By K. R. Claviger
The Hon. Nicholas G. Garaufis, the presiding judge in the NXIVM Numbskulls case, has decided to ignore the demands made by Marc Agnifilo, Keith Raniere’s lead attorney – and has pushed back the “Start Date” for the trial to April 29, 2019.
In his letter to Judge Garaufis just last Friday, Agnifilo demanded that the trial start, as previously scheduled, on March 18, 2019.
Although the “Order” that was issued earlier today by Judge Garaufis made no mention of Agnifilo’s demands, it did contain a revised schedule for all the events leading up the actual trial.
Per the new schedule, here’s when those events will take place:
- The defendants and the prosecution must provide the court with their proposed jury questionnaires by no later than March 18th
- All the potential jurors for the trial will be required to complete the approved questionnaire during the morning and afternoon of April 8th
- The court will conduct juror interviews on April 15th – and, if/as necessary, on April 16th and April 17th
- Opening statements in the trial will take place on April 29th.
In that same “Order”, Judge Garaufis denied the prosecution’s request to postpone the January 30th deadline to submit its “enterprise and other act evidence”. But he did so “without prejudice” – which means that if the circumstances warrant, the prosecution can resubmit that request.
Today’s “Order” did not address pending motions from four Raniere co-defendants – Clare Bronfman, Kathy Russell, Lauren Salzman, and Nancy Salzman – to have their trials severed from his (Lauren has also asked that her trial be separated from that of Allison Mack – and it is believed that Bronfman, Russell, and Nancy Salzman likely did the same). If any of those motions are granted, then it’s possible that the “Start Date” for Raniere’s trial will be pushed back even further.
Another event that could further delay the start of the trial is the issuance of another superseding indictment that adds more charges against the current defendants and/or adds new defendants. The prosecution has made it clear on several occasions that it is working on such an indictment.
So, when will Raniere and his cohorts actually end up going to trial?
Our analysis of the situation still suggests no trial will get started before sometime in September this year. We also believe it’s possible that no trial will get started for at least another year.
In light of today’s ruling, it’s probably inevitable that Agnifilo will request – or perhaps demand – that Keith Raniere be let out on bail until the start of the trial.
Raniere’s prior requests to be let out of prison have been rejected by the judge based on his conclusion that Raniere is both “a flight risk” and “a danger to society”.
Although nothing has happened that would alter either of those conclusions, it seems inevitable that Raniere will make another try to get out of MDC – and then flee the country.
Thus far, we’ve been analyzing the recent filings in this case on the basis of the information and assertions contained in each of them.
But we’ve also been looking at them in terms of what the broader strategy may be — from the standpoint of the 20+ defense attorneys who are involved in this case.
One possibility is that divisions have actually begun to develop between/among the various defendants. That would explain why Lauren, Nancy, Clare, and Kathy have decided that it’s not in their best interest to be part of any trial in which Raniere is a co-defendant.
Another possibility, however, is that all these filings by the defense attorneys are part of a carefully orchestrated plan meant to create appealable issues on behalf of any defendants who are convicted at trial.
So, for example, if the judge denies Lauren’s severance motion and she gets convicted, she’ll be able to argue, on appeal, that Judge Garaufis erred in denying her severance request. The same is true for Nancy, Clare, and Kathy.
And the longer the trial is delayed, the better the chance that Raniere’s attorneys will argue that he wasn’t able to properly prepare to defend himself because he was incarcerated throughout the time that he was waiting to go to trial.
That argument may be particularly effective if, because of the current partial shutdown of the federal government, MDC does not allow inmates to meet with their attorneys.
The “bottom line” here is that there’s a lot going on – much of which is likely more than meets the eye.