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Sex Cult Leader, Facing Life Sentence, Regrets Nothing


A jury convicted Mr. Raniere last summer after a six-week trial. Prosecutors charged him with racketeering, applying a statute that had been used to dismantle the major Mafia families in New York. The jury found him guilty of crimes that included child pornography, forced labor, sex trafficking, identity theft and obstruction of justice.

In recent months, Mr. Raniere has spearheaded an aggressive campaign to overturn his conviction. He is trying to create a podcast about his case and set up a contest to find errors in his prosecution in exchange for a $25,000 cash prize, according to court filings.

He has complained that the judge overseeing the case is “crazy.” In a prison phone call in April, Mr. Raniere told one of his supporters that the judge “needs to know he’s being watched,” according to prosecutors.

On Friday, the judge denied for a second time Mr. Raniere’s bid for a new trial. His legal team, led by Marc A. Agnifilo, argued that two of his followers decided not to testify in his favor because of government intimidation, a claim the judge dismissed as “highly questionable.”

Membership in Nxivm, whose courses were thousands of dollars apiece, was by invitation only. As the curriculum progressed, Mr. Raniere used psychological manipulation to indoctrinate his followers into total obedience, former members have said. Critics of Mr. Raniere faced retaliation and lawsuits, creating an internal culture with no tolerance for dissent.

The group was headquartered near Albany, N.Y., and had operations in Mexico and Canada. Its Mexico branch had been led by the son of a former Mexican president, attracting many influential Mexican families who remain supporters of Mr. Raniere. After the criminal investigation began, Mr. Raniere moved into a villa near Puerto Vallarta, where the authorities arrested him in 2018.

Prosecutors have said in court papers that Mr. Raniere deserves a life sentence, a punishment that is typically reserved for cases involving deaths or murders.


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