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NXIVM Trials Now – Where Everyone in HBO’s The Vow is Today
After eight long hours of poorly paced filler footage, it should not come as a surprise that the first season of HBO’s The Vow died the way it lived. (You read that right. The epically drawn-out documentary series has somehow been renewed for a second season.) The ninth and final episode of this season features a long-winded ESP Mexico tangent, and only finally arrives at the current status of NXIVM in the last five minutes of the episode. It glosses over any and all interesting details of the arrests and trials, which presumably will be covered in Season 2 instead. But so as to give you, the loyal viewer, what you deserve after making it through nine hours of old Mark Vicente footage, here’s an update on the current standings of the NXIVM trials and major players today.
In July of 2018, NXIVM financial backer and Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman was indicted on several charges including racketeering, identity theft, and money laundering along with Keith Raniere, Allison Mack, Nancy and Lauren Salzman, and Kathy Russell, NXIVM’s bookkeeper. Bronfman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain, as well as fraudulent use of identification. If she had gone to trial, she could have faced up to 25 years in prison, but her plea deal brought her projected sentencing guidelines down to 21-27 months. Still, the judge informed prosecutors and Bronfman’s attorney in December of 2019 that he was considering an “above guidelines sentence” for Clare, meaning he could impose more prison time than would normally be given under sentencing guidelines. Bronfman remained loyal to Raniere throughout, writing in an August 28 letter to the judge that “Many people, including most of my own family, believe I should disavow Keith and NXIVM, and that I have not is hard for them to understand or accept. However, for me, NXIVM and Keith greatly changed my life for the better.” The first of the defendants to be sentenced, she received six years and nine months in prison after nine former members of NXIVM testified against her on September 30. Bronfman is imprisoned at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center along with Raniere currently, and her attorney told CNN that “She intends to mount a vigorous and immediate appeal.”
Actress Allison Mack (R) departs the United States Eastern District Court after a bail hearing in relation to the sex trafficking charges filed against her on May 4, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
Smallville actress and DOS first-line master (meaning she reported directly to Raniere within the “women’s only” secret society) Allison Mack was charged in 2018 with crimes including racketeering conspiracy, sex trafficking, and forced labor conspiracy. She pleaded guilty to the least salacious of those against her—racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges—in order to avoid trial, and faces up to 40 years in prison. She is currently released on bond and awaiting sentencing.
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Nancy Salzman, the “Prefect” of NXIVM and Keith’s co-founder, is strangely glossed over by The Vow. But the finale contains a brief Salzman interview—although her face is hidden—where she appears at home confined on bond with a tracker on her ankle. Along with Raniere, Bronfman, Mack, and her daughter Lauren, Salzman was arrested for an array of crimes in 2018. She pleaded guilty to only racketeering conspiracy, and was the first out of Keith’s co-defendants to take a plea and break her allegiance to Raniere. She faces a sentence of between 33 and 41 months and a maximum fine of $250,000, and is awaiting sentencing.
Nancy’s daughter Lauren Salzman, a first-line DOS master along with Mack, was also arrested on racketeering conspiracy charges including trafficking, forced labor, and extortion in 2018. Lauren was responsible, along with Raniere, for trafficking a victim and confining her to a room for almost two years as a punishment for having feelings for a man that was not Keith. Salzman threatened that if the victim left the room, she would be sent to Mexico without any identification documents. The younger Salzman pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and racketeering charges so as to circumvent trial. She was the only co-defendant of Raniere to testify against him in court, where she detailed hellish conditions of DOS life and spoke of his plans to build a “dungeon” in an Albany “sorority house” in order to hold and punish slaves. Lauren remains under house arrest at present as she awaits sentencing.
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As shown in The Vow’s finale, “Vanguard” Keith Raniere was arrested in Mexico and extradited back to the United States in February of 2018. He was charged with crimes including racketeering, sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy, and wire fraud conspiracy. Raniere was the only defendant to plead not guilty, and he was convicted by a Brooklyn jury of all counts against him in less than five hours during his June 2019 trial. He faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years imprisonment and up to life in prison, and his sentencing is set for October 27. As The Vow shows, Raniere is currently imprisoned in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, where a group of supporters allegedly dance outside in support of him every night. Definitely not cult-y at all.
In addition to this, another lawsuit was filed against NXIVM leadership in January of 2020 by over 80 ex-NXIVM plaintiffs, many of which filed under pseudonyms. This civil suit alleges that Raniere, Salzman, Clare and Sara Bronfman, and Allison Mack, among others, conspired to systemically abuse, manipulate, and extort members of the organization. The suit is pending “final adjudication” and sentencing in the government’s criminal case against Raniere, and no defendant has yet filed responses to the allegations.
Lauren Kranc is an editorial assistant at Esquire, where she covers pop culture and television, with entirely too narrow of an expertise on Netflix dating shows.
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