A witness at the Brooklyn federal court trial of alleged sex-cult guru Keith Raniere testified Thursday that she discovered in 2006 that the leader of the NXIVM self-help group was having sex with her then-16-year-old sister.
Daniela, one of three Mexican sisters involved with Raniere whose last name is being withheld in testimony, said she confronted the man revered by NXIVM adherents as “Vanguard” about his involvement with her younger sister Camila.
“He said there are some women who are more emotionally mature than others,” she testified.
Raniere, 58, is accused of using NXIVM as a hunting ground to exploit women and forming a secret “master-slave” society that used nude pictures and other blackmail to extort women into having sex with him. He is charged with conspiracy, racketeering, sex trafficking and other crimes.
Prosecutors say they found a naked picture of Camila on a bed at age 15 in a search of a Raniere computer. Daniela, whose testimony resumes on Tuesday, is expected to detail how she was confined in a room for misbehavior for nearly two years after an affair with Raniere beginning when she was 18.
In her testimony Thursday, Daniela, 33, gave jurors a gripping account of how she and two sisters grew up in a well-off Mexican family that became enamored of Raniere’s philosophy, but ended up as part of an extended harem exposed to Raniere’s odd sexual behavior.
She decided to spend a year helping NXIVM in Albany believing that Raniere had developed a mathematical formula showing the world was about to end, but could be saved by NXIVM and the philosophy of its advanced leader. That initial attraction, she said, turned out to be an illusion.
“It was a lie,” she testified.
Daniela said she performed mostly menial tasks in Albany. When her 18th birthday approached, Daniela testified, Raniere became flirtatious and broached sex — on condition that she lose 20 pounds, and get less fat. “He said he couldn’t share his sexual energy with someone like that,” she said.
For her very first sexual encounter, Daniela testified, Raniere took her to an abandoned office in an office park, and had her strip and get on a “dirty mattress” on the floor. After oral sex, she said, he got on top of her. They didn’t have intercourse, she said, but he insisted they did and she was “too in your head” to realize it.
After that, she said, he had her come to her house and be available to perform oral sex every day, sometimes multiple times. He told her other women saw “blue lights” during that experience, because of his mystical powers, but Daniela didn’t.
He drew her into three-way sex with other women, Daniela said, and even tried to have a session with her and her older sister, who was also having an affair with Raniere. Then, he moved on to Camila. By that time, Daniela testified, she was so mixed up that she felt both concern and jealousy, and didn’t protect her younger sister.
“I feel a lot of shame about this,” she testified. “…I wish I had done something different. What happened is not right.”
The trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday.