In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Keith Raniere, center, sits with attorneys Paul DerOhannesian, left, and Marc Agnifilo during closing arguments at Brooklyn federal court, Tuesday, June 18, 2019 in New York. A federal prosecutor said Raniere used his NXIVM organization to "tap into a never-ending flow of women and money." Attorneys for the defendant say he had no criminal intent and that his sexual encounters with followers were consensual. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

Self-Help Guru Keith Raniere Found Guilty In NXIVM Sex Cult Trial

June 19, 2019 - 2:59 pm
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) — The former self-help guru who was accused of operating a sex cult in upstate New York was convicted Wednesday.

A jury in Brooklyn federal court took less than five hours to find Keith Raniere guilty on all counts of sex-trafficking and other charges accusing him of coercing women into unwanted sex using systematic shame and humiliation.

"Raniere was truly a modern-day Svengali," Brooklyn United States Attorney Richard Donoghue said outside court, calling the 58-year-old a lying manipulator who "ruined marriages, careers, fortunes and lives."

Raniere listened attentively, but showed no reaction as he learned the verdict.

His lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, said Raniere plans to appeal.

"Keith maintains his innocence. It's a very sad day for him," Agnifilo said. "I think he's not surprised, but he maintains that he didn't mean to do anything wrong."

Raniere had been accused of using his self-help group, called NXIVM, to abuse and hold captive women as sex slaves.  

On Monday, prosecutors said Raniere was a “con man,” “predator” and “crime boss" who used NXIVM to “tap into a never-ending flow of women and money.”

Defense attorneys for Raniere said he never had any criminal intent and that his encounters with “followers” were consensual.

Raniere once had an international following with a foothold in Hollywood. His adherents included TV actress Allison Mack, best known for her role as a friend of a young Superman in the series "Smallville"; a Seagram's liquor fortune heiress, Clare Bronfman; and a daughter of TV actress Catherine Oxenberg of "Dynasty" fame.

Mack and Bronfman, who were named as defendants with Raniere in a federal indictment, pleaded guilty before they could go to trial with him. They didn't testify at his trial.

Among the more damning allegations against Raniere were that he had some women branded with his initials and that he started having sex with one of his followers starting at age 15. Prosecutors said he took a series of nude photos of the teen that were shown at trial, one by one, to the eight women and four men who comprised the jury.

Raniere's sentencing is set for Sept. 25. He faces life in prison.

(© 2019 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report)