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Defense: Alleged NXIVM Sex Cult Leader Keith Raniere Might Be Gross, But He Isn’t Criminal


The defense for NXIVM founder Keith Raniere put him on blast in their bid to win an acquittal. Although Raniere may be seen to be gross and “distasteful,” he’s not a criminal, the defense argued.

“You might find many things about him distasteful, but most of them aren’t part of the charges,” Marc Agnifilo told jurors, according to The New York Daily News. “Disgusting lifestyles aren’t criminal.”

Prosecutors say the self-described self-help guru started a secret society in his organization, and leveraged women into “master-slave” relationships; he and his cohorts collected dirt on victims in order to control them. The so-called slaves would become masters by getting their own slaves. This was a pyramid with Raniere at the top, authorities said. The case roped in high-profile co-defendants like Smallville actress Allison Mack and Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman. They both pleaded guilty, but not to sex crimes.

Ugly details emerged at trial. Raniere allegedly called one woman “Norelco” because she had no pubic hair, he urged her to have an abortion as a “great opportunity to lose weight and get fit,” and needled the women in his life to lose weight so he could have sex with them, she said. Even Agnifilio acknowledged early on that Raniere used abortions a part of a desire to have sex with many women.

Raniere allegedly had a strong grip on others. Lauren Salzman, daughter of NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman, testified that she treated his safety as the main priority when the FBI raided his Mexican villa in 2018.

“They were banging on the door,” she said. “The whole time I was thinking they could just shoot through the door. Legitimately, I might get shot right now. I kept interacting with them because my higher priority was Keith.”

The defense has tried to show that Raniere’s interactions with others was all consensual.

Agnifilio on Thursday insisted that this behavior wasn’t illegal, even if it was off-putting. Jurors would “check not guilty, all while thinking,`Gosh I wish I didn’t have to,'” he said.

Charges include sex trafficking and racketeering.

[Screengrab via Keith Raniere Conversations]

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