This is the next in our series on the testimony of Mark Vicente in the trial of Keith Alan Raniere. Mark was the second witness called.
In the last post, he began to reveal how he became disillusioned with Nxivm but still had faith in its leader, Raniere.
In this selection, he explains a little more of how he realized that no one was succeeding in Nxivm. That in order to advance in the hierarchy, one had to become more obedient and more rule-bound to Raniere’s commands.
And no one was succeeded.
The time he is discussing is late 2016 and early 2017. DOS had already begun but Vicente did not know anything about it. He just sensed something was wrong.
AUSA Mark Lesko is examining Vicente.
Q At this point in time, where were you living?
A We were living in — well, actually, between LA and Halfmoon, New York. …
Q So you were in Halfmoon?
A Halfmoon, I believe at that point, yes.
Q No longer in Clifton Park?
A We had at that time, yes, moved to Halfmoon, which is right next door.
Q And you also had a residence in Los Angeles?
A We had an apartment in Los Angeles, yes.
Q Was anyone else living in your residence at Halfmoon?
A My mother was living with us.
Q Approximately January of 2017 did you have a discussion with Sarah [Edmondson] about Albany?
A I did. She and — and her husband were in town for the coach summit. I think it was called Winter Fest. And they’d expressed to me that they wanted to buy a house in Clifton Park, and so I asked them if I could meet with them and talk with them. And so at that point, there was the production office for Living Pixel was in Rome Plaza which was next door to Apropos.
So they came over for lunch and we had a conversation. And in that conversation I said to them, ‘I really wanted to dissuade you from moving here. I don’t think people that move here do well. I think that they end up giving up on their dreams. They’re not successful. And I have severe concerns about something that’s going on with all the women and with Raniere. And I don’t know what’s going on, but I have severe concerns.’ So that was the nature of my conversation with them.
Q Did Sarah and her husband move to Albany?
A They did not. They had an apartment, but they were thinking of moving permanently, but they did not.
Q That Winter Fest coach summit in January of 2017, did you participate in that summit?
A I did. I wasn’t there all the time. But I was there for some of it.
Q Okay. In the next month, in February of 2017, did you participate in an ESP intensive?
A Yes. There was — we ran intensive in Orange County, California. It was a five-day intensive, and I was traveling down there to help with the intensive, which was, I believe, trained by Jim Del Negro, that one.
Q In February of 2017, did anyone from NXIVM express concern to you about you possibly leaving NXIVM?
A Yes. Alex Betancourt and Lauren Salzman said to me that they thought it might be good if we met in person, and they were suggesting flying to Los Angeles. I dissuaded them from that because I had a sense of how that would go. I was having deep concerns, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on yet. So I said to them, it’s not a good time.
And I knew — I’d been through a lot of these things — these discussions before where, you know, in essence, you get surrounded intellectually and, you know, EM’d into oblivion. And I wasn’t interested in doing that. I would just rather try and figure out what was going on.
Q Did you return to Albany after the Orange County February 2017 intensive?
A Yes. I returned in March 2017 for a number of things. I returned to shoot some material of Raniere and somebody else for a website. I also was packing up the townhouse that we had there. And I was also attending the Jness X intensive, I believe, it was.
Q Upon returning to Albany, did you meet with the senior proctors of the Greens?
A I did.
Q Who did you meet with?
A So my recollection was — I mean, Nancy Salzman was there. Lauren Salzman was there. Omar Boone, Loretta Garza, Sarah, I think Emiliano was there. Alex Betancourt was definitely there. I believe Esther Carlson was there. Basically, all the Greens and the executive members. So I believe, Karen was there. Clare Bronfman was there.
Q Had you told the defendant beforehand that you were going to meet with the Greens?
A I had. I had a discussion with him where I … shared a realization I had, and the realization I’d had was that it … didn’t seem to be by accident that people were doing poorly in the company. It seemed almost by design. And I said to him, I’d begun to recognize that this entire system is actually built not to actually grow people, not to actually give them what they want, but to do the exact opposite. And that the upper ends, especially, because of their fear and rule boundedness, just crushed any growth that was occurring. And I said it’s a terribly oppressive environment, and I began to realize like it seems to be by design. It seems like everybody’s in on this thing, and it’s a huge problem. So, that was the conversation I had with Raniere. And then I said, I’m going to go have that conversation with the Greens, and I did.
Q Let me stop you there before we get to the conversation with the Greens. Did you and … the defendant, discuss the ranking system in that conversation?
A Yes. I did say to him that I felt the ranking system was broken. That it made no sense to me anymore. It didn’t seem to be based on earning, and that the ranking system to me, if it was what he said it was, that surely as you went up the ranking system, one would develop more wisdom and more maturity. And all I was seeing was the higher up you went, the more obedient and rule-bound people were, so something wasn’t making sense to me. And I said to him that I thought it was broken.
Q Did you indicate to him that you nonetheless respected the ranking?
A I did. I also expressed to him that one of the concerns I had was that I had a lot of things that I wanted to share. But because he was, I think I said, the boss of everything, I felt constrained by the ranking system.
Q What was his reaction, if any?
A I believe he said he respected that I respected it.
Q Did you subsequently meet with the Greens?
A I did. And I shared to the best of my ability what I was understanding about the entire organization. Some people seemed very upset. One person in particular got very angry at me.
Q Who was that?
A Omar Boone got very angry at me. Alex Betancourt seemed to think that he might understand. But … my general sense is people really didn’t understand what I meant.
Q Did the defendant eventually join that meeting that you were having with the Greens?
A He did…. and that was the thing that was strange to me is that when he came in, he — he moved into the usual line of, you know, we need to work harder, we need to enroll more, you know, all the stuff that had been happening for years. And I was very confused because we had the conversation about what I was going to talk about…. I just kept quiet and listened. But when he was done, I said to him, You know, this was the meeting that I wanted to talk to everybody about what we discussed. And he said something to the effect, Oh, I didn’t realize. And I was like, Really? Because you have a very good memory. It seems strange. So I just felt that I … wasn’t getting anywhere with communicating this, so I just thought, Okay. Well, I guess there’s nothing I can do.
Poor Keith Raniere. He crashed the meetings of the Greens, a meeting Vicente had set up to discuss his concerns about how everyone in Nxivm was a failure and that the higher ranking members were merely rule-bound, obedient followers of Raniere.
Raniere comes in and hijacks the meeting. It worked perhaps in the short run but not in the long run. It only made Mark more concerned.
He advised Sarah and her husband, Anthony Ames, to not move to Albany. By doing this, Mark was already out of the rule-bound stage with Nxivm. He was gradually becoming loosened from the grip of the cult. It would take him a few more months to finally figure out that he needed to leave and get out.
He also had to make a colossal decision, one which makes him rank high in my estimation. He could have slithered away and probably just quit and left. As we shall see in subsequent posts, he did not just quit and leave and hide. He sounded the alarm bell and helped others to get out.
I liken this to a man on a sinking ship. He could have taken a life-boat and escaped by himself. Instead, he stayed near the ship to save others, putting himself in jeopardy.
All this will be explained in subsequent posts.