Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of posts that will be looking at all the unanswered questions concerning the criminal computer trespass charges that were brought against Toni Natalie, Joe O’Hara, and John Tighe (Although similar charges were also brought against Barbara Bouchey, she was not originally part of the case. She became involved because she allegedly logged onto NXIVM’s server with someone else’s credential several months after the New York State Police had raided the homes of Natalie, O’Hara, and Tighe and confiscated all their computers). Because this story is so complex, some may find it helpful to read the “Incident Report” that was prepared by Rodger Kirsopp, the NYSP Senior Investigator who oversaw the investigation (All of the quoted material in this post is from that “Incident Report”).
Long-time readers of the Frank Report are generally familiar with the criminal computer trespass charges that were brought against three of the people near the top of Keith Raniere’s “Enemies List”: Toni Natalie, Joe O’Hara, and John Tighe. But before we take a look at some of the unanswered questions surrounding that case, I think it would be helpful to do a quick review of the pertinent facts for some of our newer readers:
– In April 2012, several members of the NXIVM cult filed a complaint with the NYSP concerning what they alleged was “…Aggravated Harassment, Stalking, and Unauthorized Use Of A Computer, Town of Halfmoon, Saratoga County”. The specific cult members who were officially listed as Complainants – and the order in which they were interviewed by New York State Police (NYSP) Senior Investigator Rodger Kirsopp – are as follows (Two of NXIVM’s top attorneys – Steve Coffey and Pamela Nichols from the O’Connell & Aronowitz law firm – attended every interview):
? Kristin M. Keeffe
? Esther L. Chiappone
? Siobahn Hotaling
? Ivy Nevares
? Nancy L. Salzman
? Clare W. Bronfman
? Pamela A. Cafritz
? Keith A. Raniere
– At the outset of his investigation, Kirsopp received paperwork from the Office of the Saratoga County District Attorney (DA) that indicated it had been investigating computer trespass complaints against Natalie, O’Hara, and Tighe since mid-2011.
– Over the course of the next few months, Kirsopp worked closely with Jesse Ashdown, the Assistant District Attorney (ADA) for Saratoga County who had been overseeing the computer trespass investigation – and with Bill Thoebe and Andy Zostant, the two Investigators in the Saratoga County DA’s office who had been assigned to the case.
– During this same time period, Kirsopp also interviewed Benjamin T. Myers and Steve Ose, each of whom described himself as “…a contractor for NXIVM”. Neither Myers or Ose ever informed Kirsopp that they were, in fact, long-time high-ranking members of the NXIVM cult.
– Another person with whom Kirsopp had numerous interactions is Mike McDermott, another member of the O’Connell & Aronowitz law firm – and the former Chief Assistant District Attorney for Albany County. On August 27, 2012, for example, Kirsopp notes that “I received a call from Atty McDermott who requested action by 9/10/12 in case the offense only rises to misdemeanor level due to statute of limitations”.
– On August 29,2012, Kirsopp met with ADA Jesse Ashdown and with the Saratoga County DA, Jim Murphy, to discuss the case. At that time, they made contact with Darren Miller, an Assistant Attorney General in the Office of the New York State Attorney General (NYSAG), to discuss “…possible AG involvement for ease of prosecution and issuance of multiple subpoenas through one court” (Kirsopp’s notes regarding that request indicate “No approval at this time”).
– Over the course of the next few months, Kirsopp had several more meetings and telephone calls with Myers – who provided him with a variety of reports that allegedly showed the dates and times when Natalie, O’Hara, and Tighe allegedly accessed NXIVM’s server. Myers indicated that those reports were developed via “…a custom software script that he and Ose wrote to capture each individual attempt to log onto the (NXIVM) system”.
– During this same time period, Kirsopp also received copies of various emails that O’Hara had sent and received while he was working for a company owned by a Brooklyn, NY businessman named Jack Goldberg. Those emails came from a computer server that Nichols indicated she had received from Goldberg (Kirsopp’s notes indicate that Nichols wanted to know if she should review those emails or if the New York State Police would do so – but they do not indicate his response to that question).
– On December 13, 2012, Kirsopp was notified by ADA Ashdown that “…the NYS AG Office has declined prosecutorial involvement in this investigation citing problems with the prosecution of the case, i.e. placing suspects at the computers at the time of the unauthorized access to the computer materials”. Kirsopp also notes that he passed along that information to Nichols on that same date.
So, let’s stop here for now, and summarize what we know – and what questions we might have about the case:
What We Know:
– In mid-2011, one or more representatives of NXIVM filed a complaint with the Office of the Saratoga County DA alleging that Natalie, O’Hara, and Tighe had accessed its server without authorization.
– In April 2012, eight members of NXIVM filed a similar complaint with the NYSP. At that time, Kirsopp was assigned as the lead investigator on the case.
– For the next eight months, Kirsopp worked closely with ADA Ashdown to put together a prosecutable case against Natalie, O’Hara, and Tighe.
– During the course of his investigation, Kirsopp received “evidence” of the alleged unauthorized computer accessing from Myers and Ose – both of whom had told him that they were “contractors” for NXIVM.
– Throughout the investigation, Kirsopp had numerous meetings with – and numerous telephone calls with – Coffey, Nichols, and McDermott.
– Kirsopp and the Saratoga County DA requested that the Office of the NYSAG get involved in prosecuting the case. That request was turned down because the NYSAG thought the case would be difficult to prosecute.
– Nichols informed Kirsopp that she had received a computer server that contained O’Hara’s email correspondence.
– Whose idea was it to have members of NXIVM file a new complaint with the NYSP several months after a similar complaint had been filed with the Office of the Saratoga County DA?
– Is it normal for a NYSP Senior Investigator like Kirsopp to meet so often with attorneys who are representing the complainants in a case?
– Why didn’t Kirsopp do any due diligence background checks on Myers and Ose – and why did he just accept all the “evidence” they provided to him without ever having the NYSP’s own computer forensic experts take a look at NXIVM’s server?
– What did Kirsopp tell Nichols when she asked him who should review the computer server that had O’Hara’s emails on it – her or the NYSP?
– How many other computer trespass cases has the NYSP been involved in before – and after – this case?