U.S. sex cult leader faces life in prison after guilty verdict

U.S. sex cult leader faces life in prison after guilty verdict

"Over the last seven weeks, this trial has revealed that Raniere, who portrayed himself as a savant and a genius, was, in fact, a massive manipulator, a con man and the crime boss of a cult-like organization involving sex trafficking, child pornography, extortion-compelled abortions, branding, degradation and humiliation", Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue told reporters outside the courthouse.

NXIVM, which claimed to be a self-help group, was accused of branding women and requiring them to have sex with Raniere; members were allegedly required to give their "master" or recruiter, naked photos of themselves and other blackmail material before joining. "I think he's not surprised, but he maintains that he didn't mean to do anything wrong".

Raniere - who was known to his slaves as "Grandmaster" and "Vanguard" - did not testify.

Raniere is the founder of Nxivm, a purported self-improvement organisation based in upstate NY. He was emotionless as the verdict was read and is due to be sentenced on September 25. His lawyer said the verdict will be appealed.

"This was a very frightening group", Dynasty actor Catherine Oxenberg said after the verdict. Her daughter India left NXIVM after her mother became an outspoken critic of it.

"I had to save a child who was caught in the grips of this cult, so I wasn't going to stop until I succeeded".

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.

"You may find him repulsive, disgusting and offensive".

Raniere was arrested in March 2018 surrounded by several women at a gated, luxury community in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Other members of NXIVM were charged alongside Raniere and have all pleaded guilty.

Raniere did not testify in the case and his attorneys did not call any witnesses.

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

During closing arguments Monday, prosecutor Moira Penza told the jurors that to the outside world, Raniere's inner circle had tried to construct an image of him as a "humanitarian, leader, mentor, guru".

They include the organization's president Nancy Salzman, her daughter Lauren Salzman, Mack and Seagram liquor heiress Claire Bronfman.

He also ordered female slaves to be branded.

One of the victims, whose names were withheld to protect her privacy, described being confined to a bedroom for more than 700 days on orders from Raniere as punishment for showing interest in another man.

But attorneys for Raniere, 58, say he had no criminal intent and that his sexual encounters with female followers were consensual. The women later learned the symbol contained Raniere's initials. Agnifilo argued that the so-called collateral wasn't meaningful because it was never released.

But with the victims' stories of abuse at the hands of Raniere, Penza said, "A light has been shown into the darkness and the defendant's crimes have been exposed".

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