BROOKLYN (CN) – A federal judge in Brooklyn denied a bail package Tuesday for accused sex trafficker Keith Raniere, partly because it did not identify the trustee of the proposed $10 million bond.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis took issue with several facets of the bail proposal by Raniere’s lawyer Marc Agnifilo, which included the $10 million bond, armed guards from the private company Torchstone, a surrendered passport and GPS monitoring.
But seemingly the biggest problem for the defense is that the money proposed isn’t Raniere’s, and the bail package does not say whose it is.
“That’s going to be the issue, at the end of the day,” Agnifilo said outside the courthouse after the hearing. “The judge wants more transparency on the issues surrounding the trust … and we’re going to speak to other lawyers and see if that’s what they want to do.”
Raniere is said to have created a pyramid sex-slavery scheme called “DOS” or “The Vow” within professional-development group NXIVM in 2005.
Women known as “masters” recruited other women, known as “slaves,” to join DOS, while concealing Raniere’s position at the top of the pyramid, prosecutors contend.
After collecting damaging information about slaves’ family members or compromising photos, “masters” allegedly blackmailed members to keep the group a secret and to have sex with Raniere.
Raniere faces 15 years to life in federal prison if convicted on several counts of sex trafficking.
He is free to propose another bail package, Judge Garaufis said, but for now the anonymous trustee is a problem.
“There’s no moral suasion placed on the defendant to adhere to the terms of the bail because, frankly, he has nothing to lose,” the judge said.
Agnifilo insisted Raniere would not flee.
“Rather than moral suasion, we have guards,” he said later, referring to Torchstone.
Garaufis fretted Raniere would have access to a private plane and even a private island in Fiji. He was likely referring to the island owned by Seagram’s Liquor heiress Clare Bronfman.
Raniere has claimed no income and almost no assets, and his lifestyle is said to be funded at least in part by Clare and her sister Sara Bronfman.
It was strongly implied in the courtroom that Clare Bronfman is the anonymous financial backer on the bond. An email and phone call to William F. Savino, who has represented Bronfman in the past, went unanswered late Tuesday afternoon.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Moira Penza said the government plans to bring a superseding indictment against Raniere within six weeks. That could affect the trial, which is currently set to begin Oct. 1 and, Penza estimated, could last three months.
It’s possible there will be additional defendants — and, according to Tuesday’s court proceeding, the trustee on the bail package could be one of them.
“The government does believe that funder has acted as a co-conspirator of the defendant over a number of years,” Penza said.
“Where are we, then, if this person is indicted?” Judge Garaufis asked Agnifilo.
“We know who we’re talking about,” Agnifilo said, “and her money is inherited.”
Bronfman was never named in court, though Agnifilo did reference “Clare” to reporters outside after the hearing.
“Who is the trustee in that fund?” one reporter asked him.
“I — it’s a lawyer, it’s a lawyer with a firm in New York,” Agnifilo said.
“Does the lawyer represent Clare Bronfman?” the reporter pressed.
“No, the lawyer, the lawyer represents — there’s a trustee, who does not represent Clare, there’s a trustee of the trust,” he said, before saying he was not Bronfman’s lawyer and that reporters should contact that attorney instead.
Judge Garaufis also took issue with the fact that Raniere would be guarded by armed gunmen.
Agnifilo said Raniere would consent to the use of physical force to keep him in his apartment, but not deadly force.
“The guns are the icing on the cake,” he said later.
“So you need a couple karate experts — you don’t need someone with a gun,” Garaufis quipped.
Garaufis also expressed concern with the criminal-justice issue of granting such an expensive bond.
“The court may be sanctioning a private jail with all the accoutrements of a mansion, perhaps,” he said.
“It makes a mockery of the system of justice, where other people can’t get $100 together to get out of Rikers Island,” Garaufis added, while Raniere and his anonymous supporters could afford to drop $100,000 a month for a private security firm.
Raniere’s co-defendant, former TV star Allison Mack, who was ordered to appear at each status conference from house arrest in California, wore a white blouse and frowned throughout the hearing Tuesday.
Mack, who garnered two Teen Choice awards for her role as Clark Kent’s sidekick on “Smallville,” is said to have been Raniere’s direct slave and was arrested in April on charges that she conspired with Raniere in the sex-trafficking scheme. Her defense team barely spoke.
Raniere was clean-shaven, in dark-rimmed glasses and drab olive prison scrubs.
The parties scheduled another status conference for July 25 at 2 p.m.