NXIVM Leader Keith Raniere’s trial began on Tuesday morning in federal court. He’s facing several charges related to leading the alleged capital region cult including sex trafficking and racketeering.
We heard opening statements from both sides in this case against Raniere and quickly moved onto the first prosecution witness on Tuesday.
Opening statements for the prosecution were given by Tanya Hajjar. She says Raniere claimed to be a leader and a guru but was, in fact, a conman and a predator. She says he took advantage of women including young girls for his own benefit. Hajjar says all of this happened with his inner circle beside him helping him commit these crimes.
She gave us an idea of some people we could hear from as witnesses including three Mexican sisters and another woman who was part of the secret organization within NXIVM called DOS.
Hajjar also outlined evidence the prosecution would present including naked photos of women, emails and messages from Raniere himself, and even testimony from his inner circle who previously pleaded guilty to their roles.
Raniere’s defense attorney Marc Agnifilo asked the jury to look at the evidence from his client’s standpoint. He asked them not to focus on actions but the intentions behind those actions. He describes NXIVM’s location in Clifton Park as beautiful and says he thinks witnesses will say they had fun—having barbecues and playing volleyball—a well known favorite past time of Raniere’s.
He says the name photos were not sexual in nature rather a way for women to become comfortable with their bodies. He says all DOS members were there willingly and asked the jurors to consider personal accountability.
The first witness taking the stand took NXIVM intensives and described the inner workings of intensive classes, handshakes, and honoring Raniere also known as Vanguard.