Keith Raniere, founder of the group Nxivm and the subject of The Vow, has been sentenced to 120 years in prison.
US District Judge Nicholas Garaufis read the sentence in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday, after more than a dozen people gave victim impact statements at his sentencing.
Between 1998 and 2018, NXIVM developed a following primarily through its personal development seminars, recruiting several celebrities and socialites.
The organization also faced multiple accusations of systemic sexual abuse of female members, leading to the arrests of Raniere and other NXIVM members in early 2018.
On June 19, 2019, Raniere was convicted of federal crimes including sex trafficking of children, conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit forced labor, all related to a secret society within NXIVM known as DOS, or The Vow.
During the direct examination of Brian Booth, a senior forensic examiner and IT specialist for the FBI at the trial, FBI Special Agent Meagan Rees confronted jurors with over a dozen images of child pornography said to have been created by Raniere.
Booth testified for several hours about his examination of electronic evidence found on a Western Digital hard drive that investigators obtained by search warrant from a house at 8 Hale Drive in Halfmoon, N.Y., which is said to have housed Raniere’s “executive library.”
Booth said images of child pornography were found in a folder on this hard drive.
He also discussed a memory card and a Canon EOS camera, which prosecutors say Raniere used to take the child-pornography images and other nude photos of his adult sexual partners.
Prosecutors introduced as court exhibits metadata for the images, including what appear to be date stamps that show the photos were taken on Nov. 2 and 24, 2005, when the NXIVM cult leader’s victim would have been 15.
Former members Sarah Edmondson, Mark Vicente, Bonnie Piesse, Anthony ‘Nippy’ Ames, Barbara Bouchey, Susan Dones and Toni Natalie appeared prominently in The Vow, an HBO documentary series, alongside journalists Frank Parlato who helped start initial reporting on the criminal activity of NXIVM, and New York Times reporter Barry Meier.
Catherine Oxenberg appears in the series as she attempts to rescue her daughter, India.
Although Oxenberg was able to rescue her daughter from the cult, she chose not to have their reunion filmed.
India Oxenberg decided not to participate in the series because she was not ready to share her story.
By 2003, 3,700 people had taken part in NXIVM ESP classes, reportedly including businesswoman Sheila Johnson, former Surgeon General Antonia Novello, Enron executive Stephen Cooper, and Ana Cristina Fox, daughter of former Mexican president Vicente Fox.
Other participants were reported to include entrepreneur Richard Branson (who denied having taken the classes), Edgar Bronfman Sr., and actresses Linda Evans, Grace Park, and Nicki Clyne.
In the early 2000s, Seagram heiresses Clare and Sara Bronfman, daughters of Edgar Bronfman Sr., became attached to the organization.
In April 2019, Clare Bronfman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain, and to fraudulent use of identification.
The prosecution requested a sentence of 5 years in prison but in September 2020, she was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison by a federal judge.
Sara Bronfman had a 2009 sexual relationship with Lama Tenzin Dhonden, the Dalai Lama’s gatekeeper who arranged the appearance in Albany, N.Y. with Raniere for an organization the cult leader founded called the World Ethical Foundations Consortium.
On January 28, 2020, Sara and Claire Bronfman were named as defendants when 80 victims sued NXIVM, saying they were victims of sex trafficking and forced labor.
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