NEW YORK | She refused to the end to deny a man who kept sex slaves: Clare Bronfman, heiress of the Seagram liquor empire, was sentenced Wednesday in New York to more than six years in prison – 81 months – after pleading guilty in the sex trafficking scandal of the Nxivm sect.
The sentence, which also includes a $ 500,000 fine, is heavier than that requested by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, who requested five years in jail for the 41-year-old heiress.
The daughter of the late billionaire Edgar Bronfman had pleaded guilty in April 2019 to credit card fraud and to hiding an underground individual on behalf of the Nxivm organization created by Keith Raniere, found guilty in June 2019 of having maintained several years during a harem of 15 to 20 sex slaves.
Ms Bronfman was not accused of a direct connection to this slavery, but prosecutors had argued that she had provided Mr Raniere with irreplaceable financial support with his estimated fortune of $ 210 million.
“There is little doubt that Raniere could not have committed the crimes for which he was convicted without powerful allies like Ms. Bronfman,” they said in a document before the hearing.
Nine women victims of the organization testified Wednesday, sometimes in tears, pointing out that Ms. Bronfman, who was paying lawyers to silence critics of Nxivm, had “ruined” their lives.
Defense lawyers had hoped to save him jail, asking for three years on parole.
According to them, Ms. Bronfman was unaware of the sexual abuse committed by Keith Raniere, perpetrated through an organization parallel to Nxivm, “DOS”, which included “masters” and “slaves”.
“To feel accepted”
To believe them, she only knew the good side of the organization, based in Albany, New York, namely its training that promotes personal growth: training that she had discovered in 1983 and which had allowed this woman, badly in her skin, to overcome her anxieties.
Until the end, Clare Bronfman refused to disown Mr. Raniere.
“During my many years at Nxivm, I began to appreciate life, to feel accepted, loved, happy,” she wrote to New York judge Nicholas Garaufis at the end of August. “A lot of members of this community have become a bit of my family, and I can't turn my back on those friendships or deny the profound impact Keith and Nxivm have had on my life,” she added.
This refusal undoubtedly contributed to increase his sentence.
She “wrote to the judge to say that Nxivm and Keith Raniere had changed her life for the better. She will have more than six years to contemplate this feeling, and decide once and for all if it is as easy to accept as she thought, ”reacted after the hearing the head of the New York FBI, William Sweeney.
Of the six people indicted in the scandal, revealed in March 2018, Ms. Bronfman is the first to know her sentence.
Keith Raniere, who has always said his sex was consensual, is expected to be sentenced on October 27.
After six weeks of trial, the man who was considered a guru was found guilty of all seven counts against him, including sexual exploitation of a 15-year-old girl, extortion and criminal conspiracy.
The four other defendants pleaded guilty, including actress Allison Mack, of the Smallville series, to two counts, for extortion and criminal conspiracy.
The Nxivm affair has already been adapted for the screen twice: a docu-series, The Vow , which emphasizes the non-sexual side of the organization, and a Lisa Robinson film, Escaping the Nxivm Cult (2019) , around the testimony of a mother who tried to get her daughter out of the organization.