Before the judge appeared, Allison Mack and several lawyers joked in the courtroom. Mack was wearing dark pajamas and leopard-print sneakers. Her hair was tied, and with a decorative red pencil, in a messy bun.
At one point Mack tried to hide her laughter by tucking her mouth into a scarf.
When they saw each other, Mack and Bronfman hugged for a long time and kissed each other on the cheeks. Bronfman wore an off-white sweater with a pattern of a flower on the back.
Keith Raniere, unshackled, with his handcuffs removed outside of court, was led in wearing a tan jail jumpsuit, with a tan long sleeve shirt underneath. His hair was gathered in a man bun.
During the proceedings, Judge Nicholas Garaufis dismissed three charges against Raniere (two charges of sexual exploitation of a child and one charge of possession of child pornography) – and one charge against Clare Bronfman (Visa fraud) – because the alleged crimes took place in the Northern District of NY and not the Eastern District of NY where the trial is to be held. All the dismissed charges were referred to the Northern District.
All four remaining defendants face racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges in the EDNY.
Raniere also faces charges for conspiracy to alter records, conspiracy to commit identity theft, labor trafficking, and sex trafficking,
Mack also faces charges for extortion and sex trafficking.
Bronfman also faces a money laundering charge.
The judge asked prosecutors and defense attorneys if they will be ready for trial by April 29.
Raniere’s attorney, Marc Agnifilo said, “I’m going to make it work.”
Mark Geragos, attorney for Clare Bronfman, said yes.
Sean Buckley, the lawyer for Allison Mack – and Justine Harris, the lawyer for Kathy Russell – said their clients would be ready but added they are in plea negotiations with the government.
Harris told the judge, “I think substantial progress has been made” for Russell.
Buckley said he and prosecutors were having “what continue to be fruitful discussions of a possible resolution.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Moira Penza doubted Raniere’s lawyers would be ready for trial given the need for them to review new material handed over by prosecutors.
She also noted that prosecutors have a challenge too: They have yet to see some 27,000 documents related to Raniere and another 2,000 related to Bronfman that a lawyer for NXIVM has argued are privileged.
“We’re at trial in less than a month, and we haven’t seen these documents,” Penza said of the privilege claim, calling it a “real problem.”
The judge said, “I would ask everyone to redouble their efforts to be ready.”
Penza said there would be no risk to the case if the trial were adjourned two or three weeks.
The judge said he did not want to delay the trial more than a week to 10 days.
Penza told the judge a “technical discovery issue” had arisen — a hard drive provided in discovery to Raniere’s defense team contained, among other discovery documents, the child pornography images which will be used as evidence at trial.
It is illegal for anyone to possess or distribute child pornography. Prosecutors typically allow defense attorneys to review evidence of illegal images at a government location.
Penza said the FBI was working to provide a new version of the drive — without the nude photographs of the underage victim[s], including Jane Doe #2, a then 15-year-old Mexican girl that Raniere photographed in sexually explicit poses. The child’s nude poses were similar to nude poses in images he possessed of Allison Mack, Lauren Salzman, and Kathy Russell.
Agnifilo said the government sending him Raniere’s child porn, was a “wrinkle” in his review of the discovery.
The judge ordered an anonymous and “semi-sequestered” jury, which means jurors will be brought as a group into and out of court by US Marshals and not arrive individually.
Judge Garaufis said jurors’ names will not be released “before, during, or after” the trial. They will be free, however, to reach out to media after the trial concludes.
Garaufis issued the ruling, he said, “to protect jurors from unwanted interference when they’re coming to and from the courthouse.”
“It would appear there’s no actual danger to jurors,” Garaufis said, but he did not want them bothered by reporters or “interested persons” after the trial.
They will likely be forbidden to read the Frank Report or other media accounts during the trial.
Defense attorneys supported the partial sequestration.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Penza began to offer what seemed to be an objection. The judge cut her off, noting that the prosecution often asks for a semi-sequestered jury.
“I don’t care what you think,” the judge told Penza. “Don’t bother bringing it up with anybody unless you plan to go to the Second Circuit” — meaning unless she wanted to appeal his decision with the U.S. Court of Appeals.
When the hearing was over, Mack looked serious as she left with her lawyer. Reporters asked them questions but she and her lawyer said nothing.
Bronfman walked outside the courtroom with her attorney Mark Geragos, who told reporters that Monday will be Clare’s 40th birthday.
Someone said, “Happy birthday.” Clare smiled awkwardly and mumbled, “Thank you.”
When asked if Clare had a sexual relationship with Raniere, Geragos declined to comment.
Sources tell Frank Report that the Northern District is eager to level child porn and sexual exploitation charges against Raniere and to possibly expand the investigation into other crimes.
“They are rather embarrassed that the racketeering and sex trafficking cult was in their district for 20 years, that numerous people filed complaints with them, but they saw nothing, heard nothing, did nothing. The Eastern District had to come in and solve their crimes. They came, saw and conquered Nxivm. Very embarrassing to the NDNY. So they want to atone and make up for their incredible dereliction,” said one legal source familiar with the case in both districts.
Another source told Frank Report that Raniere has been trying to cut a plea deal but the two sides are “miles apart.”
More on that later…