BROOKLYN, N.Y. (AP) — Former “Smallville” actress Allison Mack tearfully pleaded guilty Monday to her role in a subgroup of the cult NXIVM where women were branded and forced into sex with the group’s leader.
Entering her plea this afternoon at the Brooklyn federal courthouse, Mack, 36, said she had been a member of a “secret society” founded, developed and “ultimately run” by NXIVM leader Keith Raniere.
NXIVM (pronounced Nexium) billed itself as a self-help group, but Mack acted as a “first-line master” in the subgroup Dos, where female recruits were extorted into having sex with Raniere.
“Through it all I believed that Keith Raniere’s intentions were to help people. … I was wrong,” Mack said.
In addition to Raniere, who awaits trial on April 29 from prison, charges remain pending against NXIVM bookkeeper Kathy Russell and Seagram’s liquor heiress Clare Bronfman.
Mother-daughter duo Nancy and Lauren Salzman separately pleaded guilty to related charges last month, and Russell and Bronfman remain in plea negotiations.
Lauren Salzman was, like Mack, accused of being a Dos first-line master.
In a trembling voice that quickly broke into quiet sobs, Mack pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy and racketeering, and racketeering acts of extortion and forced labor. She faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
The actress has a high school diploma and multiple Teen Choice Awards for her role as Superman’s sidekick on the TV show “Smallville.” Holding back tears through nearly her entire elocution, Mack described how she joined NXIVM at a time when she felt lost. She said she had been looking for a place and a community, and that she “truly believed” NXIVM was doing good work.
When she recruited women to join Dos between October 2015 and June 2017, Mack said she misrepresented the group as a women’s only organization. Once she had collateral on the recruits — compromising photos or damaging information, both true and false — Mack said she reaped “labor and services.”
“I’m very sorry for the victims of this case,” she said. “I’m also very sorry for the harm I caused my family.”
Wiping her face with a tissue as her attorney Sean Buckley rubbed her back, Mack concluded: “I know that I am and will be a better person as a result of this.”
Mack wore a beige turtleneck, black pants and leopard-print shoes for the plea. She told U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis she’d had one beer Sunday night.
Mack’s lawyers did not comment outside the courtroom, either on her guilty plea or on whether she’d cooperate against her former co-conspirators.
The remaining parties held a status conference 15 minutes later, where they primarily discussed bookkeeper Russell’s motion to dismiss the indictment against her. Garaufis indicated he is disinclined to let Russell go.
Immediately following the plea and the conference, the remaining defendants and their lawyers were introduced to potential jurors in the ceremonial courtroom of the Brooklyn federal courthouse.
The jurors hail from the Eastern District of New York, which includes Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island. They had been summoned to fill out questionnaires and will be questioned next week.
Once the anonymous panel of 12 jurors and six alternates is selected, they will be escorted to and from the courthouse by armed U.S. marshals.
Garaufis drew groans and gasps from the potential jurors when he announced the trial is expected to last six to eight weeks.
It is possible that Lauren Salzman will testify at these proceedings, given that her recent plea hearing did not appear on any public calendar.
Though a transcript of her plea proceedings is heavily redacted, it does reveal that she held a woman from Mexico hostage in an upstate home for more than two years, threatening to have her deported “if she did not complete labor requested by myself and others.”
Among other topics, the juror questionnaire asks candidates for their opinions about “rich individuals,” about people who “engage in relationships with multiple sexual partners” and whether they “believe that people under the age of 17 should be able to consent to sex with adults.”
In wake of new allegations that Raniere exploited a teenage girl, his co-defendants have sought separate trials. One potential juror, a woman, put a hand to her cheek Monday when Garaufis announced Raniere had been charged with child pornography.
Mack’s sentencing is set for Sept. 11, 2019, at noon, an hour after Lauren Salzman’s.
Nancy Salzman is set to be sentenced July 10.