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Sex-Cult Founder Is Told His Fate

Keith Raniere doesn't have the best day
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2019 4:15 PM CDT
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In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Keith Raniere, center, sits with attorneys Paul DerOhannesian, left, and Marc Agnifilo during closing arguments at Brooklyn federal court, Tuesday, June 18, 2019 in New York.   (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

(Newser) – Keith Raniere, the head of a New York state sex cult, was found guilty Wednesday on all counts, including racketeering—a charge that could send him to prison for life, New York Post reports. The 58-year-old co-founder of Nxivm spoke under his breath as the guilty verdicts were read, revealed no emotion, and was taken away without shaking his attorneys' hands. "With his inner circle, he was the ruler in his universe," a prosecutor told the Brooklyn courtroom in her closing statement, per the New York Times. "A crime boss with no limits and no checks on his power." The jury took just five hours to announce their verdict, including convictions for sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy, and wire fraud conspiracy.

Raniere had pleaded not guilty to all seven counts against him, per CNN. "You might find a lot of things about him distasteful," said one of Raniere's lawyers in court. "But most of them aren’t part of the charges." Yet the picture is grim: The group apparently manipulated women into having sex with Raniere, put them on starvation diets, had them branded in horrifying ceremonies, and took hundreds of thousands of dollars from a dead group member. Women involved in Nxivm included Bronfman heiress Clare Bronfman and Smallville actor Allison Mack, both of whom pleaded guilty to helping procure or harbor women. Raniere helped start Nxivm in the 1990s as a self-help group offering to lower people's emotional and psychological barriers. His sentencing will be Sept. 25. (His co-founder pleaded guilty to one charge.)

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