Alleged cult leader found guilty in sex trafficking case

Alleged cult leader found guilty in sex trafficking case

Keith Raniere, a New York man accused of running a sex cult, was found guilty Wednesday by a United States court in Brooklyn, New York on charges including sex trafficking, child pornography and conspiracy.

A jury reportedly reached a verdict after deliberating just four hours. He could get 15 years to life in prison at sentencing September 25.

Prosecutors said the 58-year-old Raniere's organization, called NXIVM, was more like a cult.

While prosecutors referred to Raniere as a "crime boss", his attorney, Marc Agnifilo, said during closing arguments Monday that "being repulsive" is not a crime punishable by law.

During the six-week trial, a former "inner-circle" DOS member who defected, and three victims, shared lurid details of different women who had been kept on starvation diets, locked in a room for a year, and were forced to have sex with Rainere.

Nxivm - pronounced Nexium - had proved a huge draw since its 2003 launch, attracting a coterie of rich and famous devotees such as the "Smallville" actress Allison Mack, and spreading into cities across the US.

During closing arguments this week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Moira Penza recounted testimony that Raniere had some of his brainwashed female followers starved, forced one to have sex with another woman and confined a third to a room for almost two years for defying his orders.

After the jury ruled against Raniere, the actor Catherine Oxenberg, who starred in the soap opera "Dynasty" and whose daughter was once a NXIVM follower told reporters that justice had finally been served. She allegedly lured women into the secret society within Nxivm known as "The Vow" by claiming it was a "women's mentorship group" then cajoling them into providing "collateral" like embarrassing photos and statements, federal prosecutors allege.

Newer members believed NXIVM to be a self-help business that offered pricey coaching and training workshops based on its philosophy of "a new ethical understanding" that enables "humanity to rise to its noble possibility", as the group described on its now defunct website, according to court documents.

Raniere, a short, bespectacled figure who wore pullover sweaters in court, listened attentively but showed no reaction as he learned the verdict.

Actor Allison Mack was named as a co-defendant in the federal indictment but pleaded guilty before the trial.

Mack and Bronfman, who were named as defendants with Raniere in a federal indictment, both pleaded guilty prior to the trial.

In 2015, he established a faction within the group called DOS, a pyramid structure in which the women were "slaves" and "Grand Master" Raniere sat at the top.

"She's in shock", Oxenberg was heard saying of her daughter.

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