There was an FBI raid of Keith Raniere’s “study” or, as some call it, his “sex lair” at 8 Hale Dr. in Clifton Park New York on March 27, 2018.
In order to be able to raid the house, the FBI had to obtain a search warrant signed by United States Magistrate Judge Daniel J. Stewart of the Northern District of New York.
In order to obtain that warrant from Judge Stewart, the FBI had to specify what they were searching for – what kinds of evidence for what suspected crimes.
In America, you don’t just get a “fishing license” to search for everything in someone’s residence. You have to narrow it down to tangible things in advance of raiding a house in America.
Keith Raniere argues that nude photos of a 15-year-old Mexican girl, [Jane Doe 2], which is illegal to possess, is child porn – found on his hard drive seized during the raid at 8 Hale Dr. – should not be used as evidence against him because the search warrant did not include permission to search for such a crime.
He argues that not everything found at 8 Hale is covered by the search warrant. The search warrant is limited, he argues, to “evidence, fruits and instrumentalities of certain listed crimes occurring (on) or after January 1, 2015”.
He argues that when the FBI searched the hard-drive that happened to contain alleged child porn, they should have been looking for items created on or after January 1, 2015. The photographs of Jane Doe 2 were allegedly taken in 2005.
If his argument is correct, the nude photos of a 15-year-old girl that were taken in 2005 may not be covered under the search warrant.
The government, evidently, is arguing that, since Raniere did not own the property and lived elsewhere, that he had no expectation of privacy at 8 Hale and that if evidence of a crime turned up – even if not covered by the search warrant – the feds had every right to find and use it as evidence.
The search warrant was for the property and against its owner, Executive Housing & Properties, Inc.
Raniere argues that, because he lived there sometimes and used the place as his study and sex lair – his bachelor pad – that he had possession of 8 Hale – and therefore the expectation of privacy and that the feds would be held to the narrow strictures of their search warrant.
If he had no expectation of privacy – suppose it was a hotel room [or a restaurant or any place not private] and he left the hard drive behind – and the feds found it – it would be different. If the Feds had a search warrant for a hotel and Raniere fled to Mexico and left his hard drive behind in a room, the feds, if they seized the hard drive and found any kind of evidence of a crime, could use it against him. He has no expectation of privacy in a hotel room.
But the expectation of privacy is, in one sense, the hallmark of our liberty – the right to be secure in our homes from unreasonable searches by government.
If Raniere had a right to privacy at 8 Hale – if he did – then the government might have to be held to the terms of their search warrant.
It was not a hotel room – Raniere says – even if he used it in that sort of way.
If it was anybody but Raniere, I think many of us would agree that we do want the police, the government, to be limited in their right to search our homes. We want limits on search warrants.
Before they go busting down your door, wouldn’t you want the police to tell a judge first what crime you might have committed and with some specificity?
Or would you prefer the police, just because they think you are guilty – that you are a bad guy – they may not know or be able to say what crime you committed – to just be able to bust in your door and raid your house – and search for everything and anything in your house – to find crimes?
Shouldn’t they first tell the judge what crime they are looking for and then get the warrant that gives them the right to search for that evidence and that evidence alone?
Or should police be able to just say to a judge – we smell a criminal – you perhaps – and we want to be able to raid your house – or your office or sex lair – or wherever – – anyplace that is your private abode – and raid and rifle through everything and see if they can find some evidence of a crime, any crime?
The latter is the earmark of a police state. ‘Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.’
Forget this is Keith Raniere, the scoundrel. Forget even that the police, the feds, and you and I know he’s a criminal. Forget the heinous nature of this asshole taking pictures of a girl he groomed for sex since she was a child. He planned to fuck her and brought her along no doubt when she was younger than 15 – getting her primed to fuck or rape rather – when she was just 15, maybe younger. And he posed her nude in his favorite positions [this girl whose parents entrusted her to his care and mentorship] and set her up for his filthy, wicked, self-satiating plans – and that he still today has a hold on her – as she continues to support him in Mexico under the control of a Raniere minion.
The point is that we don’t want police to just pick out a person, bad as he is – and raid his house for the sake of finding crimes – any crime.
I think most of us want police to be required to articulate probable cause for a specific crime or crimes and then get the green light to raid a house – and be limited to evidence they find of those specific crimes they articulated in advance.
This is Raniere’s argument: That police did not have the right to go through everything at 8 Hale and hunt for new crimes not mentioned in their search warrant; that the child porn – the sexually explicit deviant Raniere nude photos of this then 15-year-old girl – taken allegedly in 2005 [which is what dates her as age 15- she is 29 now] were not something the feds said they were looking for to the judge when they got him to sign the search warrant in the first place.
They were looking for something else and stumbled on this. This bombshell piece of evidence that is so important that it might be the single most damning piece of evidence in the entire case.
And now the feds may not be able to use it.
Again, as Raniere argues, he had an expectation of privacy at 8 Hale and the feds can only use as evidence from the raid evidence of crimes the judge specifically approved prior to issuing a search warrant.
Unless it can be shown that Raniere had no expectation of privacy – that this was not his home or abode or a place he had the right to be secure in, his papers and personal effects, it may turn out that Raniere might have the feds on this one.
He may have them now, or he may – if the judge does not agree with his attorney, Marc Agnifilo’s motion and lets the evidence in at trial – Raniere may have grounds for appeal.
The whole case may [I emphasize “may] be overturned on appeal over this one piece of evidence.
The judge might be required – by law – to toss out all evidence of the 15-year-old girl’s nude photographs. That decision may hinge on the privacy expectation argument alone.
If the 15-year-old girl’s nude pictures [child porn] are thrown out, they likely cannot be used in the Northern District as well. This may be a game changer for Raniere.
Still, as bad as that sounds – preserving due process rights for all of us might be more important than getting Raniere in a place he deserves – in a cage for a long time.
This is how we lose our liberties, by wanting government to do for us certain things because it is expedient – and empowering them to run roughshod over the rights of someone like Raniere, little realizing we have empowered the government to run roughshod over ourselves in the future when the time and circumstances are applicable.
The innocent may be trampled just like the guilty – and because of the latter, we have due process. It is why Blackstone and Franklin and Adams and 100 others said – it is better that 10 guilty men go free than one innocent suffer. [only Franklin made it 100 and Adams if I recall may have said 500.]
If the feds did not legally obtain the damning send-Raniere-to-prison evidence – nude photographs of a little girl – a 15-year-old child – then, as bad as this may sound, in the interest of justice – for all of us – they should not be able to use it.
It’s not my decision. I am not the judge or the appeals court. But if what Agnifilo says is true – that the FBI had no authority granted from the search warrant – to search for everything and anything – but were limited to narrower strictures – that did not include 2005 images from a hard drive – and if Raniere had a legal expectation of privacy – then the judge may have to side with Raniere.
Will he still be convicted then? There were two indictments against him without this evidence – the original indictment and the superseding indictment – and the feds thought then that they had a strong case. [It has only gotten stronger with Allison Mack and Lauren Salzman set to testify against the varmint].
It was not until the second superseding indictment that evidence of Jane Doe 2 was included – first as charges of possession of child porn and sexual exploitation of a minor. Later those charges were dropped and referred to the Northern District of NY DOJ – but the evidence of child porn and sexual exploitation was to remain – to be presented in the present trial – as part of predicate acts to prove the RICO enterprise of NXIVM – that he and his coconspirators worked to procure women and little girls for him.
If the evidence of Jane Doe 2’s photographs is thrown out, it will likely make it harder for the prosecution. The defense, without the stink of those execrable pictures of an abused and victimized child, will be far better able to argue that all the kooky, kinky, weird, warped, moronic, deviant, perverted Raniere sex [which Agnifilo will gladly admit it was and then some] was all consensual – all adult – that there was no sex trafficking, no coercion, that the government has overreached and created a brand new concept of sex trafficking where none ever existed. The DOS women may have been nuts – but they were not victims of sex trafficking or forced labor – Agnifilo will argue that Raniere never threatened them, never released any collateral. He was just having a damn good time – and most of the women who were not too stupid or crazy to realize it – were having a damn good time too.
That argument plays a whole lot better without a 15-year-old child abuse victim’s pictures being shown to the jury.
Soon, we are going to find out the judge’s decision to allow or not allow pictures of a then 15-year-old girl stored on a computer for 13 years – and found after the rascal fled to Mexico – left behind at his sex lair – in evidence at trial
One bright note perhaps is that even if it is not used in evidence, the pictures may have spared four or five women several years each in prison.
I am convinced that the fact of the pictures of Jane Doe 2 had a sobering effect on Raniere’s co-defendants Allison Mack, Kathy Russell, Lauren Salzman, Clare Bronfman and possibly Nancy Salzman – and helped prompt them to plead.
I think it made them wake up and get out of a trial where the jury was expected to see that evidence, with them sitting side by side at the defendant’s table with Raniere, the old perv who took the pictures.
Those photos have done their part pretty well so far. Allison and Lauren at least will be telling the jury of crimes they know Raniere committed.
As of today, we do not know if the photos will be used to help convict Raniere.
On one hand, I kind of wish for that, but, on the other, I have misgivings. I want Raniere convicted through due process and due process only.