Self Help

Lurid sex crimes case against New York self-help guru nears a verdict – San Francisco Chronicle

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NEW YORK — After weeks of relentlessly salacious testimony, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have wrapped up their sex trafficking case against Keith Raniere, the former spiritual leader of the self-improvement group NXIVM.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers last week told the judge they were finished calling witnesses in a trial that has given a disturbing inside look at the bizarre world Raniere created for followers attracted to his cult-like group in upstate New York. Closing arguments and jury deliberations will take place this week.

Since early May, jurors have been hearing testimony from what prosecutors say are former “sex slaves” who spoke about the torment of being branded with the Raniere’s initials — their “supreme master.”

The jury also has seen alleged child pornography involving a teenage girl prosecutors say Raniere coerced into sex.

Attorneys for Raniere, 58, say that he had no criminal intent and that his sexual encounters with female followers were consensual.

There was anticipation that the highest-profile defendant in the NXIVM case, TV actress and former Raniere loyalist Allison Mack, might testify at the trial in light of her guilty plea to conspiracy and other charges.

She didn’t, but her name came up several times in testimony identifying her as a “master” in a secret society of brainwashed sex slaves for Raniere sometimes called the Vow.

A former member of the sorority testified that Mack, best known for her role as a friend of a young Superman in the “Smallville” series, recruited her in 2016 and ordered her to do whatever Raniere wanted.

Another witness testified about turning the tables on the man known as a master manipulator.

The 29-year-old witness testified that after taking NXIVM self-help courses as a way to overcome childhood traumas, she was recruited by Mack to join a sex slave subgroup. He said she was horrified when Mack gave an assignment in 2017 to “seduce” Raniere, something she should consider it an “honor.”

“It was basically my worst nightmare come to life,” she testified.

Before anything happened, she said, she came up with a story that she needed to return to California to deal with a family illness. Then she flattered Raniere by writing him a glowing note about the “bliss” she had achieved because of him.

Tom Hays is an Associated Press writer.

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