Convicted NXIVM sex cult leader Keith Raniere is planning to appeal his 120-year prison sentence based on alleged courtroom error and complaints that he didn’t receive a fair trial.
Defense attorney Steven Metcalf made the case for his client, who is currently recovering from COVID-19, during a Thursday appearance on the Law&Crime Network.
“You have a legitimate business that’s operating with hundreds of people who are benefiting from it and are actually gaining tremendous life experiences as a result of it–and employed—and all of a sudden that becomes deemed a federal RICO,” the attorney argued—referring to Mafia-focused, anti-racketeering legislation which makes charging criminal conspiracies relatively easy for federal prosecutors.
“That federal RICO, the charges that could result to sex-trafficking charges, 100 percent tainted the entire proceedings going forward, from the beginning to the end,” Metcalf argued. “It had chilling effects on the defense that could have been presented.”
Law&Crime Daily host Brian Buckmire noted that over 15 victims testified against Raniere and that five women in his inner circle pleaded guilty to exchanging sexual favors and to branding many of those women who were lower down the hierarchy in what Smallville‘s Allison Mack termed a “secret society.” The host also drew attention to post-trial allegations from at least one woman that Raniere used video footage to blackmail his alleged sex slaves and keep them in line.
“That’s not people’s feelings, I would argue, that’s just what came out, and I don’t see how that’s interpreted differently,” Buckmire said.
Metcalf, in a preview of the defense’s appeal, pointed out that many of those allegations were not used as part of the prosecution’s case during the trial itself.
“Those weren’t used as part of the government’s proof,” the defense attorney said. “Those were used as part of showing and establishing restitution and how that ultimately led a judge to sentence this man to 120 years. So that impacted, even the judge’s view, and ultimately led to that sentencing.”
“The evidence presented at trial to produce and substantiate these charges was completely different than those victim impact statements and that’s what we are claiming was lacking at the trial level,” Metcalf added.
Prosecutors are currently seeking additional restitution in additional to the already $1.75 million fine assessed against the onetime self-help guru.
Raniere defense attorney Joseph McBride also leveled a series of more vague complaints about the trial and investigative process during an appearance on the Law&Crime Network.
“There are a lot of questions,” he said. “There are a lot of holes. We have a lot of questions about the FBI’s work in this case. People here were hurt on some level but the question is about criminality. The question is about proving each element of each crime beyond a reasonable doubt. We don’t think that the government did that in this case.”
As for what McBride was getting at, recent comments to local CBS affiliate KOLD shine additional light on what court watchers should anticipate in the defense’s appellate briefs.
“Even if Keith were guilty on the facts, which we certainly believe that he is not, but even if he were, he has to lose by the rules,” McBride told KOLD. “There is a system of laws and procedures set in place and if somebody’s going to lose their trial, it’s got to be a fair trial. They’ve got to lose on the facts, by the rules. And if they don’t, then it’s a no-go.”
Raniere is currently serving his sentence at United States Penitentiary, Tucson.
[image via YouTube screengrab]
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