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Prosecutors Seek Testimony From Woman Alleging Underage Sex Abuse By Nxivm Founder

A courtroom sketch of Keith Raniere.
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A courtroom sketch of Keith Raniere. Elizabeth Williams/AP/Shutterstock

Federal prosecutors seek testimony from a woman Nxivm founder Keith Raniere allegedly abused in the early 1990s, when she was a minor. They reportedly hope putting Jane Doe X on the witness stand will help establish Raniere's alleged pattern of predation on underage girls.

Prosecutors recently added child pornography charges to Raniere's docket—which includes, but is by no means limited to, various counts of fraud; identity theft; forced labor conspiracy; and sex trafficking—alleging that the purported cult leader took sexually exploitative photos of a 15-year-old girl (Jane Doe 2). With the help of other high-ranking Nxivm members, Raniere allegedly leveraged his position of power to engage two underage women in sex, which would qualify as statutory rape due to the victims' age at the time.

The statute of limitations has expired on the case brought by Jane Doe X, who filed a police report on Raniere in 1993, about two years after she stopped having sex with him. The woman previously recalled the alleged abuse in a Nxivm exposé by the Times Union: She said she met Raniere at age 12, when she was in the 7th grade and had just moved to Clifton Park, New York, in the wake of her parents' divorce. Her mother worked for one of Raniere's reported pyramid-scheme operations, and trusted him when he offered to tutor her pre-teen daughter. Instead, Raniere allegedly began grooming Jane Doe X. According to the Times Union, Raniere "taught her how to hug pelvis-to-pelvis," encouraged her to open up about her emotions, and gave her gifts.

"They told me I was smart and took an interest in me; they let me spend every afternoon at their house," the woman told the Times Union, remembering how Raniere and his late girlfriend, Pamela Cafritz, welcomed her into their fold. "It was exciting to be somewhere where people wanted me. I was perfect picking—insecure at the time. ...To have someone that mature and that well-thought-of to be interested in me, it was flattering. I was young, inexperienced, overwhelmed, out of my league."

Jane Doe X, who said she was a virgin when she met Raniere, told the Times Union that Raniere raped her dozens of times in various locations when she was 12 and 13, and that the arrangement took a psychological toll: Her performance at school suffered, she began running away from home, and according to school district records that mention suspicion of "sexual molestation," from detention centers. She seems to have completed most of her high school education in a day treatment program that specializes in "sex abuse prevention and intervention," pursuant psychiatric evaluations.

Despite having reported Raniere to New York state police, she told the Times Union that the case hit a dead end when she declined to meet up with Raniere while wearing a wire. Still, she was clear: "He took my innocence. I can never get that back."

Because Jane Doe X was allegedly around the same age when she knew Raniere, and because he reportedly exploited a similar mentoring arrangement with Jane Doe 2, prosecutors hope the parallels will establish a pattern of behavior.

Meanwhile, the NY Daily News reports that one of Raniere's top lieutenants, Smallville's Allison Mack, may testify against him at trial. The actress pleaded guilty earlier this month, and as his second-in-command, might be able to offer some insight into Nxivm's inner workings. Raniere and his cohort were accused of luring women into a "self-help" group, and subsequently inducting some into a secret sorority. These women were literally branded as sex slaves to Raniere, according to prosecutors; kept under tight surveillance, siloed from the outside world, and made to labor for their "masters." According to the Daily News, because of sex abuse at Raniere's hands, Nxivm members had to get "dozens of abortions," which the organization's leader reportedly treated as just another birth control method.

Opening arguments in the case against Raniere are currently slated to begin on May 7th. Speaking to the NY Post, his lawyer—Marc Agnifilo—denied Jane Doe X's account: "These are allegations that were made and investigated and discounted 20 years ago. We don't think they should play any role at the trial."

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