Cults, True Crime

#NXIVM: Arrest of 4 Women, Including 1 “Broke” Girl?!

Four women who had miraculously avoided arrest until yesterday, were finally handcuffed, and the gravity of their crimes were officially cemented in the headlines following widespread talk and speculation.

The Frank Report and major news outlets reported that Seagram’s liquor heiress Clare Bronfman, 39, the daughter of late billionaire philanthropist Edgar Bronfman, was arrested, along with NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman, 64, her daughter, Lauren Salzman, 42, and the group’s 60-year-old bookkeeper, Kathy Russell. This occurred yesterday on Tuesday, July 24th.

BBC.com reports:

Court documents allege Ms Bronfman, a member of Nxivm’s executive board, was involved in the identity theft of at least two women – including a deceased sexual partner of Mr Raniere. She is also accused of encouraging and assisting in an alleged Nxivm victim’s illegal entry into the US.In a note published on her website last December, Ms Bronfman said she still supported Nxivm after seeing “so much good come from both our programmes and from Keith himself”. Her lawyer Susan Necheles said in a statement that Nxivm was “not a criminal enterprise” but “an organization that helped thousands of people,” according to US media. “The charges against Clare are the result of government overreaching and charging an individual with crimes just because the government disagrees with some beliefs taught by Nxivm and held by Clare,” Ms Necheles said.

As for the other 3 women who were arrested? They, along with Keith Raniere and Allison Mack

are accused of racketeering conspiracy, or attempting to illegally obtain or extort money, and could face up to 20 years in jail, plus an additional maximum 15 years for identity theft conspiracy. The US Department of Justice says the group committed “an array of crimes, including identity theft, extortion, forced labor, sex trafficking, money laundering, wire fraud and obstruction of justice”. FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said on Tuesday that “the details of these alleged crimes become more and more grim as we continue to dig deeper into the conduct of this organization and its intended mission”.

If you examine pictures of Clare Bronfman from yesterday, you’ll notice that she looks even thinner (note the arms) than she had a couple of years ago. This emaciation is less than modelesque-chic and appears to age her beyond her 39 years. This is not only due to stress, no doubt, but mainly attributable to the starvation diet notoriously associated with NXIVM – and in particular, in keeping with the rules of its DOS (sexual slavery) division.

Clare is also reportedly “broke” for a billionaire heiress after pouring her funds into NXIVM. She was also allegedly assisting with NXIVM founder/”Vanguard” Keith Raniere’s legal defense team. She has a sister, Sara Bronfman, 42, who was in NXIVM and who she may be seriously counting on for financial help (according to Frank Parlato of The Frank Report).

I am wondering if the sister is at risk of being arrested as well. From my understanding, her involvement in the cult had minimized over the years as compared to her more active sibling who took the reigns from Raniere following his arrest. Clare was also extremely active in the terrorism by litigation of NXIVM defectors, former members who had seen the light about the group and its founder and were subjected to endless bogus lawsuits.

This story is still developing….

(Pictured: Clare Bronfman, BBC.com)

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Documentary, True Crime

#Netflix: “The Staircase” & the Peterson Name

With a variety of different spellings, a number of Petersons (all unrelated to one another) have been in the news for murder charges. Some people think the sketchiest Peterson (my opinion), Scott, is innocent or not guilty of killing his pregnant wife Laci and have posed alternate theories. There may be some reasonable doubt in that case, but because of all the lies Scott told, I have a problem believing him when he says he’s innocent. My friend Jennifer Lewin Yates was consulted for her psychic prowess on the Reality Life with Kate Casey podcast and she feels strongly that Scott should be absolved of the murder, that Lacy met her fate independently of him.

There’s been little to no question about Drew and the evil attached to his name. He married several much younger women and when his fourth wife Stacy mysteriously disappeared and was never found, it was after his third wife had met a sinister demise. There’s nothing “sketchy” about him – it’s blatant. He went on to be charged with soliciting a hit man in an attempted murder-for-hire of Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow.

The one Peterson who is not in prison now is featured on the very popular series The Staircase, now available on Netflix. He is American Novelist Michael Peterson who discovered his wife Kathleen at the bottom of their staircase bloody, after a fatal fall. However, there might have been more than simply a fall as her injuries included a “fracture of the thyroid neck cartilage and seven lacerations to the top and back of her head.” (Wikipedia)

As with Scott Peterson, so much was made about Michael Peterson’s double life, specifically the fact that he was bisexual and emails discovered on his computer that were written to a male escort. Michael claimed that Kathleen knew he was bisexual, that they loved each other and had an idyllic marriage despite that, and only discussed his sexual proclivities “obliquely” and infrequently.

Friends who were interviewed described their marriage as appearing to be the perfect one, that they never fought (a claim that would arouse my own suspicions. Arguing – here and there – with one’s spouse has always been the norm to me) and seemed like the couple every other couple wanted to be. The “secret” of Michael’s bisexuality was as much on trial as the man himself. Kathleen’s sisters and daughter from her first marriage turned on the once beloved Michael. I should refrain from spoiling every last detail of the documentary, but let’s just say I began to have my doubts about whether Michael was guilty or not. He’s a very charming, seemingly benign older man (74 today) whose children, save for that one stepdaughter, adore him. There’s something endearing about this intellectual, who I think some viewers will deem cocky, and after serving eight years in prison that severely aged him, I don’t personally see him as a danger to society.

Kathleen’s sisters and daughter are understandably livid that an initial “life in prison” sentence didn’t stick. However, after hearing about evidence tampering and incorrect statements regarding the alleged murder weapon (a blow poke to the head), I am left with reasonable doubt.

There is so much detail to this case and generally, a ton more involved than I described above. It is very likely that the producers of this film manipulated viewers by showing Michael with his children and grandchildren as the doting, elder, grieving family man. And then later: the doting, elder, grieving family man severely broken down by his eight year prison stint. Because of how the prosecution and it’s witnesses botched the presentation of evidence, it’s hard to argue against reasonable doubt and whether Michael is or isn’t where he should be now.

This is the type of post in which I’d love to see readers weigh in. If you’ve seen The Staircase or are all caught up on the Michael Peterson case, please share your thoughts in the comments.

I’m also curious to know if there’s any other surname in history that has sparked as much attention as the Peterson name has within the arena of True Crime.

(Photo credit: Netflix)

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