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NXIVM Co-Founder Asks Federal Judge to Give Her No Prison Time, Says She Was ‘Fooled’ by a ‘Sex Fiend’ for Two Decades

An image shows Nancy Salzman walking outside a courthouse.

Nancy Salzman

On the eve of her sentencing for co-founding NXIVM, a newly released memo by defense attorneys for the sex cult’s president reveals they want her to serve her time inside her home rather than in prison.

In a redacted sentencing memorandum, Nancy Salzman’s lawyers depicted their client as a dupe of a sociopathic Keith Raniere, who has been condemned to spend the rest of his life behind bars for spearheading the group.

“Nancy Salzman is a 66 year old woman who for most of the past twenty years has been fooled, controlled, humiliated, and ultimately led to engage in criminal conduct by an egotistical, self-important, sex fiend who told all who would listen about his (fake) solution for mankind’s problems,” her lawyers David Stern and Robert A. Soloway wrote in the opening paragraph of a memo dated Aug. 30 and released on Tuesday.

“That is not to say that Nancy did not have agency or free will, or that she lacks responsibility for her conduct,” the memo continues. “Indeed, she lives every day bearing and appreciating the full weight of her wrongdoing while she served as Keith Raniere’s collaborator and enabler within the Nxivm community.”

Prosecutors say that Salzman was Raniere’s second-in-command, surveilling and investigating the group’s critics and enemies.

“Nancy Salzman helped Nxivm retain private firms, including Interfor and Canaprobe, in order to investigate perceived enemies of Nxivm and Raniere,” prosecutors wrote in a recent sentencing memo. “Between approximately 2007 and 2009, Canaprobe sent the results of purported ‘bank sweeps’ for bank account and balance information belonging to Nxivm’s adversaries.”

Salzman pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy more than two years ago in March 2019.

In mid-August, prosecutors asked for Salzman to serve the “high end” of the federal sentencing guidelines for that offense: close to three and a half years in prison. Salzman’s guidelines have been calculated between 33 to 41 months of incarceration.

Salzman’s attorneys call it “mystifying” as to how their client got to this point.

“How such a path could be taken by an intelligent, talented woman who, until meeting Raniere, had led a scrupulously law-abiding and productive life, is mystifying,” her lawyers write. “But her particular weaknesses combined with Raniere’s undeniable powers of control over the human will of certain people and uncanny ability to neutralize the judgment of these individuals, took Ms. Salzman on a terrible decades-long journey which even today she struggles to fully understand.”

A mother of two daughters, Salzman recounting owning a private center for treating those suffering from chronic pain that trained staff from prestigious Empire State and private entities, including the Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center, the New York State Department of Criminal Justice, American Express, Saint Cabrini Nursing Home, and the New York State Departmcnt of Health. One of those daughters, Lauren Salzman, was sentenced to probation in the NXIVM case in no small part because she cooperated against her mother.

Citing her age and “serious health problems,” Nancy Salzman’s attorneys want her to serve a non-prison sentence of home confinement followed by supervised release. They submitted seven family letters, nine letters from her close friends, and 23 letters by others in the NXIVM community. The identities of those supporting her have been redacted.

“Collectively, these letters leave no doubt that for decades, Nancy was for most who met her an exemplary, honorable, and rare person, recognized widely for her commitment to helping others,” the memo states.

She faces sentencing before U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis on Wednesday. That judge previously granted a three-year sentence to another high-profile co-conspirator of Raniere: former Smallville actress Allison Mack.

Like Salzman, Mack argued that she was both Raniere’s victim and collaborator.

Echoing NXIVM’s jargon, Judge Garaufis described the disgraced actress as “both a slave and a master” within the cult, imposing a sentence well below the federal sentencing guidelines. Both Mack and Salzman pleaded guilty years ago, and both tout their cooperation with the government.

Read Salzman’s sentencing memo below:

[image via The Vow/HBO/YouTube screengrab]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."