Dr. Michael Welner

Prosecution to call famed psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner as expert witness to prove NXIVM is ‘cult-like’!

The prosecution in the case against Keith Raniere Et Al plans to call psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner as an expert witness to help establish that Nxivm compares closely to other “cult-like operations.” Dr. Welner, a clinical and forensic psychiatrist and Chairman of The Forensic Panel, has acted as lead forensic psychiatric examiner in numerous prominent […]

The prosecution in the case against Keith Raniere Et Al plans to call psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner as an expert witness to help establish that Nxivm compares closely to other “cult-like operations.”

Dr. Welner, a clinical and forensic psychiatrist and Chairman of The Forensic Panel, has acted as lead forensic psychiatric examiner in numerous prominent criminal proceedings.

According to the prosecution’s filing, Dr. Welner is going to testify about how the actions of Raniere and the other Nxivm/DOS co-defendants compare to practices of other cult-like groups and how such actions – including abuse of the teacher-student dynamic – facilitate financial and sexual exploitation.

These practices include:

  • Using aggressive recruiting tactics to lure recruits and foster their dependence.
  • Grooming the moral and value systems of members to conform with the objectives of the organization.
  • Undermining their senses of self in order to submit to control and exploitation.
  • Cultivating total deference and grooming towards a charismatic leader who has no accountability;
  • Leveraging emotional vulnerability and intimate trust to control follower.
  • Creating extreme power imbalances.
  • Not tolerating dissent – and emotionally manipulating followers to remain absolutely obedient through an accusatory atmosphere in which betrayal is suspected and charged; withholding their connection to a group on which they are dependent; and shunning.
  • Isolating members from friends and family.
  • Demonizing critics as “suppressives”.
  • Shunning defectors.
  • Limiting the beliefs, behaviors and emotions that members are allowed to exhibit.
  • Creating financial dependence.
  • Gathering compromising material on members and exploiting it to create compliance out of fear.
  • Controlling the emotional attachments of members.
  • Controlling the sex lives of members.

Among the notable cases that Dr. Welner has been prominently involved in are:

Dr. Welner has also consulted to courts or examined perpetrators on numerous mass shooting and attempted mass shooting cases, including Colorado’s James Holmes, NBC gunman William Tager, corrections officer George Banks, who killed 13, Tavares Calloway, and bias-hatred mass shooters Richard Baumhammers, Ronald Taylor, and Ronald Crumpley.

Dr. Welner has been featured in network television news coverage of forensic psychiatry issues and authored numerous publications for professional and public audiences.

The prosecution described Dr. Welner as follows:

“Dr. Welner has studied … cult-like organizations, large-group awareness trainings, the ‘human potential movement’, religious sects and chain-marketing organizations (the ‘comparative groups’), including financial and sexual exploitation and the psychological dynamics within the comparative groups. This includes the techniques of how intense attention and recruitment contributes to special relationships within which such exploitation takes place, and then to isolation through which recruits are controlled and exploitation perpetuates. As a clinical psychiatrist, Dr. Welner also has experience treating people who have left organizations like those described above.

“He has also conducted extensive research…  on polygamous sect leaders and their followers, and has presented findings of this research at national forensic science meetings. This research illustrates the qualities of leaders and how they relate to their organizations and followers, how they relate to the outside world and prevent scrutiny, how the ideals of the organizations as set up by leaders enable the absolute power through which sexual and financial exploitation can happen. In the same research, Dr. Welner explored the followers of such organizations, what makes them vulnerable, and what makes it difficult for them to extricate themselves.

“Dr. Welner … conducted … research on drug-facilitated sex assault perpetrators and their modus operandi (including the way they relate to their victims after the fact), as well as their victimology. In particular, he has examined the various ways in which some, including people with no criminal background or history of sexual offending, manipulate power differential and opportunism to sexually exploit employees in what would otherwise be ordinary encounters.

“He has also extensively studied … situations of coercive influence…. . This involves an understanding of how…  the mentor/teacher is able to cultivate silence and even complicity. He has consulted on a number of cases in which grooming behavior is alleged to have taken place, in both criminal and civil context, and to both those accusing others of grooming and themselves accused.

“In addition, Dr. Welner has presented before national meetings and other professional audiences on financial exploitation, the assessment of populations vulnerable to financial exploitation, and the vectors of such exploitation. This work is notable for its concentration on how intelligent and informed people can be taken advantage of because of emotional vulnerabilities that play out in the relationship between victim and victimizer”.

Although it did not reveal other names, the prosecution indicated it is planning to call other expert witnesses to testify about these three topics:

(1) The psychiatric and physiological effects of social, perceptual and occupational isolation including deleterious effects on mental functioning, such as depression, obsessive thoughts, agitation, confusion and suicidal ideation and behavior;

(2) The behavior of victims of sex crimes including common misconceptions about victim behavior, such as why victims often delay reporting to law enforcement and others, why victims continue to communicate and maintain relationships with their assailants and why victims often do not physically attack their assailants; and

(3) The psychiatric and physiological effects of lack of sleep and severe calorie restriction.

The current date to begin the trial is April 29th – but that date may be pushed back by one or more superseding indictments. The prosecution’s provision of the information about its expert witness is in conformity with its duty to provide defendants with details about what information and evidence it plans to present to the jury.

The Eastern District of New York has a 97% conviction rate when it goes to trial. Defendants who go to trial and are convicted tend to get the maximum allowable sentences.


About the author

Frank Parlato


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  • Unsurprisingly, the “practices” list above reads right out of the Amway scam playbook. Raniere must be making his former Amway upline proud.

  • Whatever happened to the old fashioned notion of people taking charge of their own fates and souls?
    The notion that our ancestors had in the Nineteenth Century.
    Whatever happened to the notion of standing up to the world’s bullies and cowards no matter what the consequences?

    People’s moral failures help groups like NXIVM survive and thrive.


    Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

    In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds and shall find me unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll,
    I am the master of my fate,
    I am the captain of my soul

      • My parents grew up during the Depression and World War 2.
        They gave me a very simple message:
        Never start a fight
        But if someone starts a fight with you make them regret the day they were born.
        Hit them back twice as hard as they hit you.

        If America was less concerned about being loved by the world and more concerned about being respected and yes even being feared, then America would be a safer country.

    • I think Shadowstate alluding to :

      Whatever happened to self

      Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

      Whatever happened to righteousness?

      I remember my grandparents they were like how you describe your parents.

      Great poem by the way

  • Finally, FR publishes an authoritative piece relevant to the trial vs the hearsay and opinions of those looking to unload their anger and hostility to anyone who will listen.

    Welner will provide expert testimony for understanding the normative behavior of victims of cults and sexual abuse. This will put Nvium into a very dangerous context. However, please keep in mind, Albany attorney, Paul Derohannesian is an expert in sexual abuse and has written extensively about the interviewing of sexual survivors and those accused of sexual crimes. He is straightforward and un-assuming and will not alienate the jury. This will be a trial worth listening to finer points of what constitutes sexual abuse and sex trafficking and the role of free will and free choice in these matters etc.

    As always, the defense only has to raise doubt in the minds of 1 juror to hang the jury and have a mistrial or not-guilty verdict declared. This case is far from decided especially if the prosecution must prove knowledge and intent to commit a crime.

    • While this “expert” is interesting, cults are protected by the First Amendment of speech, religion, assembly, etc., so actual crimes need to be proven, not the existance of a cult. The cult connection may make for a pretty wrapper, but it’s what’s inside that counts for convictions.

    • Those who can’t do, teach. Writing a textbook isn’t the same as winning at trial. Just because DerOhannesian talks on Court TV as a so-called expert (meaning someone from out-of-town who is expensive doesn’t mean he has any accomplishments.
      Name one high profile sex offender he represented and won an acquittal.
      Besides he has a moustache that looks like a 70s porn star.

  • Ruh-rho!

    Who is the Defense going to call in rebuttal? Santa Claus? The Easter Bunny?

    Steal from the Marks… I mean Marc AgniSTEALO?

    • Despite your obvious jealousy of Agnifilo, who is still collecting payments for billable hours while you are not, maybe it’s time for you to start thinking about this exact question you have raised, Dennis. Who is the Defense going to call in rebuttal? And that goes for not “only” the Nxivm defense. It’s an equally important consideration for all who may be accused of crimes, yourself (Dennis Burke) and Sandweg included.

      P.S. If you wouldn’t have gotten yourself in hot water, you have been wouldn’t be conflicted out from representing your former client, Clare Bronfman, who you now constantly badmouth in your posts here. You too could still be milking Clare’s bank account instead of spending your evenings angrily drunk posting on Frank’s blog under ten or more aliases calling Agnifilo AgniSTEALO because of your envy and jealousy.

      • Anonymous,

        I will believe Ron Jeremy is Mouse posting on the Frankreport before I believe mouse is Dennis Burke.

        Why the drama Anonymous?

        Mouse = Anonymous = not Dennis Burke

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