Keith Raniere’s Sentencing: What to Know About the Nxivm Leader – The New York Times

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Credit…Keith Raniere Conversations, via YouTube

Keith Raniere did not have a visible reaction.

He had just been sentenced to 120 years in prison on Tuesday for his role in leading a self-improvement company that prosecutors have described as a sex cult. In a Brooklyn courtroom earlier that day, more than a dozen victims gave wrenching testimony for hours about Mr. Raniere’s manipulation and abuse.

One witness, identified only as Camila, recalled in a trembling voice the sexual abuse that she suffered starting at age 15. She described how Mr. Raniere ordered her to weigh less than 100 pounds and directed her to get an abortion. Others shared vivid memories of mistreatment.

“I had never agreed to give up the right to my body,” said another witness, identified only as Nicole.

[Read more about Mr. Raniere’s sentencing and how the case against him unfolded.]

After a six-week trial, a jury convicted Mr. Raniere, 60, in June 2019 of crimes including racketeering, sex trafficking, forced labor, identity theft and sexual exploitation of a child.

Former members of Mr. Raniere’s company, Nxivm, said he and his inner circle preyed on insecure people, shaming anyone who tried to quit.

On Tuesday, victims described how Mr. Raniere had left them struggling to make their lives whole again and recalled how he strained or destroyed their relationships with family.

Nxivm was founded in the late 1990s and became popular in Hollywood and business circles for its self-improvement workshops.

But by 2017, several former members had asked the New York State authorities to investigate the company. The complaints focused on a secretive women-only group inside Nxivm (pronounced NEX-ee-um), created two years prior, where members were forced to have sex with Mr. Raniere and be branded with his initials.

The sisterhood was billed as an empowerment group, but the women were referred to as “slaves,” needed permission to eat and were regularly required to hand over “collateral” like nude photographs. During his trial, former members testified that they were subjected to punishments including long-term confinement and being whipped with a leather strap.

Five women in his inner circle, including the actress Allison Mack, were charged with a raft of crimes in July 2018. Each of them pleaded guilty ahead of Mr. Raniere’s trial.

Mr. Raniere maintained his innocence at the sentencing on Tuesday.

His lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, said he would appeal the sentence. Mr. Raniere had spearheaded a campaign in recent months to overturn his conviction, directing his supporters to look for errors in the prosecution, according to court filings.

Leading up to his sentencing, Mr. Raniere had expressed no regrets, accusing the federal judge of corruption and demanding a new trial, which was denied twice. “He is not sorry for his conduct or his choices,” his lawyers wrote in a court filing.

A lawsuit claims Education Department employees and the police tried to prevent Asian-Americans from entering a meeting earlier this year to protect New York’s schools chancellor from protesters. [Daily News]

A bike-share program could arrive in Staten Island, the only borough currently without one, early next year. [The City]

The Times’s Derek M. Norman writes:

At Lataya Carter’s haunted maze, the safe word is “peanut butter.”

“If you’re walking through the maze and you can’t handle it,” she said, “you can shout ‘Peanut butter! Peanut butter! Peanut butter!’ and the actors won’t come get you.”

Her spooky attraction, which stretches across her yard and through her garage, has become a Halloween staple in the Hollis neighborhood of Queens: For the past three years, Ms. Carter, 37, has hired actors to wield faux chain saws and chase visitors through pathways lit by black lights and strobes.

You might also find a zombie eating guts at a dead end, only to turn around to see aliens without mouths or a clown popping balloons with a knife. In another section, a junked car is set up as a crash site and surrounded by more zombies. (All of the zombies, of course, are practicing social distancing this October.)

Many New Yorkers might say that 2020 has been scary enough, but Ms. Carter and horror aficionados are working to enliven a Halloween that comes during a pandemic. Trick-or-treating has been canceled in some places, but the state’s Department of Health considers haunted houses — including the larger Blood Manor in Manhattan — “low-risk indoor arts and entertainment.”

To help keep visitors safe, Ms. Carter decided to forgo the usual food, face-painting and walk-through of her home. She calls her event, which runs through Sunday at 1 a.m., A Haunting in Hollis. Tickets are $10.

“We’re taking all kinds of precautions,” she said. “We’re doing the line spacers at six feet apart and enforcing social distancing. We’re doing temperature scans and the hand sanitizer. They use our flashlights, so we’re providing gloves and masks if they don’t have them.”

The maze will also be sanitized after each group of four finishes it.

“The kids around here really love it,” Ms. Carter said about the festivities. “It just brings the whole community together.”

It’s Wednesday — boo!

Dear Diary:

It was my first trip to the city as an adult. All I wanted was to see a drag queen I had seen once in a magazine.

I waited all night at Club Cumming, one eye always on the door. As she got out of her car, I ran up to her, and she held both of my hands in hers. I got goose bumps feeling her long acrylic nails press into my palm.

She wore black velvet and lip-synced to Gene Wilders’ speech from “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” that had always scared me as a child. Then she was gone.

The night before I was due home, I went to a tiny bar in Brooklyn hoping to see her one last time. There was only one person sitting on a stool by the door. We told each other stories and laughed about our broken hearts and the pieces we both still carried with us.

At dawn, I had to catch my flight.

— Elizabeth Teets

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