Founder of sex cult found guilty on all charges

Founder of sex cult found guilty on all charges

Keith Raniere, founder of the sex cult NXIVM, on Wednesday, was found guilty on several federal charges, including racketeering and sex trafficking, according to the Associated Press.

In his leadership of the upstate New York-based group, which he represented to outsiders as a self-help group, Raniere branded women with his initials and took a series of nude photos of a teenager, among other allegations, according to prosecutors.

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Raniere’s attorneys had argued he never had any nonconsensual contact with female followers and that he genuinely believed his behaviors were effective self-improvement techniques.

While it could be seen as “repulsive and offensive, but we don’t convict people in this country for being repulsive or offensive,” his attorney Marc Agnifilo said, according to the AP.

Raniere’s followers included former “Smallville” actress Allison Mack and Seagram’s heiress Claire Bronfman. He was arrested in Mexico last year. Raniere did not testify in his own defense, nor did his attorneys call any witnesses.

"The defendant tapped into a never-ending flow of women and money," US Attorney Moira Penza told the jury in closing arguments on Monday, according to CNN. "(He was) a crime boss with no limits and no checks on his power."

While Mack and Bronfman were named as co-defendants in Raniere’s indictment, they pleaded guilty before trial and did not testify against him, according to the AP.

A cooperating witness testified that Raniere’s female associates forced his followers to provide nude photos as “collateral” to use as leverage over them, according to the AP. Another witness, a victim of the sorority known as “The Vow,” said Raniere blindfolded her and bound her to a table while a woman performed sexual acts on her.

“A light has been shown into the darkness and the defendant’s crimes have been exposed” as a result of the witnesses’ testimony, U.S. Attorney Moira Penza said, according to the AP.

The jury deliberated for under five hours before reaching its verdict.