ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – The alleged leader of a New York-based sex cult promoted as a self-improvement group again filed a request to be released on bond after being charged on accusations of branding women and forcing them into unwanted sex in obedience to him as the group’s “Vanguard.”
Previously the court denied bail for Raniere, who prosecutors accuse of forming a barbaric secret society within NXIVM, pronounced “Nex-i-um,” a group that over the years has attracted a following of minor celebrities and wealthy supporters.
Raniere’s attorneys say in court filings the women were never coerced to have sex, and the branded women were never held down against their will.
Prosecutors allege a sub-group branded brainwashed victims with Raniere’s initials during initiation ceremonies that turned them into his sex slaves.
The second indictment adds racketeering charges involving conspiracy to commit identity theft, seeking to get the e-mail usernames and passwords of Raniere’s critics and enemies, using credit card and banking information from one of Raniere’s sexual partners after her death in November 2016.
Wednesday’s motion marks Raniere’s third attempt to get released on bond. Previously, prosecutors told a judge that
they worried Bronfman, who owns a private island in Fiji, would finance Raniere’s escape if he were released.
Raniere’s trial is scheduled to begin in March.
Bronfman pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy in Brooklyn federal court in June. Kathy Russell, Lauren Salzman, Nancy Salzman, and Bronfman were arrested on a superseding indictment charging them with racketeering conspiracy.
The document gave some insight into other rituals and practices of the NXIVM group, which authorities say grew out of a previous enterprise called Executive Success Programs, Inc. (“ESP”) founded in 1998 by Raniere and Nancy Salzman.
“Every year in August, Nxians celebrate ‘Vanguard Week’ in honor of Raniere’s birthday,” the complaint said. “Nancy Salzman is referred to as ‘The Prefect’; by Nxians, and her birthday is celebrated in May with the ‘Festival of Flowers.'”
The complaint also described women’s roles in the empowerment group compared to the men, and especially Raniere as its leader.
NXIVM was the topic of a CBC News podcast “Uncover: Escaping NXIVM” focusing on Canadian actress Sarah Edmondson’s experience with and leaving the group.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)