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Judge Orders Defense Attorneys To Turn Over Details Of Legal Defense Trust Fund

Via a sua sponte Order, Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, the presiding U.S.District Court judge in the criminal case of U.S. v. Raniere Et Al, has ordered the defendants to turn over the documents that detail the terms and conditions of the Legal Defense Trust that Clare Bronfman established just before she was indicted earlier this year (A sua sponte Order is one that is issued by the judge without any prior motion orrequest from the parties involved in a case).   

And in what can only be interpreted as an indication of just how interested he is in seeing those documents, the judge warned that if the defendants are unable to comply with his order, “the court will take such further steps as are necessary to” procure the documents.

Questions regarding the trust first arose when the prosecution suggested that the defense attorneys for Clare’s co-defendants (i.e., Keith Raniere, Allison Mack, Lauren Salzman, Nancy Salzman, and Kathy Russell) may have a conflict-of-interest in the case because they’re all being paid from the trust – which might cause them to act in accord with Clare’s best interests as opposed to those of their respective clients.

As we reported in an earlier post, one of the attorneys who represents the trustee for the trust refused to turn over a copy of the documents when requested to do so by the prosecution. And as we correctly noted in that post, “Needless to say, if Judge Garaufis decides he needs to look at those documents, he’ll likely get to do just that”.

In the same Order that he issued yesterday, Judge Garaufis also directed the prosecution to submit a letter, on or before December 17th, addressing any issues it has with respect to the fact that the trust has been used to pay the legal fees of potential witnesses – and proposing steps for the court to take to resolve those issues.

This apparently is related to the fact that at least one potential witness was told that her legal fees would be paid by the trust only if she agreed to plead the Fifth Amendment when questioned in front of the grand jury that has been hearing evidence in this case.   

The full text of Judge Garaufis December 13th is as follows:

The Government is DIRECTED to submit a letter, by no later than December 17, 2018, addressing the issues, if any, raised by the Trust’s payment of witnesses’ legal fees and proposing steps for the court to take to cure these issues. (See Gov’t Nov. 30, 2018 Letter (Dkt. [210]) at 3.) Defendants are DIRECTED, by no later than December 17, 2018, to submit the Trust’s indenture, which may be filed ex parte and under seal. If Defendants are unable to submit the Trust’s indenture, thecourt will take such further steps as are necessary to procure it. Defendantsare also DIRECTED, by no later than December 19, 2018, to respond jointly tothe Government’s letter. Ordered by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis on 12/13/2018.

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Things are definitely starting to heat up in this case – and readers are advised to ask Santa for more popcorn because it looks like there’s going to be a lot to watch as this little mini-drama continues to unfold over the next few months.

Some of the big questions that we’ll likely get answers to in the near future are as follows:

  1. Is the judge going to let all of Clare’s co-defendants continue being represented by attorneys that are being paid for from the trust – or will he rule that the conflict-of-interest created by that situation is so great that they cannot waive it (If that happens, most – if not all – of Clare’s co-defendants will end up being represented by court-appointed attorneys)?
  • Is the judge going to let potential witnesses continue to be intimidated and manipulated by attorneys being paid by the trust who want them to do things that would be beneficial to Clare and not to themselves?
  • Is the judge going to allow the trust to be used to provide different levels of legal representation for Clare’s co-defendants (Some observers have estimated that the attorneys representing Keith Raniere have thus far accounted for more than 60% of all the legal billings in the case)?
  • Will a superseding indictment add more charges against Raniere, Bronfman, Mack, Russell, and Salzmans  – and/or add new defendants to the case?
  • Will one or more of the co-defendants flip and become star witnesses for the prosecution?



About the author

Artvoice

News and art, national and local. Began as alternative weekly in 1990 in Buffalo, NY. Publishing content online since 1996.

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