source: New York Times
Nxivm Trial: Sex Cult Leader Confined Woman in a Room for 2 Years in Jealous Rage
In four days of testimony, a young undocumented woman from Mexico testified that the leader of the group, Keith Raniere, punished her for being attracted to someone else.
For almost two years the young woman lived inside a single room with a thin foam pad as her only furniture and a cheap pen as her only tool of communication.
She had been consigned there by Keith Raniere, the leader of the cultlike group Nxivm, she said. Mr. Raniere told others her solitude was meant to cure her of the sin of excessive pride. But the woman, Daniela, said he had ordered her confinement as punishment for her romantic interest in another man.
Over the many months in the room, the woman sought forgiveness in hundreds of notes to Mr. Raniere, she testified in his racketeering and sex trafficking trial in Federal District Court in Brooklyn.
“Today I feel that inside this room I’m in a kind of trance,” she wrote to him in a letter dated Oct. 5, 2010. “Being in here is simply insane.”
In four days of testimony spread over two weeks, Daniela, who was identified in court only by her first name, recounted her rise and fall within Nxivm. Her status was dictated, she said, by whether she was sexually available to Mr. Raniere. Eventually, even her parents were enlisted to help punish her.
Her trajectory illustrated the extreme control Mr. Raniere had over Nxivm members and his ability to dictate social standing within the group, as well as his apparent willingness to retaliate against those who defied him.
Daniela painted a bleak portrait of her life in the room, which was on the top floor of a home near Albany that her parents had rented. Although the door was unlocked, Daniela was told that if she left without permission, she would be cut off from her parents, brother and two sisters.
While confined, she wore the same clothes for weeks at a time. Meals were left outside the door. The only person she was allowed to see was a senior Nxivm member assigned by Mr. Raniere to help Daniela repair what he called an “ethical breach.” She said she said she felt she was losing her grip on reality.
“It was harder and harder to keep the darkness at bay,” she testified.
At the start of his cross-examination on Thursday, one of Mr. Raniere’s lawyers, Marc Agnifilo, appeared to question Daniela’s credibility, asking about how she once deceived border patrol agents while entering the United States illegally. He also asked about how she had later obtained a fake identification card for a sister to use while traveling.