Keith Raniere, who ran a cult-like group that kept women as virtual sex prisoners in upstate New York, was sentenced to 120 years in prison on Tuesday. Raniere was convicted on federal sex trafficking, racketeering and possession of child pornography charges last year for his role in the alleged sex cult called NXIVM (pronounced “nexium”). The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who presided over the six-week trial last year that ended in Raniere convicted on all counts.
Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme said he hopes the sentence will serve as a deterrence to any aspiring cult leaders. “When justice catches up to you, as it did today, it is severe,” DuCharme told reporters outside court in Brooklyn. “Keith Raniere will not be able to victimize people anymore after today’s sentence and we’re very grateful for that.”
In a jailhouse interview that aired Friday on “Dateline NBC,” Raniere apologized for the “tragedy” and “hurt” he caused victims — but also said that he’s not guilty of any crimes. “I am innocent,” Raniere said, adding, “This is a horrible tragedy with many, many people being hurt. There is a horrible injustice here. And whether you think I’m the devil or not, the justice process has to be examined.”
NXIVM’s president, Nancy Salzman, her daughter Lauren Salzman, bookkeeper Kathy Russell and Claire Bronfman, the Seagram liquor heiress, have all pleaded guilty to various charges. Bronfman was a key NXIVM benefactor and sentenced to 81 behind bars.