The federal judge presiding over the prosecution of the NXIVM sex cult case has released a blistering memo on his decision to sentence actor Allison Mack to three years in prison for her role in the aiding Keith Raniere, the self-help guru who is now a convicted sex trafficker serving a 120-year sentence.
U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis did not mince words. He faulted Mack for using her celebrity status as a star of the long-running CW drama “Smallville” to recruit others to submit to Raniere’s twisted desires. Mack’s ultimate downfall was her involvement in what was purported to be a women’s empowerment group known as DOS that turned out to involve master-slave relationships among members, some of whom were coerced into having sex with Raniere. Raniere was convicted on multiple counts of sex trafficking, racketeering, conspiracy and fraud and sentenced to 120 years in prison last year.
“You abused this position of power to persuade and pressure women to join DOS,” Garaufis wrote. “You capitalized on your celebrity and these individuals’ eagerness to be close to you, told them you were recruiting them for a “women’s empowerment” sorority, and misrepresented and obscured fundamental facts about the organization and the conditions of membership. You told them that Keith Raniere was not involved. You did not tell them that they would be required to engage in sexual conduct.”
Mack also received a $20,000 fine and 1,000 hours of community service. She will surrender to authorities on Sept. 29. Her attorneys have requested that she be allowed to serve her time in a federal prison on the West Coast as her family lives in Orange County.
Here are key excerpts from the judge’s sentencing memo:
Ms. Mack, you pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering and one count of racketeering conspiracy, predicated on conduct that included forced labor, extortion, sex trafficking, and wire fraud.
You admitted to conduct, in connection with your role as a “firstline master” in the secret organization DOS, that included recruiting women to join the organization and requiring them to serve as your “slaves.”
By many accounts, you were able to use your status as a well-known public figure to gain credibility and influence with Nxivm and DOS recruits. You abused this position of power to persuade and pressure women to join DOS. You capitalized on your celebrity and these individuals’ eagerness to be close to you, told them you were recruiting them for a “women’s empowerment” sorority, and misrepresented and obscured fundamental facts about the organization and the conditions of membership. You told them that Keith Raniere was not involved. You did not tell them that they would be required to engage in sexual conduct.
You required your “slaves” to provide “collateral,” both as a price of admission and on a continuing basis, in order to ensure their obedience and secrecy. The collateral that you extracted from your “slaves” included explicit photographs and videos, confessions and accusations that would damage them or their loved ones if released, and rights to significant financial assets. For example, one victim provided a sexually explicit video, credit card authorizations, a series of letters falsely alleging sexual abuse by a close family member, and the right to a family heirloom. She testified explicitly that she believed her collateral would be forfeited and made public if she reneged on her commitment to DOS. In other words, you demanded that these women give you the keys to the most intimate, personal, and valuable parts of themselves, so that you could maintain power over them and have leverage to direct them to do anything you wanted.
And what did you direct them to do, using your leverage? You directed them to subject themselves to extreme sleep and food deprivation and geographical isolation, and to perform uncompensated labor whenever asked, often for your own benefit or gain. You directed them to submit nude photographs of themselves, and to be branded on their pubic areas with a symbol that, unbeknownst to them, included Mr. Raniere’s initials. And in several cases, you directed your slaves to engage in sexual contact with Mr. Raniere. You used your leverage, your power over these women, to recruit and groom them as sexual partners for Mr. Raniere, and to pressure them into engaging in sexual acts that – according to their testimony – they did not want to engage in and would not have engaged in voluntarily.
This court, in sentencing Mr. Raniere, made it very clear how seriously it views the conduct for which he was convicted. When it comes to DOS, and the monstrous crimes he committed in connection with that organization, you were an essential accomplice. You willingly enslaved, destabilized, and manipulated other women so that when they were at their most vulnerable, when they believed that they owed you total obedience and that anything less than that would cause them serious personal and financial harm, when you had taken from them their sense of agency to make their own choices, you gave them “special assignments” to satisfy Mr. Raniere’s sexual interests. Mr. Raniere could not have done that without you. You did that together. The evidence presented at his trial demonstrated that you were not a begrudging or passive enabler, but rather that you were a willing and proactive ally.
The victims of your conduct have described, through their testimony at Mr. Raniere’s trial and through their letters and statements to the court, the serious psychological and physical injuries that they suffered at your hands. They have described your cruelty, your lies and manipulation, your apparent sadistic pleasure in watching them suffer, and your creative enthusiasm when it came to developing new ways to debase them. They have
described enduring psychological trauma as a result of your actions. The court acknowledges that to some of them, no sentence short of severe punishment will seem sufficient, and that no sentence of any length can truly redress their trauma.
The seriousness of your conduct and the harm that you wrought dovetails with the need for your sentence serve as a forceful deterrent – both for you, over the next many decades of your life, and for others who might be tempted to use their privileges and authority to inflict harm and exert control over the vulnerable and impressionable. For all of these reasons, I think that a serious sentence is appropriate.
There are also important mitigating factors, three of which I want to emphasize. First, your lawyers make a persuasive case that you, like the victims of your conduct, were ensnared in Mr. Raniere’s coercive and manipulative web. Like your victims, you turned over collateral in connection with your involvement in DOS. Like your victims, you were subject to abusive and unreasonable demands that were designed to destabilize you and deprive you of your agency. I don’t doubt that you were also manipulated and that you also felt captive, even as you were inflicting those very consequences on other women. In the language of DOS, you were a slave as well as a master, and the harms that you inflicted as a master were, to some extent, demanded of you in your capacity as Mr. Raniere’s slave. Even the letters from your victims reflect a kind of ambivalence: many of them see you both as their abuser and as a fellow victim. That is something that weighs on me. It is hard to determine an appropriate sentence for a perpetrator who is also her co-conspirator’s victim.
Second, you have expressed remorse and contrition and made significant progress towards rehabilitating yourself. And I see no reason to doubt that your efforts and your progress are sincere. In contrast to other individuals who have remained deferential to Mr. Raniere even as the artifice of his virtues crumbled, you have begun the hard work of unraveling the lies and grappling with your culpability and the consequences of your behavior. I don’t doubt that it has been difficult and painful to dispel some of the illusions under which you were operating and to attempt to see yourself and your behavior with a new kind of clarity. I commend you for having the courage to engage in that work.
Your contrition and ownership of your actions cannot repair the damage that you inflicted, but it is an important and encouraging step towards your own rehabilitation. I urge you to continue that work, during and after your sentence, so that you may better understand for yourself what happened, why it happened, what effects it had, and how you can ensure that it does not happen again.
Third, you have assisted the Government with its investigation and prosecution. As the Government described in its sentencing submission, you began to cooperate with their investigation approximately one month prior to Mr. Raniere’s trial. You provided key details about Mr. Raniere’s role in DOS, including his solicitation of nude photographs and sexual encounters. You turned over evidence, including emails, documents, and an audio recording that became a crucial piece of evidence at trial, in which Mr. Raniere devises the DOS branding ritual. According to the Government, you were willing to testify at trial, though you were not called upon to do so. The Government takes the position that while you could have been even more helpful if you had begun to cooperate sooner, you deserve a sentence below the Guidelines range in recognition of the assistance that you provided.
Taking all of this into consideration, my task today is to balance the need for a sentence that adequately punishes your serious conduct with the need for a sentence that supports rather than disrupts your efforts towards rehabilitation. There will be more chapters to your life after your sentence concludes, and it is the court’s hope that you will be ready and able to make the most of those chapters, and that the family and community that have supported you through the last three years will aid you in continuing your work of rehabilitation as you move through your sentence, and as you eventually move beyond it.
I have considered the range of sentences that are available, and the range suggested by the Sentencing Guidelines. I have also considered the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities between you and other defendants who have been convicted of similar conduct. I have considered my obligation to impose a sentence that is sufficient but not greater than necessary to achieve the objectives of sentencing. I agree with the Government, and with your lawyers, that a downward departure from the Guidelines range is warranted in this case. A sentence even in the lower end of that range would be much greater than necessary.
At the same time, for the reasons I have explained, I believe that the nature and consequences of your offense and the need for deterrence warrant a serious sentence. While I accept your contrition as sincere and your efforts toward rehabilitation as genuine, it is impossible to ignore the tremendous injuries that you caused. For that reason, I believe that a carceral sentence is appropriate.