On November 29, 2018, an alleged “self-improvement” company along with former “Smallville” actress Allison Mack (“Mack”) amongst others, requested that a New York federal court toss sex trafficking and forced labor conspiracy indictments against them, calling their group a “wonderful humanitarian organization.”
The head of the group, Keith Raniere (“Raniere”), who has been locked up since March, labeled the group as a support network for women with “inner emotional struggles.” However, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has labeled his company a “pyramid scheme” that sexually exploited women. According to the DOJ, the company offers courses in their program for thousands of dollars, and then encourages participants to take more classes and recruit others (specifically actors) to join.
The DOJ claims that Raniere was the sole leader (with Mack directly beneath him in rank), and that DOS, an acronym for a Latin phrase which translates to “Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions,” was a secret society within the company created by Raniere that “operated with levels of women 'slaves' headed by ‘masters'… Slaves were expected to recruit slaves of their own (thus becoming masters themselves), who in turn owed service not only to their own masters but also to masters above them in the DOS pyramid.”
The DOJ further claimed that both Mack and Raniere “claimed the program was aimed at empowering women by training the participants to eradicate the weaknesses the program claims are common in women.” Many of the women were also branded on their pelvises with a cauterizing pen with a symbol which, unbeknownst to them, was Raniere's initials.
Mack's motion states, “When one strips away the sensationalist media reports of a case involving an alleged ‘cult,' celebrities, and sex, what is left before the court is a threadbare indictment that does not come close to satisfying the constitutional requirements of fair notice and due process.”
The government is represented by Moira Kim Penza and Tanya Hajjar of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.
Raniere is represented by Marc Agnifilo of Brafman & Associates PC. Mack is represented by William F. McGovern and Sean S. Buckley of Kobre & Kim LLP. Russell is represented by Justine Harris and Amanda Ravich of Sher Tremonte LLP. Salzman is represented by David Stern and Robert Soloway of Rothman Schneider Soloway & Stern LLP. Bronfman is represented by Alexandra A.E. Shapiro of Fabien M. Thayamballi of Shapiro Arato LLP.
The case is U.S. v. Keith Raniere et al., case number 18-cr-00204, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
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