with a “drop-out yard”–would certainly fit the bill. Google Maps estimates about a 3- to 4-hour drive between it and NYC. If the defendant were moved here, he would, incidentally, be in the same prison as the defendant convicted of a 2012 mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater. James Eagan Holmes is an inmate at USP-Allenwood, records show.

But as of now, that all remains a hypothetical. Raniere is still at the Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn, as of Tuesday.

The defendant was convicted last year in a New York federal court. He was the founder of the Albany-based purported self-help group NXIVM. Prosecutors said he used his position to abuse women, and even got female cohorts to help him control and retaliate against victims in a secret society dubbed DOS (“Dominus Obsequious Sororium”).

From the Department of Justice:

Raniere maintained command and control over his DOS members by collecting “collateral” from them, such as sexually explicit photos and letters making accusations against their loved ones that would be embarrassing if disclosed.  For example, “Nicole,” a victim witness, testified that she was coerced into providing labor and services for Nxivm, which included taking photographs of naked women members and engaging in sex acts with Raniere, under threat of release of her collateral.  DOS slaves were also branded with Raniere’s initials in their pelvic area using a cauterizing pen.

Adam Klasfeld contributed to this report.

[Screengrab via YouTube]

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