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Part 1: Allison’s guilty plea hearing: The judge explained her rights; the prosecution laid out charges they would have proved at trial

The following is from the transcript of Allison Mack’s plea hearing.

On April 8, 2019, Allison Mack appeared before US District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis in Brooklyn Federal Courthouse to withdraw her plea of not guilty to Counts 1 and 2 of the second superseding indictment and plead guilty to those two counts.

She signed a 10-page plea agreement that almost certainly encompassed a cooperation agreement in the case against remaining defendants: Keith Raniere, Clare Bronfman and Kathy Russell.

Though scheduled for 11:30 a.m., the hearing began at 12:03 pm.

Her lawyers, Sean Buckley and William McGovern appeared with Mack.

Assistant US Attorneys Moira Kim Penza, Tanya Hajjar, and Mark Lesko with the US Attorney’s Office Eastern District of New York appeared for the prosecution.

Here are excerpts from the hearing:

THE COURT:  Okay. Ms. Mack, your attorney advises me that you wish to plead guilty to Counts 1 and 2 of the second superseding indictment in which you were charged. This is a serious decision, and I must be certain that you make it with a full understanding of your rights and the consequences of your plea, and I am going to explain certain rights to you and then ask questions. I want your answers to be under oath. The deputy clerk will swear you in, ma’am.

Allison Mack was duly sworn.

THE COURT: Keep your voice up, okay.

THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

THE COURT: Thank you.

Ms. Mack, you understand that having been sworn to tell the truth, you must do so. If you were to deliberately lie in response to any question I ask you, you could face further criminal charges for perjury. Do you understand that?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, Your Honor.

***

Allison was asked and she answered that she is 36 years old, has a high school diploma from Los Alamitos High School in California, is a US citizen, and English is her primary language.

To determine she had a “clear head,”, the judge asked, and Allison answered, that she is not currently or recently been under the care of a doctor or psychiatrist, was never hospitalized or treated for any drug related problem, and in the past 24 hours had not taken pills, drugs or medicine.  She had one beer the night before.

THE COURT: Is your mind clear as you stand here today?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, Your Honor.

***

The judge asked the prosecution to explain the charges against Mack and the elements of the crimes the government would have to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict her of Counts 1 and 2 of the superseding indictment.

AUSA Penza explained the government would prove at trial:

PENZA: … [B]etween 2003 and March 2018… an enterprise existed….  an ongoing organization that operated in the Eastern District of New York and elsewhere, whose members functioned as a continuing unit for the common purpose of achieving the objectives of the enterprise, which included obtaining financial and personal benefits … for members of the enterprise, by promoting Keith Raniere and recruiting others into pyramid organizations he created….

[T]he enterprise engaged in … selling courses to individuals in Brooklyn, Queens, other states, and outside the United States, that promoted Raniere’s teachings and recruiting individuals… to join the pyramid organizations….

[T]he defendant was ….  a member of the enterprise.… [and] participated in the enterprise through … racketeering activity….

As to racketeering act 10, state law extortion… between January 2016 and June 2017 …. the defendant compelled and induced Jane Does 5 and 8 to deliver personal property by instilling in them a fear that if the property were not so delivered, one or more persons would, one, expose a secret or publicize an asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject some person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule. And, two, perform an act which … was calculated to harm other persons materially with respect to their health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation, and personal relationships….

[T]he defendant obtained property, including nude photographs and other things of value, from her lower ranked DOS slaves, having instilled in them the fear that if they did not, she or others would release their collateral…. to harm …  their reputation and personal relationships.

As to racketeering act 13, forced labor… between January 2016 and June 2017…  the defendant provided or obtained the labor and services of Jane Does 5 and 8, by means of serious harm or threats of serious harm …  intended to cause Jane Does 5 and 8 to believe that if they did not perform such labor or services, they would suffer serious harm….

[T]he defendant required her DOS slaves… to perform labor and services, including tasks that would otherwise be compensable under threat of serious harm, including release of their collateral….

[B]etween January 2016 and June 2017…   there was a scheme or artifice to defraud and to obtain money and property from lower ranking DOS slaves by materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations or promise…. and with specific intent to defraud …  the defendant used or caused the use of interstate wires [wire fraud]….

[T]he defendant received property and other things of value from lower ranking DOS slaves by falsely representing that DOS was an organization comprised of women alone and by deliberately concealing Keith Raniere’s role in DOS, and that the scheme involved the sending of electronic messages over cell phones.

The judge asked, “Ms. Mack, do you understand the charges against you in Counts 1 and 2 of the superseding indictment S-2?

She answered, “Yes.”

***

The judge discussed Mack’s rights and asked if she understood them.

She answered “yes, that she understood she had a right to:

  1. Plead not guilty.
  2. A speedy and public trial before a jury with the assistance of her attorneys.
  3. At trial, she would be presumed to be innocent
  4. She would not have to prove she was innocent.
  5. The government must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that she is guilty.
  6. Witnesses for the government would have to testify in her presence.
  7. Her attorneys would have the right to cross-examine these witnesses
  8. Her attorneys could offer evidence on her behalf and compel witnesses to testify.
  9. She had the right to testify in her own behalf, but cannot be forced to be a witness at her trial.

“If you wish to go to trial and choose not to testify, I would instruct the jury that they could not hold that against you,” the judge told Mack.

The judge explained that, if she chose to plead guilty she would be giving up her right to a trial and an appeal on the question of whether she did or did not commit the crimes.

The judge asked, “Ms. Mack, are you willing to give up your right to a trial and all the other rights I have just discussed with you?”

Mack said, “Yes, Your Honor.”

The judge referred to a 10-page agreement, with an attached Exhibit A.  It was the same length as the cooperation agreement that Lauren Salzman signed on March 25.

The judge handed it to Mack and her attorneys and asked both if she signed and understood it.  They answered yes.

The judge asked Mack, “Is there any other promise that’s been made to get you to plead guilty that is not contained in this agreement?”

Mack said, “No, Your Honor.”

The judge explained the “statutory penalties” for Count 1 and 2, racketeering conspiracy and racketeering.

THE COURT: Maximum term of imprisonment is 20 years. There’s no minimum term of imprisonment. The maximum supervised release term is three years now to follow any term of imprisonment….

The maximum fine is the greater of $250,000, or twice the gross profits or other proceeds of the enterprise. Restitution …  is mandatory, and it would be in the full amount of each victim’s losses as determined by the Court. … In addition, the sentence imposed on each count may run consecutively, that is, one after the other. [That means a maximum of 40 years.]

The judge said he would explain how sentencing worked:

THE COURT: Ms. Mack, in sentencing you, I am required to take into consideration a number of things about you and the crimes to which you are pleading guilty. When I do that, I will be directed to a guideline that will provide a sentencing range. I am not required to sentence you within the range provided by the guideline, but I am required to carefully consider the guideline recommendation, among other things, in deciding what would constitute a reasonable sentence in your case.…  In determining an appropriate sentence for your case, I will consider possible departures from that range under the sentencing guidelines, as well as other statutory sentencing factors.

I may ultimately decide to impose a sentence that is more lenient or more severe than the one recommended by the guidelines. … Do you understand that?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Okay. It is important to understand that no one knows today what your exact guideline range will be. You understand that?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: …. You must understand that no one can make any promise to you as to the sentence I will impose. Your attorneys or the prosecutors may have made predictions to you and may make recommendations to the Court concerning the sentence I should impose, and I listen carefully to whatever they say. But you must clearly understand that the final responsibility for sentencing you is mine alone.….

I may not impose the sentence that they have predicted or recommended. Even if I sentence you differently from what the attorneys or anyone else has estimated or predicted, you would still be bound by your guilty plea and you will not be allowed to withdraw. Do you understand that?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, Your Honor.

***

THE COURT: Okay. So do you have any questions you would like to ask me about the charges or rights, or anything else related to this matter that may not be clear?

THE DEFENDANT: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Mr. Buckley, is there anything you would like me to discuss with your client in further detail before I proceed to formal allocution?

BUCKLEY: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Do you know of any reason why your client should not enter pleas of guilty to these two charges?

BUCKLEY: I do not, Judge.

THE COURT: Are you aware of any viable legal defense to these charges?

BUCKLEY: No, Judge.

THE COURT: All right. Ms. Mack, are you ready to plead?

THE DEFENDANT:  I am, Judge.

THE COURT:    Okay.  How do you plead to the charge contained in Count 1 of the superseding indictment, charging you with racketeering conspiracy; guilty or not guilty?

THE DEFENDANT: Guilty, Your Honor.

THE COURT: How do you plead to the charge contained in Count 2 of the superseding indictment charging you with racketeering; guilty or not guilty?

THE DEFENDANT: Guilty, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Are you making these pleas of guilty voluntarily and of your own free will?

THE DEFENDANT: I am, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Has anyone threatened or forced you to plead guilty?

THE DEFENDANT: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Other than the agreement with the government, has anyone made you any promise that caused you to plead guilty?

THE DEFENDANT: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Has anyone made you any promise about the sentence that you will receive?

THE DEFENDANT: No, Your Honor.

What followed then was Allison’s allocution which will be contained in the next post.

 

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Frank Parlato

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