Gargiulo: Another Vision: Raniere et al. US Courthouse, Brooklyn, NY January 9, 2019

Tom Gargiulo attended the court hearing of Keith Raniere and the other Nxivm defendants [sans Nancy Salzman] on January 9, 2019. He provided us with excellent pictures in his photo essay of the prosecutors and Allison Mack leaving court.  Now Tom has taken to thoughtfully describing his observations in the courtroom in prose.

By Tom Gargiulo


The US Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn, NY is an imposing structure. Upon entering one notices its multi-tiered cascading levels and a sense of overwhelm arises. It reminds of a prison, except that most are allowed to leave.

Entering Judge Garaufis courtroom on the 4th floor there is a similar feeling with its high ceiling, cold Carrara marble backdrop and only a single window placed far above eye level so that no one can see out or in.

The court was entirely empty upon entrance. Slowly, the players began to arrive and populate the room like the cast of a stage set that would slowly put a drama into motion. First, clerks; then, assistant defense attorneys, prosecution attorneys and then the principal actors and actresses: Kathy Russell, Clare Bronfman, Lauren Salzman and then Allison Mack accompanied by their principal attorneys.

Mack, carrying a large, bulging black knapsack took the position of social chairman and smiled broadly with over-expressive facial features at everyone and hugged Salzman and Bronfman. All the hugging did not seem appropriate considering the grim circumstances. Sex trafficking is not much cause to celebrate anything.

Finally before the stage was set, lead attorney Mark Agnifilo made his entrance looking jovial, comfortable and tanned while sporting an expensive suit and watch that glittered of gold and diamonds. I wondered if Agnifilo grasped the seriousness of the matter as well. But, in a time when “everyone is their image”, all appropriateness has become lost anyway. Finally, the master of ceremonies Judge Garaufis appeared and the stage was set for Keith Raniere to be led through a side door. Raniere was serious, focused and sober. Some may claim his long dyed hair is scruffy but he cast the strange shadow of a melancholic intellectual (a moody Bob Dylan?) behind his strong dark glasses. During the proceeding he was positioned to only make eye contact with the judge and attorneys.

Judge Nicholas Garaufis


Motions are important because they determine the scope of the trial and how it will unfold. Under argument is the flow of information between the prosecution and defense with defense claiming they are not getting specific information about charges of racketeering, identity theft, sex trafficking, forced labor, coercion and money laundering.

Lead prosecutor, Moira Penza began arguments with a slight and hesitant voice tone. If I were not in court, I’d have thought I was listening to a teenager or young adult rather than a strong, confident lead prosecutor.  Arguments proceeded with Prosecution re-iterating they are not required to give specific information now, can interview everyone in DOS if they want specific information, and they will eventually get specifics two weeks before trial.

Defense demanded specifics and countered that “knowledge and intent” that one is breaking the law must be proved for extortion and forced labor charges etc. and that no serious harm was done.


Moira Penza, lead prosecutor.

If the defense is accurate that “knowledge and intent” must be proved, I was left wondering if all the defendants operated from the same knowledge base. For example, is it fair to equate Keith Raniere’s knowledge with Allison Mack’s? In particular, Mack strikes me as someone who is insecure, needs to make herself the center of attention to prove she is likable and is not intellectually focused. She is someone who is easily swayed by her own need to be liked by others and may have had no knowledge or intent to break the law regarding forced labor or extortion charges which make up the heart of sex trafficking. What’s to become of her as other defendants request their trials to be separate or negotiate plea deals?



In the end I wondered why we were all there. The arguments between defense and prosecution seemed like a winnerless, repeating duel with Judge Garaufis preferring the prosecution with his comment “perhaps plaintiff DOS women felt the threat of sanctions”.

And, Garaufis seems a bit taken in by the unreal, celebrity aspect of this trial. In the middle of the proceeding when Mack’s attorney requested a bathroom break, the judge strangely asked Allison Mack if he had seen her earlier in the morning in the court cafeteria! The comment caught me off-guard; but scarily, I was worried he might ask her out to coffee. Fortunately, for all of us, he did not.

Allison Mack

In disappointment I kept wondering why weren’t we discussing the real issues: pedophilia, harassment of dissidents who became impoverished or went to jail, lies and deceit about someone claiming to be the smartest man in the world and made claims about creating an ethical civilization but had no ethics himself, and the public servants who lied and enabled him? And, why didn’t we remember the people that died at the hands of Nxivm.

Keith Raniere’s life has changed greatly over the last year.

About the author

Frank Parlato


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  • Thanks for your live perspective, Tom. You’re good with prose. But are you sure you’re not projecting your own desire to have coffee with Allison Mack onto Judge Garaufis?

    “Didn’t I see you in the cafeteria earlier?” sounds more like the Judge was acknowledging that Allison wasn’t faking her need for a potty break because he saw her drinking coffee earlier himself.

    Like he’s someone who makes determinations by the facts he knows to be true, not someone who’s influenced by a pretty face or celebrity status as you suggest.

    I think you may also be misjudging Ms. Penza due to her age and gender. And if you’re an Italian (or Hispanic) man of a certain age or generation yourself without journalism or other investigative training, that settles that in my mind.

    It’s possible Ms. Penza hasn’t yet honed the showmanship skills of an Agnifilo but she and her prosecution team have been 110% on point and admirably haven’t missed a trick yet against some very formidable tricksters who are all show — full of glitz, smoke and mirrors with little substance.

    From the same scribe who famously penned, “First, kill all the lawyers,” this quote may help your writing:

    “To thine own self be true. For then it follows as night the day, tho canst be false to any man.”

    – William Shakespeare

    • Part of judges job is to maintain the boundary of the courtroom which provides an atmosphere of safety and fair play among participants; comments that are open to interpretation can violate the boundaries and lead one to question his impartial authority.

      • Yeah, well, those black robes judges don for court could be interpreted to mean they’re all secret Satan worshippers, too. Lol. (Sarcasm.)

    • It’s just a thought but perhaps Judge G wanted to signal he doesn’t miss a thing, he’s observant and that’s why he asked if he had seen Mack in the cafeteria.

      • What do you make of Tom’s last name, Leon? “Gargiulo” — combo of, suggestive of, Gaurufis and Agnifilo?

        And if it is a fake name, with meaning, what else is fake about Tom? What’s the net of Tom’s post on FR and its readers?

        – Pics of Allie’s cankles are cruel and sexist.

        – Pics of poor Allie’s tattered backpack and worn boots also engender pity.

        – Put downs of prosecution team and Judge encourages anamosity and distrust of the Court and FR.

        – What else is really going on here?

  • Good observations! Always good to hear impressions from a person outside of legal field.

    What you are seeing, no doubt the Defendants are feeling. But trying to cover it up with smiles, hugs, n bravado.

    Btw, Rolex + Diamonds = Super cheesy and insecure owner. Trying to compensate?

    • Dennis, the way you constantly throw all non-Mexican defendants and fellow attorneys under the bus here only further demonstrates how you’re there to protect one single Mexican individual, to the detriment of all other defendants and parties, including your own co-counsel and your client of record, Clare Bronfman.

      With your vast knowledge of all things, Dennis, you surely must be aware the VPN you use to post on this site is not enough to prevent your identity from being revealed in connection with your posts. You may respond with yet another clever reply to continue rationalizing things your way or pretending you know exactly what you’re doing. It’s how you keep kicking the can down the road, sustaining this fake image that you know it all, while rationalizing things your way which must feel better than facing reality. Do your clients or fellow attorneys still believe your bullshit, that they’re not going to be sucked in to your quicksand by following your guidance? The always present arrogant “Burke overconfidence” is seen again throughout your posts on frankreport. To begin, your sophomoric belief that you can hide behind your VPN reflects yet another misguided assumption by you. And so much more.

  • If Allie Whack doesn’t know that it is wrong to blindfold a woman, drive her a few hours from her home and force her to have sex with an unknown person (perhaps herself) for Raniere to watch, then she really does need to be locked up for the rest of her life to protect society-at-large.
    Same goes for holding down a screaming woman to have her flesh painfully and permanently seared under the guise of doing it to help make her stronger.
    It’s a great basis for an insanity plea, but leaves her entirely unrehabilitateable.

  • An unusual perspective. Some report Raniere as looking like a clown or having weirdly dyed frizzy hair and looking basically terrible, whereas you see him as serious, focused, sober( one would hope so) and as a sort of Dylanesque, with the ‘strange melancholic shadow of an intellectual’. Others describe the Prosecution as the mighty force they actually are, but you’d have thought you were’ listening to a teenager or young adult rather than a strong, confident lead prosecutor.’ Thank heavens your perception is not everything. Glad to hear Aggie’s coming with the ‘diamonds in my rolie’, nice suit, smooth tan, so at least someone is profiting like a G from this case.

    • Just the fact that he is attempting to dye his hair in prison, acknowledges his own perception that he looks like shit!
      If he thought he was looking good, while bother.

      • I wouldn’t have thought hair dye was available to the prisoners….maybe Keith us using some type of homemade concoction to try to cover the grey, and that is the reason his hair looks so strange?.
        Perhaps his lawyer can convince Keith to just let his hair go grey and have it cut short, so that he looks normal….but its probably better if he looks like a demented cult leader during the trial, right?

          • Obviously. But most lawyers try to convince their clients to clean up and look respectable while they’re in court.
            Apparently his lawyer has not succeeded in persuading him.

    • So the lead prosecutor seems in over her head, and the judge has a poster of Chloe Sullivan in his man cave. Thanks for the update – I think…

      • Style points will go to the defense because they are more experienced, relaxed and confident. BTW: the defense is composed almost equally of women and men.

        HOWEVER, much more important is the potentially compelling testimony and evidence that the prosecution will likely present.

        It is rare that a charismatic attorney such as Jose Baez can turn a trial simply on the power of his persona and his ability to reframe events consistently with an innocent verdict.

      • The lead prosecutor does not seem “in over her head”. In fact the lead prosecutor seems to be doing just fine.

    • Heather Anne?! We’ve been looking everywhere for you! I swear I won’t tell, though. We just all hope Heather had the most wonderful holidays ever and maybe a miracle or two happens — if it hasn’t already, it’s on the way!

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