NXIVM 'Sex Cult' Leader Keith Raniere Has Been Sentenced to 120 Years in Prison [Updated]

Illustration for article titled NXIVM Sex Cult Leader Keith Raniere Has Been Sentenced to 120 Years in Prison [Updated]
Image: Elizabeth Williams (AP)

Keith Raniere—leader of the ostensible “self-help” company NXIVM that was actually accused by former members of being a cult with a secret sex cult built within it, which branded women and coerced them into starvation—is heading to court on Tuesday. Prosecutors believe he should be sentenced to life in prison, “a punishment that is typically reserved for cases involving deaths or murders,” The New York Times reports.

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As you may recall, in June 2019 Raniere was found guilty on seven counts, including racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and attempted sex trafficking. He has remained in prison in Brooklyn since the conviction.

Raniere’s sentencing is expected to include hours of statements from NXIVM victims, including from India Oxenberg, daughter of actor Catherine Oxenberg, who told Vanity Fair earlier this month, “I want to have that last moment of me saying my piece to him there in the room. I’m scared to do it, but I feel like I need it.” She added, “I don’t think that he is able to repair himself. I think he is somebody who is a danger in society. And if he is let out, I believe that he’ll do exactly the same thing that he’s always done.” She also told Good Morning America that Raniere is a “predator,” and that DOS, the “sex cult” in question, was branded as a women’s empowerment group but really “was a trap and it was a ploy for Keith to enslave women for his own sexual desires... I was commanded to do a seduction assignment. That was the beginning of continual sexual abuse. And I didn’t see it as that at the time. I would describe that sexual relationship as rape [now.]”

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On Friday, Raniere gave a rare interview with NBC News from jail, where he maintained, “I am innocent,” and claimed that prosecutors “scared away witnesses” who could’ve convinced the jury of his innocence. “This is a horrible tragedy with many, many people being hurt,” he said. “There is a horrible injustice here. And whether you think I’m the devil or not, the justice process has to be examined.”

Jezebel will continue to follow Raniere’s sentencing, and will update this post accordingly.

Update (4:29 p.m.): Keith Raniere, mastermind behind the NXIVM ‘sex cult,’ has been sentenced to 120 years in prison for his crimes—essentially, life in prison, The New York Times reports. 

According to Jaclyn Cangro of Spectrum News Albany, 15 victims spoke on Tuesday, 13 of which were women. Kristin Keeffe, former NXIVM member who had a child with Keith, told the court, “I can never get back the 20 years he’s subjected me to.”

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The woman identified as his first “sex slave,” Camilla, was 15 years old when Raniere brought her and her two sisters from Mexico in 2005 to his Albany, NY NXIVM headquarters, The New York Post reports. He impregnated all three of them and forced them to have abortions, Daniela, one of the sisters, testified. According to Cangro, one of the sisters said in court, “I survived not because you were merciful. Because I was resilient.” Another said, “Survival is instinctive, even in the most extreme circumstances.” The oldest daughter still follows Raniere and has a child with him.

Camila was the first victim to testify in court on Tuesday, according to The New York Times, where she told the court, “I want to move on, but he has damaged me in so many ways.” She said their “relationship” began when she was 15 and he was 45. It lasted 12 years, he expected her to make herself available for sex at any moment and order her to weigh less than 100 pounds. 

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India Oxenberg, daughter of actor Catherine Oxenberg and former NXIVM member addressed Raniere directly. “You are a sexual predator, and you raped me,” she said. “When you touched me, I recoiled.” She also said that Keith placed a 106-pound limit on her—“he wanted me to look like a 12-year-old girl”—forcing her to starve and, as a result, lose her period.

No. Senior Writer, Jezebel. My debut book, LARGER THAN LIFE: A History of Boy Bands, is out now.

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DISCUSSION

I’ll be looking for the second season of The Vow which will continue to focus on the true tragedy of NXIVM: The fact that a brilliant man like Keith Raniere fell victim to his vices and thus tarnished the great system for helping people that he had developed.

Seriously, that show’s message is so insane, even if I get that it was an attempt from Vicenci to make it clear that he wasn’t really responsible of anything.