Keith Raniere of NXIVM Receives 120 Year Sentence – Can He Appeal?

Recorded on October 28, 2020.

Keith Raniere, founder of the company NXIVM, has been sentenced to 120 years in prison for charges including racketeering, sex trafficking, sexual exploitation of a child, and human trafficking. Is it possible for him to appeal his sentence? Attorney Ben Barry of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP is on the radio with WVMT discussing the issue.

Please give it a listen or read the transcript below.

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Interviewer: We’re talking with Ben Barry from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Ben, okay, we’ve got the sentence down for Keith Raniere. Okay. I’m going to say it. You don’t have to say it. I’m going to say it, this freak show that ran this cult, Nxivm. I saw the documentary with my wife. I don’t even want to repeat the things that happened to people that were part of this group. He gets 120 years. Let me just be honest. There’s a part of me that just is hoping that the answer is yes. Is 120 years a life sentence or is 120 years 120 years, but he might be out in 3?

Ben: He won’t be out in three. He certainly has the right to appeal the determination made by the judge that oversaw his case. However, I think that the evidence that was presented in the case in chief is significant. It’s overwhelming. The testimony of the witnesses and victims was compelling. The victim impact statements that were made prior to sentencing I think are profound. And at the end of the day, I do think that the public is aware of the fact that a lot of individuals who are engaged or organizations that are engaged in racketeering, because that was, kind of, the umbrella under which the prosecution, kind of, took their position that this criminal organization did all of these criminal acts and the members of the organization all should be held responsible.

I think the public, kind of, has a little bit of tolerance for organizations that engage in things like wire fraud, and financial crimes. Sometimes they get, you know, a pat on the wrist and they’re gone, in this particular circumstance, when you’re talking about charges, and allegations, and substantiation with proof that there was sex trafficking, violations of minors, I don’t think there’s any chance that this guy gets out before his final expiration date in prison. I think he’s going to stay there forever.

Interviewer: I had a discussion with my wife about this and I have a feeling, I know your position on this as well, but I mean, I saw the documentary of these poor people who went through this, but at the same time, as my wife is telling me how smart everyone is, I’m going, “Some of these people are branded. Some of these people were convinced to do crazy, outrageous things, let alone be a part of this sex trafficking organization.” And then I have to question how smart are these people? But it really came down to his personality and his charisma, enough that he actually met with the Dalai Lama at one point.

Ben: I think, in addition to the sort of legal analysis that’s done, right, there’s the black and white of the indictment and the black and white of the jury charge, in the verdict, in the sentence, and all that stuff is well-documented, and it reads like a novel. The other component to this that really I don’t think a lot of people have an explanation for, is the psychological-emotional entanglement that can arise in some of these settings.

I mean, you know, look at the situation we have with David Koresh, look at… you know, there are all these examples of people, kind of, going through this assimilation process or whatever you want to call it, brainwashing, and being led to do things that, taken individually and you look at their credentials and their background and the kind of person that they’re purported to be, and you just have to ask yourself, “What happened? How did it happen? And what were the things that, kind of, allowed for this to persist for some period of time without some tethering to objectivity and lawlessness, and what is right, and what is wrong?”

And I think it’s easy enough to attribute that all to a charismatic leader and, potentially, that is some of what this is. But I think that there’s something else. And I think that a lot of people don’t know what that is. And that’s scary. And that’s why there is such an incentive on the part of the government to really, kind of, prosecute these types of scenarios, where there’s a criminal enterprise also going on. There isn’t anything wrong with joining a group and doing things as long as you’re law-abiding, and you’re not forcing people into sex trafficking, for example, like this organization did.

Interviewer: Exactly. I can only imagine the sickening nature it had to be for the prosecutors to go through this evidence and to have the conversations with witnesses and to go through the story. It’s just heart-wrenching. But you have to paint that picture, not only are here are the crimes that were committed. But you, kind of, do as a lawyer, don’t you also have to paint some of that color in there as well? It’s not just the black and white of here’s the law, here’s how it was broken, there’s also some color that has to be painted in there in order to really make this thing stick.

Ben: I think so. And I think that there is often overlooked the impact that these types of cases have on the public service individuals who are charged with the duty of actually bringing all of this to light. I mean, they have to basically shed light on these very dark, shadowy boxes of evidence that they have. And, unfortunately, they have to live through and are charged with living through the experiences of each and every victim that they are delivering justice for. And so, it’s not an easy process by any means.

But yeah, it’s another set, another round of trauma, I think, for the prosecutors to have to really deal with this and figure out how to win the case and get the conviction and put somebody like David Raniere behind bars so that he can’t ever do something like this again.

Interviewer: So, last thing on this particular case, he was sentenced by a U.S. district judge. What is the next part of the potential process for the defendant? I know that there’s an appeals process. Where does that potentially go next?

Ben: Well, the appeal will go to the Second Circuit which hears cases coming out of the Eastern District.

Interviewer: Do they have a timeframe they have to apply for that appeal?

Ben: There is a timeframe and it will likely be based on either the presentation of certain portions of evidence that were subject to motion practice. It may be the jury charge in and of itself. It will probably be some appeal based on a motion that was made prior to the jury coming back with the verdict. But there are several layers of arguments that will be made on appeal. I’m certain of that. It appears that this organization was quite flush with cash and that cash and those cash reserves have been used in part for the defense of the members who have been prosecuted.

And so, they’ve got money to pay attorneys, well-suited attorneys. And I’m certain that those attorneys will be making each and every application under the appellate process to lighten up the sentence or do whatever they can do for this character.

Interviewer: Well, we’ll keep our eye on this. We know because of the documentary, many other people are going to be very interested in following this particular case. Ben Barry, he’s an attorney with Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Ben, it’s always great to talk to you. Thank you for the insight.

Ben: Thank you, guys.

Interviewer: Talk to you later. We’ll be back on “The Morning Drive.”

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