By Dianne Lipson
Lauren Salzman is done testifying in the trial of Keith Alan Raniere. Senior U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis cut off Raniere’s attorney, Marc Agnifilo’s cross-examination at the end of the day Wednesday.
He was concerned she would have a nervous breakdown.
Agnifilo began his cross-examination of Lauren late Wednesday morning, asking her questions about her role in confining Daniela, a Mexican woman, to a room in Clifton Park for nearly two years.
In the morning Lauren broke down and sobbed uncontrollably.
In the afternoon, Agnifilo’s relentless questioning brought Lauren to tears several times. It was a very emotional day for her.
Agnifilo worked slowly throughout the afternoon, picking things apart, showing wherever he could that Lauren believed she was doing good. And trying to show Keith created everything good in Nxivm.
There was discussion about what collateral was and how it was collected. Lauren said collateral was to back your word.
She explained that collateral was something that showed that you cared enough. It was supposed to be something painful and uncomfortable. And with that, it is supposed to help you uphold your commitment.
Agnifilo was making points. He continued to elicit comments from Lauren of the good in Nxivm and even in DOS.
She said collateral was to show you had each other’s back. But women, she was taught, were not reliable; women didn’t have strong commitments. Collateral helped women be stronger.
Earlier it was revealed that Keith said he could command a married woman to sleep with a man who was not her husband. Agnifilo asked Lauren if Keith had ever done anything like that.
Lauren said, “I don’t know.”
[We do know he ordered Sylvie, who was married, to have sex with him.]
Agnifilo asked if any of Lauren’s slaves were commanded to have sex with Keith.
Lauren said “No.” She didn’t even know DOS had a sexual component.
Agnifilo asked about people hacking into the Nxivm computer.
Lauren said, after DOS became public, someone did hack into the Nxivm computer. And someone took a picture of Allison Mack’s computer.
There were questions about readiness drills. Agnifilo tried to elicit from Lauren that readiness drills were a good thing.
“Isn’t it meant to make people stronger? It’s all about preparedness.”
Agnifilo brought up about how in Mexico there were kidnappings. And that was a concern. And that someone had been impacted by one of these kidnappings. Agnifilo said readiness drills could mobilize people on a moment’s notice of any alarms.
Agnifilo said readiness drills could be put in motion if someone was missing.
He asked Lauren if there were any collateral released because of failure of readiness drills.
Lauren answered that she knew of no one whose collateral was released.
There was talk about penance. Like standing in the snow or paddling.
Lauren said that the most committed people do the strongest penance – like the dungeon stuff. That would be the most committed people.
Agnifilo said, “I didn’t mention the dungeon Why did you say it?”
They got into “acts of care.” That its purpose was to build character.
Agnifilo was trying to make acts of care look like a very good thing. Lauren agreed that acts of care showed you cared about somebody.
He was next characterizing DOS as a women’s empowerment group.
Lauren agreed, saying the theory of DOS was “women for women.”
Regarding DOS having a strong influence in the world, he asked if she believed this might be a good thing? Lauren said, “I believed in this area of it.”
“Do you believe that you could be involved in something wonderful and important?”
Lauren said “Yes. DOS was also an opportunity to grow.”
Agnifilo brought up that she testified that branding was a way to symbolize overcoming pain for a principle and that that concept resonated with her — overcoming pain for principle.
“So what did that mean to you?”
Lauren paused. Then said it had something to do with the human pain curriculum, that we know love through pain. And it was good to do things counter to our interests, to be unselfish, and to be happy, an opportunity to do difficult things that would help you grow.
For Lauren, it was to visit Keith and Mariana and their baby. That caused a lot of pain for her. [She had been promised a baby by Keith for years and instead, Mariana had a baby with him.]
But this helped Lauren become stronger. She was doing things only for the sake of love.
She would watch Keith and Mariana with their baby, even though Lauren didn’t have a baby. And that would help Lauren become stronger. Lauren wanted to do what it took.
It appealed to Lauren, at one time, she admitted, that the first line slaves will always be part of her life and would always share everything. Now, she said she sees that it wasn’t really true.
Lauren said that Keith invited her to DOS to bring her and Keith closer.
As the afternoon progressed, Agnifilo became more relentless in his cross-examination.
He showed that Lauren slaves knew what they were getting into; they had seen a stencil of the brand prior to being branded. They all knew what the brand was.
After Jimena Garza was branded and was screaming – she was the one who was screaming when she was being branded – Agnifilo asked if everyone still went through with the branding?
Lauren said yes. But added that during Jimena’s branding, she screamed that she wanted to stop, but Lauren told her “No, you can’t stop.”
Agnifilo noted the “collateral” was never released on any DOS slaves even after they left the group.
Lauren agreed but disagreed that DOS was harmless, saying, “It isn’t true that nothing bad happened!”
At one point, Agnifilo returned to one of his favorite red herring topics – of Frank Parlato – who he has brought up numerous times.
Agnifilo asked Lauren if Mark Vicente was feeding information to Parlato?
Lauren: “I don’t know.”
Lauren also didn’t know the details of Parlato’s dealings with Keith.
Agnifilo clearly sought to portray Lauren as a scorned lover. He asked her if she still loved Raniere, noting she wanted to have a baby with him.
Lauren started crying as Agnifilo asked her about her conduct. He said that Raniere slept with numerous other women.
He asked her if she intended to commit crimes such as extortion.
Agnifilo asked: “When you were in DOS, was it your intention to hurt people?“
Lauren, sobbing, said she was trying to prove herself to Keith, trying to salvage their relationship.
“I was trying to prove my self-worth,” Salzman said, crying nearly uncontrollably. “I put it above everything else.”
The Judge suddenly shouted at Agnifilo, in front of the jury, “OK — we’re done! You’re done! I said we’re done. Sit down!”
He dismissed Lauren and released the jurors for the day.
When the jury left, Agnifilo asked the judge why he cut him off.
The judge said these questions are important, but it wasn’t important enough for the witness to have a nervous breakdown.
“I thought it was extremely excruciating,” the judge said. “I tried to cut off the line of questioning. You just went right back. You went way over the line. This is not DOS. This is not the allegation. This is a broken person.”
He said he didn’t want Lauren to have a nervous breakdown in court.
“I had a crisis here,” Garaufis said, “and not in my courtroom! So you have your record and if there’s a conviction, you can appeal to the Second Circuit.”
Agnifilo asserted the questions he asked were important.
Judge Garaufis: “I have a right and an obligation to control the extent to which you can do this. I was watching this witness.”
Agnifilo: “I didn’t raise my voice.”
Judge Garaufis: “I’m not saying you didn’t maintain composure. I’m worried about her composure. You asked her about legal judgments. I took her guilty plea. I thought it was extremely excruciating. You went back to the line of questioning. I may not get everything right, I’m human. Before I’m a judge I’m a human being. I’m not going to allow this to continue!”
On Thursday, a new witness will be called and we’ll be three to report on the day’s events – in depth.