Judge Nicholas Garaufis

Prosecution proposes list of attorney conflict questions for NXIVM defendants

The US Attorney has proposed a list of 24 questions for Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis to ask defendants Keith Raniere, Allison Mack, Nancy Salzman, Lauren Salzman and Kathy Russell.

All of them have attorneys who are being paid via an irrevocable trust funded it seems largely by their co-defendant Clare Bronfman.

The government has raised the issue that since one co-defendant is funding the legal fees of her other co-defendants, is there a risk of a conflict-of-interest?

The judge has agreed to hold what are called Curcio hearings to ascertain whether the defendants understand their rights to proper legal representation and whether there is a clear conflict..

Proposed Curcio Examination

(A) Potential Conflict of Interest Posed By Co-Defendant’s Payment of Legal Fees

  1. Are you satisfied with the services of your attorneys thus far in the case?
  2. Do you understand that, in every criminal case, including this one, the
    defendant is entitled to the assistance of counsel whose loyalty to him or her is undivided, and who is not subject to any force or consideration that might in any way intrude upon the attorney’s loyalty to his or her client’s interests?
  3. Have you received any inducements, promises, or threats with regard to your choice of counsel in this case?
  4. Are you paying your attorneys’ fees or is someone else paying for them to represent you? Who specifically is paying them? How long has that been the case?
  5. Do you have an understanding whether, in the future, they will continue to pay, indemnify, or reimburse your legal fees in this case? What is your understanding?
  6. Because your attorneys are being paid by a third party, they may be
    influenced by this third party in connection with their representation of you, that is, they may be influenced to advise you to do things that are in the third party’s best interests and not in your best interests.
    a. For instance, if the third party is involved in the alleged crime, the
    third party may have a vested interest in having your lawyers advise
    you to accept sole responsibility for the unlawful scheme or to
    minimize the third party’s involvement with or knowledge of the
    scheme. Do you understand that?
    b. Your lawyers may also have an interest in advising you not to seek
    to cooperate with the Government, even if that might be in your
    interest, where your cooperation might directly or indirectly
    implicate the third party that is paying your legal fees. Do you
    understand that?
  7. Have you consulted with counsel other than your attorneys about the risks associated with this potential conflict of interest?
  8. Do you understand that you have a right to consult with another lawyer to determine whether you wish for them to continue representing you?
  9. Do you understand that the Court will give you an opportunity to do so, and that the Court encourages you to do so? Do you understand that, if you cannot afford other counsel, the Court will appoint counsel—free of cost to you—so that you my consult with conflict-free counsel about these issues?
  1. Have any of your attorneys informed you that they have been compensated for their representation of you, directly or indirectly, by a co-defendant in this case?
  2. Do you understand that in some circumstances your attorneys might have an incentive to put the interests of Clare Bronfman before yours?
  3. Let me give you some examples of the ways in which your attorneys’
    ability to represent you might be affected by the fact that they have been paid by Ms. Bronfman. This could affect the way that your lawyers consider and advise you:
    a. Whether, and when, you should plead guilty;
    b. Whether you should seek to cooperate with the Government;
    c. What defenses you should raise;
    d. Whether you should testify at trial;
    e. Which witnesses should be cross examined, and what questions
    they should be asked;
    f. Which witnesses should be called, and what other evidence to offer
    on your behalf;
    g. What arguments to make on your behalf to the jury;
    h. What arguments to make to the Court, and what facts to bring to the
    Court’s attention, before trial, during trial, or, if you are convicted,
    at your sentencing.
  4. Tell me in your own words what your understanding is of the potential conflict of interest arising in this situation.

(B) Right to Conflict-Free Representation

  1. Do you understand that you have the right to object to your attorneys’
    continued representation of you based upon the existence of a potential conflict of interest?
  2. It is important that you understand that no one can predict with any
    certainty the course that this case will take or how this conflict may affect it.
  3. What is your understanding of the right to “effective assistance of
  4. Is there anything I have said that you wish to have explained further?
  5. I will give you an opportunity to think about what you have been told, and, if you would like, to talk it over with counsel other than your attorneys. After you have thought it over, I will ask whether you have considered the matters that I have talked to you about, either with or without an attorney. Then I will ask whether you wish to continue with your attorneys.
  6. Do you need court-appointed counsel for the purpose of consulting with you about these conflict-of-interest issues?

  1. Given that having your co-defendant Clare Bronfman pay your legal fees may adversely affect your defense, do you still believe that it is in your best interest to proceed with your attorneys?
  2. Is that your wish?
  3. Do you understand that by continuing in this fashion with your attorneys, you are waiving your right to be represented by an attorney who has no conflict of interest?
  4. Are you knowingly and voluntarily waiving your right to conflict-free
  5. Do you agree to waive any post-conviction argument, on appeal or otherwise, that by virtue of having a third party—and, indeed, your co-defendant—pay your legal fees, you were denied effective assistance of 
  6. counsel?
  1. Is there anything that the Court has said that you wish to have explained further?

About the author

Frank Parlato


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  • Another question: What does Keith Raniere want from Santa Claus?
    Why does a godlike man not fulfill his own wishes?
    Does he perhaps wish himself a little more intellect?
    In any case, he does not want the solution to his problems. After being
    one of the three greatest problem solvers in the world!

  • I’m glad the prosecution is initiating this. Defendants need to understand how they can be influenced by their attorneys and deserve to make choices that are best for them.

    There was a situation over 30 years ago where my insurance company appointed counsel to defend me. The case involved lead paint poisoning in a property I owned in Boston. The legal team told me, despite being paid by insurance, they represented me and their loyalty was to me. One decision they made tested that proposition and I am not sure they made the best decision for me or for the insurance company? The decision involved disclosure of certain facts to the plaintiffs lawyers that put me personally in legal and financial jeopardy. Fortunately, the case was settled just before trial. The insurance company paid a settlement to the victim’s family and the case was resolved.

    This simple story illustrates how complicated this issue is. I am not sure a defendant can understand it unless they’ve gone through it or until they face a dilemma right in the discovery phase or trial itself.

  • All good questions.
    Are the defendants smart enough to understand that their Bronfman-financed attorneys might be representing Clare Bronfman more than them?

  • This is a very wise, merciful and compassionate move on the part of the prosecution. I’m awestruck and pray that the defendants will receive it in the spirit of straightforward fairness it is, obviously, meant.

    I fear it will be presented as some sort of ploy by the more corrupt counsel retained in the interests of the trust contributors. That would be a pity and terrible mistake.

    • Heidi:
      The prosecution wants to dot every i and cross every t so that the defendants will not be able to appeal guilty verdicts by saying they did not understand the importance of attorney conflicts of interest.

    • I wish I could agree with you, Heidi, but I agree with Shadowstate. This is much more likely:
      1) just covering their asses to prevent a future appeal; with a
      2) potential added bonus that it might wake one of the numb nuts up so they would get an unbiased attorney, see their actual situation, and cop a plea; and dead last
      3) potentially helping someone who is not realising what is actually happening to them.

  • Prosecutors may be attempting to uncover why the accused parties apparently start to make deals, then back out. A pro-active “hand”, attached to a forceful “long arm”, reaches out to meddle in NXIVM at every twist and turn of this case. From the looks of recent documents, prosecutors are starting to catch on. Remaining questions are, (i) from what part of Mexico does that long arm reach out? and (ii) how often does the hand fly down to Mexico from Arizona to receive next instructions?

    Does the judge or do the prosecutors expect truthful responses about threats if a witness or defendant family member has been threatened by a Mexican cartel? Hard to beat them at this game. Threats and extreme fear is how cartels rule over victims. Don’t forget Dr. Brandon Porter’s “fright experiments” rape and dismemberment videos. Mind control exercises done in the fashion of Mexican cartels. The answers to this puzzle are right in front of our faces, it’s clearer every week as the case marches closer to the proposed trial date.

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