Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…
Time is running out for the remaining three defendants in the case of the U.S. v. Raniere Et Al: Keith Raniere, Clare Bronfman, and Kathy Russell.
With only a little more than two weeks to go before the scheduled start of the trial in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY), what has so far been abstract and vague is becoming more and more real for them with each passing day.
Based on various reports, it appears that all three of them have explored the possibility of some sort of plea deal arrangement.
And each of them is well aware that three of their former co-defendants have already decided to plead guilty to specific charges rather than put their futures in the hands of twelve strangers.
So, will Keith, Clare and/or Kathy end up getting on the Plea Deal Bus?
Let’s explore the possibilities…
RE: Kathy Russell
Most courtroom observers – and every defense attorney I’ve spoken to about the case – have predicted that Kathy will end up taking a plea deal.
But, meanwhile, her attorneys continue to push for the dismissal of her indictment because of what they describe as “prosecutorial misconduct” on the part of Moira Kim Penza.
In a follow-up letter that they submitted following Monday’s Status Conference, her attorneys insist that Kathy and her erstwhile attorney, William Fanciullo, were “deliberately duped” by Moira into believing that Kathy was only a “witness” and not a “subject” or a “target” in the NXIVM investigation.
Even the presiding judge, Nicholas G. Garaufis, has concluded that what Moira did was “misleading, at the very least”.
Earlier today, the judge issued the following tersely worded order:
ORDER: The Government is DIRECTED to respond to Kathy Russell’s April 9, 2019 letter in further support of her motion to dismiss by no later than tomorrow, April 11, 2019, at 9:00 A.M. The Government shall address the following questions: (1) whether Russell was a “subject” at the time of her grand jury testimony; (2) if she was a subject, why the Government did not advise her as such (either by attaching a letter to its grand jury subpoena or by telling her during her grand jury testimony); and (3) how its answers to questions (1) and (2) should affect the court’s decision on Russell’s motion to dismiss. The Government may also address any other point raised in Russell’s letter.
So, is Kathy holding out because she thinks she actually has a chance of winning on her pending Motion To Dismiss?
Maybe – but if so, she will most assuredly have that dim hope vaporized when Judge Garaufis finally rules on that motion later this week.
So, will Kathy then come to her senses – and instruct her attorneys to cut the best deal they can for her?
Even though she could likely get off with no more than a 2-3 year sentence via a plea deal, Kathy might well risk going to prison for 20 years.
Just like Hiroo Onoda, the Japanese soldier who emerged from hiding on Lubang Island in the Philippines in 1974, Kathy may be the last NXIVM soldier still fighting when the epic takedown of NXIVM is over.
Depending on how things transpire over the next couple of weeks, it’s even possible that Keith and Clare would be two of the many witnesses testifying against her if she decides to go to trial.
RE: Clare Bronfman
Aside from temporarily hiring Michael Avenatti as a “consultant” to help broker a deal where she would get off with no prison time – an arrangement that caused her to faint when questioned about it by Judge Garaufis – Clare has not given any indication that she’s interested in taking a plea deal.
In large part, that’s probably because Clare is still trying to come to grips with the fact that for the first time in her life, she can’t use her money to get what she wants.
But with time running out – and looking at the very real prospect of ending up with a 20-year prison sentence – it’s still quite possible that she’ll change her mind before the trial starts.
Complicating matters for her is the fact that she’s already facing one additional charge in the Northern District of New York (NDNY) – and the very real possibility of many more charges if the NDNY ever undertakes a full-scale investigation of her involvement in NXIVM’s numerous criminal activities.
The EDNY cannot compel the NDNY not to prosecute Clare. But it can request that the EDNY be part of an agreement that would include a non-prosecution provision to ensure that Clare would not have to worry about that possibility.
The other complicating factor, of course, is that the EDNY is not going to let Clare off with a “rich girl” sentence.
Clare’s going to prison…
The only question is: For how long?
Opinions on this vary – but most defense attorneys I’ve talked to think it will be for at least 6 years.
I personally think it will be 8 years but that may be wishful thinking on my part.
In any event, Clare just turned 40 – and even an 8-year sentence would mean she’d be back on the street in about 6 years (That assumes she’s doesn’t lose any of the “good time” she’ll accrue in prison – and that she gets at least 6-months of Halfway House time).
All in all, I think that Clare will end up taking a deal simply because 6-8 years is a whole lot less than 20-years and, more importantly, because she can not stand the thought of sitting in court and hearing numerous witnesses – some of them her closest “friends” – taking the stand and testifying as to what an evil, mean-spirited, heartless bitch she really is.
RE: Keith Raniere
And last, but certainly not least, we have The Vanguard AKA The Master AKA The Grandmaster AKA Crybaby Jane.
We’ve already reported that Keith met with the EDNY prosecutors to offer them a deal whereby he would provide information about certain crimes committed by others in return for them dropping all the pending charges against him.
They’re still laughing in the EDNY prosecutor’s office over that offer.
So, is there any chance that Keith will end up taking a plea deal?
Every criminal defense attorney I’ve spoken to has indicated that if they were representing him, they would be advising him to do just that.
That’s because they see no chance of him ever being acquitted on all the charges he’s currently facing.
Unlike Kathy, who is only facing one count of Racketeering Conspiracy – and unlike Clare, who is only facing one count of Racketeering Conspiracy and one count of Racketeering – Keith is facing a whole host of charges in the EDNY.
Here’s the complete list:
– Racketeering Conspiracy
– Forced Labor Conspiracy
– Wire Fraud Conspiracy
– Sex Trafficking Conspiracy
– Sex Trafficking
– Attempted Sex Trafficking Conspiracy
And Keith is already facing four more charges in the NDNY: two counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Child; one count of Possession of Child Pornography; and one count of Conspiracy To Commit Identity Theft.
So, what kind of a plea deal might the EDNY offer Keith?
Based on discussions with attorneys who are familiar with this case, the consensus seems to be that he would have to admit to all the pending charges – and agree to a sentence of at least 10-15 years.
And if he wants the deal to include a non-prosecution agreement with the NDNY, the consensus is that the minimum sentence will be 15-20 years.
Once again, I think the upper boundaries on those ranges are more likely – especially given the likelihood that Lauren Salzman and Allison Mack have already agreed to testify against him.
So, will Keith take a plea deal that would ensure he’d be incarcerated for 15-20 years?
I personally don’t think so.
Even though going to trial means that he’s risking a lifetime sentence – and even though I think he has zero chance of being acquitted on all charges – I think Keith is going to go to trial.
First and foremost, no matter where he is or who he’s with, he still thinks he’s the smartest – and most clever – person in the room. All he needs to do is convince one juror that he should be acquitted to get a hung jury. And just look at all the crap he convinced people in NXIVM to do on his behalf.
Second, he’s a gambler. Granted, he’s a shitty gambler with little, if any, understanding of what “true probability” means – but he likes to gamble. And going to trial will be the biggest gamble of his life.
Third, he’s The Vanguard. In his mind, he’d be better off going to trial and losing than admitting he’s a loser. True spiritual leaders like Gandhi and Mandela suffer for their beliefs. And I think that after all these years of lying and pretending, Keith really does believe his own bullshit.
Fourth, Keith has already spent more than a year in prison – and, if nothing else, he’s undoubtedly figured out that he doesn’t do well in that kind of environment. So, while a 15-year prison term is not easy for anyone, it will be even worse for Keith. He doesn’t fit in, he’s a sissy, and his entire story will be well-known by every guard and prisoner in whatever prison he’s assigned to. Every day – and every night – will be a living hell. So, in the end, I think Keith will risk doing 30 instead of 15 just to have a chance of doing 0.
With all that in mind, here are my odds regarding which of the three remaining defendants will take a plea deal:
• Kathy Russell: 99%
• Clare Bronfman: 60%
• Keith Raniere: 10%
Viva Executive Success!
Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at the three defendants who have already plead guilty – Nancy Salzman, Lauren Salzman, and Allison Mack – and share my thoughts on what their respective sentences will likely be…