Chuck: Chuck and Kelly, huge developments in the NXIVM case. Local woman Nancy Salzman, NXIVM president, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and there are other new allegations that came in a new indictment. And we’re joined by WGY Legal Analyst Chas Farcher from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Hey Chas, how are you?
Chas: Good Morning, Chuck. Good morning, Kelly. How are you?
Kelly: Good morning.
Chuck: Very good. So I mean were you surprised by the Salzman guilty plea?
Chas: I am and I’m not. I mean I guess I am at because up to this point it seemed that there was a bit of unity between all of these defendants, but now that you’ve got the first guilty plea, you start to see the divide and you start to see the kind of the cracks in this defense. And also I think it’s an indication that the prosecution truly has a real strong case here for getting these guilty pleas. Some of these cases can be difficult to prove when you’re trying to do it in the context of a RICO charge that you have here. But the fact that you got the first guilty plea and it’s somebody who’s relatively high up and basically the number two in command, I think it’s a good sign and it’s a good indication of the strength of the prosecution’s case.
Kelly: Now, is it surprising that she got this one racketeering charge that she pleaded to and does not have to testify against or cooperate with the prosecution?
Chas: Yeah. So I, you know, I guess what I would want if I were on the prosecution side would be in exchange for that deal would be cooperation against the other defendants. But, you know, my guess is that with regard to Salzman here, they must have thought their case against her was weaker than, you know, maybe the case against Raniere or Mack. You know, that those charges and those cases, you know, Raniere faces up to life in prison and maybe there is no decent plea deal out there for him. But I would have liked to have seen some cooperation for the prosecution. They didn’t get that here.
Chuck: Yeah. Her attorney says that she’s not gonna testify against the other NXIVM members. So regarding Raniere, there was a…well I guess, not to get overly legalistic, a superseding indictment, but the prosecutors are gonna go hard after him apparently on charges that he had sex with two underage girls.
Chas: Yeah. You know, and I think that’s two-fold. Number one, as the investigation continues throughout the course of all of this new evidence comes to light, new charges can always be filed. But also number two is you’re getting closer to a trial date, that may also be a move to add additional leverage to try and force a plea deal. Though I don’t know how much more you can get in terms of leverage from the prosecution because Raniere is already facing up the life in prison with the charges that are levied against him. But now you’ve got more on the pile and maybe it’s, you know, a greater kind of benefit or push to get him to plead to something before you get there. But they’ve got an April trial date so if there’s…nothing happens between now and then, I guess we’ll see in April.
Kelly: I mean it’s obvious why the other defendants would want to separate themselves from him. But why would there be incentive for the prosecutors to say, okay, you know what, we’ll try you each individually rather than altogether?
Chas: The reason you might want to try these cases together is because the type of charge it is. It’s a RICO charge. So, you know, essentially you’ve got to prove a criminal enterprise. RICO is a law that was originally passed to try kind of mob families, to go after the head of a mob family and it’s what’s called the hitman law. So, you know, in the past you would have the top of a family order a bunch of crimes to be done and you’d always get the low-level people, but you would never get the top guy who actually ordered it because he was never there. He never did it.
The RICO charges that have been used here now are dedicated to attacking a criminal enterprise, criminal groups. So from the prosecution’s point of view, you know that in order to prove that in front of a jury, you may want them to be able to see the entire criminal enterprise, the entire criminal group. That, you know, we’re not just talking about one guy at the top, you’re talking about all of these underlings who went out, recruited people, helped blackmail people, keep people in this entity and having that all done at once may paint a clearer picture for the jury than having six separate trials where you’re trying to piece it together.
Chuck: One other quick thing, and I wanted to ask an attorney because as a layman I think maybe I’m reading too much into this. In response to those charges involving Raniere having sex with a 15-year-old girl, his attorney said that it’s inadmissible, unreliable rank hearsay. Which to me seems like, wow, those are very nuanced words as opposed to “Hell no, he didn’t do it.”
Chas: Yes, right. So, you know, there’s a difference too between being found not guilty and being innocent as we all know. So, you know, a lot of the evidence that they may need or want to use to prove those charges may be inadmissible in certain forms. And a lot of people struggle with, you know, the rules of evidence. Some of those rules are designed to keep questionable evidence like hearsay, what another person said is not generally admissible in court. Usually, you need a direct witness or you need direct testimony from that witness that protects the defendant’s right to cross-examine their accuser and be able to ask the person about the testimony who was actually there. Not a he said, he said, he said, from three friends. So there will probably be many motions and evidentiary disputes as to what is coming in and what is not. But like I said, there’s a difference between possibly being found not guilty and being innocent of the charge. So that sounds like a not guilty plea but not an innocent plea.
Chuck: The trial set to start on April 29th and yeah, you can bet they’ll be more developments. WGY Legal Analyst Chas Farcher from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, 1800LAW1010. Thanks, Chas.
Chas: Thank you, Chuck. Thank you, Kelly. Have a great day.
Kelly: Thanks, Chas.
Chuck: You too.