Tomorrow, the curtain will rise on what is expected to be the 6-8 week trial of Keith Raniere, the man behind the curtain of the NXIVM criminal enterprise.
Shortly after 9:30 AM, U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis will enter the courtroom, welcome the attendees, and explain the procedures and rules that will be followed throughout the trial.
When he’s done with that perfunctory business, Judge Garaufis will call upon the prosecution to make its opening statement.
AUSA Moira Kim Penza is expected to speak on behalf of the prosecution – and to outline for the jury the evidence and witnesses that it will put forth to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Keith Raniere is guilty of all the crimes he’s charged with in this case.
Just to remind everyone, those crimes are as follows (Four other charges were previously dropped – and referred to the Northern District of New York for prosecution there):
– Racketeering Conspiracy
– Forced Labor Conspiracy
– Wire Fraud Conspiracy
– Sex Trafficking Conspiracy
– Sex Trafficking
– Attempted Sex Trafficking
When Penza is done with her opening statement, the judge will call upon the defense to make its opening statement.
Even though he has the option of waiting until after the prosecution has finished presenting its case against Raniere, it is expected that Marc Agnifilo, Raniere’s lead attorney, will also give his opening statement tomorrow morning.
After Agnifilo has finished his opening statement, the judge will instruct Penza to call her first witness.
There has been a good deal of speculation as to who that first prosecution witness will be.
Some have conjectured that it will be Karen Unterreiner, Raniere’s partner-in-crime for more than 30 years.
Others have suggested it will be Sarah Edmondson, the Canadian actress who was featured in a front-page photo in the New York Times that showed the brand of Raniere’s initials on her pubic area.
But Frank Report has now confirmed that the first witness will be Mark Vicente, a Cinematographer and Director and a long-time member of the NXIVM cult.
At one time, Vicente was a top recruiter for the cult – bringing in, among others, Sarah Edmondson.
He was also responsible for filming many videos that featured Raniere expounding on the principles of his Rational Inquiry “technology”.
Before becoming involved with NXIVM/ESP, Vicente had gained a fair amount of fame and success in the movie industry from his “What the #$*! Do We Know?” documentary that was released in 2004.
He first got involved with NXIVM/ESP in 2005 – and eventually rose through the ranks to become a member of its Executive Board.
But Vicente became suspicious of what was going on behind the scenes when he noticed that many of the new NXIVM members – especially the ones recruited by Allison Mack – were all slender, good looking young women.
At about this same time, Vicente’s wife, Bonnie Piesse, had started reading Frank Report.
It was Bonnie who first knew about the members of DOS being branded with Raniere’s initials – and who encouraged Mark to find out if the story was true.
His worst fears were realized when Edmondson, his friend and Co-Director of the NXIVM Center in Vancouver, confirmed that she was one of the branded women.
Mark immediately confronted Raniere who responded by saying “I have no idea what you’re talking about”.
But Mark was unconvinced – and immediately quit.
Since then, Mark and his wife have been on a mission to rescue as many people as possible from the clutches of the cult.
In fact, it was Bonnie who tipped off Catherine Oxenberg that her daughter, India, was a branded member of DOS. Catherine then tipped off Frank Report.
Given his long-term involvement in NXIVM – and his membership on its Executive Board – Mark will undoubtedly have a lot to say about the cult and its operations.
That’s why he may be the only witness during the first day of the trial – and why he may even be back for Day #2.
The wheels of the American justice system often grind slowly but, when things go right – which, unfortunately, is not always the case – they do produce good results.
Let’s hope that’s what happens in this case.