Highlights From Judge Garaufis' Sentencing of Clare Bronfman
You can read the full 27-page document at :
[The sentencing guidelines would suggest a sentence from 21 to 27 months. Garaufis goes on to explain how and why he would depart vigorously upward in his sentencing. Instead of 21 to 27 months, he gave her 3 times as much: 81 months.]
"It is well-established law that the Sentencing Guidelines are merely advisory, rather than binding on a district court."
"Accordingly, Supreme Court and Second Circuit precedent require that I determine an independently “reasonable” sentence based on an 'individualized application of the statutory sentencing factors'."
"[T]he crimes of conviction, standing alone, do not fully encompass the larger pattern of misdeeds perpetrated by Ms. Bronfman."
"[T]he crimes to which Ms. Bronfman has pleaded guilty exist in the larger context of the crimes committed by her co-defendants, including Keith Raniere."
[Judge Garaufis goes on to enumerate Keith Raniere's crimes.]
"To be crystal clear, Ms. Bronfman was not convicted of any of those crimes. Ms. Bronfman was not convicted of participating in any racketeering activity. And there are many aspects of Raniere’s crimes with which Ms. Bronfman very well may not have been familiar. […] I agree with Ms. Bronfman that the available evidence does not establish that she was aware of DOS prior to June 2017 or that she directly or knowingly funded DOS or other sex trafficking activities. However, I believe that this background […] is relevant context for my analysis of the appropriate sentence for Ms. Bronfman. Ms. Bronfman’s crimes were not committed in a vacuum. They were committed in connection with her role in Nxivm and her close relationship with Raniere, and I believe that it would be inappropriate for me to consider them divorced from that context."
"I have reviewed the parties’ sentencing submissions. I have read the 67 letters submitted in support of Ms. Bronfman, as well as the many victim letters that have been submitted. I have listened carefully to the victim statements made here today in court. And I have heard and considered counsel’s arguments."
Garaufis will make repeated references to the "18 U.S. Code § 3553. Imposition of a sentence".
"It is well-settled that the scope of a sentencing judge’s inquiry when analyzing the § 3553(a) factors is 'largely unlimited as to the kind of information [the district court] may consider, and it is free to consider evidence of uncharged crimes, dropped counts of an indictment, and criminal activity resulting in an acquittal in determining sentence'."
"[T]he Second Circuit has repeatedly held that a sentencing court is entitled to rely on information 'gleaned from a trial in which the person to be sentenced was neither a defendant nor represented by counsel'.”
"I must consider several factors in imposing a sentence, including  the nature and circumstances of the offense; the defendant’s history and characteristics;  the need for the sentence to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment for the offense;  the need for the sentence to afford adequate deterrence;  and the need to protect the public."
"Ms. Bronfman’s conduct underlying her conviction on Count One was particularly egregious because it was not only dishonest with respect to the United States government, but it was also dishonest and damaging with respect to the individuals whom she harbored."
"Ms. Bronfman helped Jane Doe 12 to obtain a visa by representing that she would make $3,600 per month as a “management consultant” […]. Instead, Jane Doe 12 was barely compensated for her work. Her email correspondence with Ms. Bronfman shows that she repeatedly made Ms. Bronfman aware that Ms. Bronfman’s failure to deliver on the terms of the employment agreement had left her in dire financial straits".
"Ms. Bronfman, despite her financial means and earlier commitments to the contrary, explained that she “couldn’t pay [her]” because she had failed to enroll enough participants […] to generate sufficient revenue."
"Ms. Bronfman also used Jane Doe 12’s immigration status as a means of pressuring her to continue working without compensation. When Jane Doe 12 emailed Ms. Bronfman to ask if she could look for another job, Ms. Bronfman replied that it 'would impact the work agreement' and cause possible visa issues"
"I find by a preponderance of the evidence that Ms. Bronfman refused to honor the terms of Jane Doe 12’s employment agreement, demanded work from Jane Doe 12 without compensation, and emotionally manipulated Jane Doe 12 into believing that her own personal failures and job performance—not Ms. Bronfman’s refusal to pay her—were the cause of her precarious financial situation."
"Moreover, the evidence suggests that this kind of conduct was part of a pattern. Ms. Bronfman obtained a visa for another non-citizen so that she could supposedly earn $3,600 per month as a management consultant. Three months later, that woman emailed Ms. Bronfman to say that she had not been 'prepared for no income'.”
"Ms. Bronfman helped obtain a visa for another non-citizen, a woman from India, and actually paid her a salary—but then required that the woman pay her back when the work responsibilities she was given were less than fulltime."
"[…] Ms. Bronfman made promises to immigrants that she did not keep, exacted labor that she did not pay for, and took advantage of these individuals’ financial straits and immigration statuses, in a manner that exacerbated both their financial and emotional vulnerabilities and made them more reliant on her and the Nxivm community, sometimes with very harmful consequences."
"Ms. Bronfman’s use of credit card and bank account information belonging to a deceased individual who had been a close associate of hers and Raniere’s. […] The Government suggests that this conduct was consistent with Raniere’s habit of keeping expenses out of his name in an effort to avoid tax liability."
"[…] I find, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Ms. Bronfman’s conduct in committing this offense helped to facilitate those efforts on Raniere’s part, regardless of whether or not that is what Ms. Bronfman understood herself to be doing."
"Ms. Bronfman is a person of considerable privilege and wealth; so much so, in fact, that she was able to give Nxivm and other Raniere associated endeavors more than $100,000,000. There is nothing wrong with being wealthy, of course. But I am troubled by evidence suggesting that Ms. Bronfman repeatedly and consistently leveraged her wealth and social status as a means of intimidating, controlling, and punishing individuals whom Raniere perceived as his adversaries, particularly Nxivm’s detractors and critics."
"But the record is clear that she used her incredible wealth and attempted to use her social status and connections not only to support Nxivm’s work, but also as a means of intimidating, threatening, and exacting revenge upon individuals who dared to challenge its dogma."
[Judge Garaufis goes on to describe how Raniere turned Clare against her own father, who classified Nxivm as 'cult'.]
"Initially, the plan to access Mr. Bronfman’s emails was that Ms. Bronfman, given her relationship with her father, would send him email messages containing a link to software that, when opened, would infect his computer and provide Jane Doe 4 access to his emails. […] Ms. Bronfman ended up physically plugging a USB drive given to her by Jane Doe 4 into her father’s computer, clicking on the necessary software, and infecting the computer locally."
"And I am troubled by Ms. Bronfman’s dismissive characterization of this incident as a “family dispute.” This is serious conduct, and it became more than a “family dispute” the moment that Ms. Bronfman gave access to her father’s email account to individuals who were outside of the family, and who in fact considered her father to be an 'enemy'."
[In this most consequential section, the Judge examines Clare's claim of ignorance about the branding sex-cult DOS.]
"There is ample evidence, however, that as Ms. Bronfman was confronted with information about DOS, and therefore necessarily became aware of it, she doubled down on her support of Raniere and pursued her now-familiar practice of attacking his critics."
"And what I do consider relevant, is Ms. Bronfman’s awareness, in , of DOS victims urgently reaching out to recover their 'collateral'—including, as Ms. Bronfman now knew, nude photographs and videos—and expressing obvious fear that this collateral would be exposed. With this knowledge, Ms. Bronfman could have begun to distance herself from Raniere and attempt to help those who were clearly in need. Instead, she chose to double-down on her support for Raniere, even helping to facilitate further intimidation of DOS victims."
"The trend continued for Ms. Bronfman. In December 2017, Ms. Bronfman issued a public statement in which she falsely characterized DOS as a 'sorority' that 'truly benefited the lives of its members, and does so freely'."
"What Ms. Bronfman did know at the time, however, was that DOS victims were reaching out to Lauren Salzman asking for their “collateral” of nude photographs and videos to be returned. She knew that Raniere had sent threatening letters to DOS victims—letters she helped draft and send."
"She knew that in October of 2017, the New York Times published an expose on DOS, in which, for example, former DOS “slave” Sarah Edmondson describes getting branded and saying, as instructed, “Master, please brand me, it would be an honor."
"Bronfman has contributed $13,800,000 to an irrevocable trust created to pay the legal fees of Raniere and other co-defendants. […] I find this behavior indicative of Ms. Bronfman’s allegiance to Raniere—whatever the cost, whomever it hurt—and highly relevant to the application of the § 3553(a) factors to Ms. Bronfman’s sentence."
"Ms. Bronfman came to learn details about DOS and faced a choice as to whose interests she would protect: Raniere’s or his victims’. She chose Raniere unequivocally, and to this day she has not clearly apologized for that choice, admitted that her actions were harmful, or conceded that her loyalty was misplaced."
"I also find it relevant that Ms. Bronfman’s allegiance to Raniere shines through again and again. She has paid his legal fees and, to this day, maintains that he 'greatly changed [her] life for the better'."
"In determining an appropriate sentence, I also consider the need for the sentence that I impose to reflect the seriousness of the offense, promote respect for the law, and provide just punishment. As I have mentioned, the offenses of conviction, particularly on Count One, were more serious here than those crimes might ordinarily be under other circumstances."
"In terms of promoting respect for the law, I am mindful of Ms. Bronfman’s history of seeking to manipulate the legal system to her advantage, both in her execution of the offenses of conviction and, for example, by seeking to leverage her social connections to have criminal charges brought against Raniere’s critics. This is not a defendant who has shown great respect for the law, and a just punishment must take that into account."
"I also need to consider the extent to which the sentence will operate as a deterrent. Ms. Bronfman’s circumstances are rather unique: I don’t know how many other multimillionaires are out there, ready to devote the limitless resources at their disposal to supporting pyramid schemes run by dangerous criminals and stifling the voices of their critics and victims."
"I also need to consider whether the sentence will protect the public from further crimes committed by Ms. Bronfman. I believe that Ms. Bronfman has been chastened by this experience, and she has expressed remorse for the crimes to which she has pleaded guilty. I don’t doubt her sincerity. It does, however, concern me that she continues to stand by Raniere and believe in his work, even as he stands convicted of truly heinous conduct."
"There is no mandatory minimum sentence for the offenses of conviction, and Ms. Bronfman requests a non-custodial sentence. I have considered that possibility, but given the nature and circumstances of the offenses and the context in which they were committed, my view is that a non-custodial sentence would be insufficient."
"I have considered sentences that are below the Guidelines range and sentences that are within that range. And I have considered sentences that are above that range, up to and including the statutory maximums of 10 years on Count One and 15 years on Count Two."
"Because these sentences may be imposed either concurrently or consecutively, the combined statutory maximum I can sentence Ms. Bronfman to is 25 years."
"I have considered the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities between Ms. Bronfman and other defendants who have been convicted of similar conduct. But I find, for the reasons I have explained, that the context of Ms. Bronfman’s criminal conduct places her in an altogether different category from other defendants who are convicted of the same offenses, and therefore her circumstances defy easy comparison."
"As I have already explained, I find that the seriousness of her offenses, viewed in the context of her other conduct and the conduct of her co-defendants to whom she remains loyal, justifies a serious sentence. As one aspect of that sentence, I am imposing the statutory maximum fine of $500,000. I select this fine amount not because Ms. Bronfman is wealthy, but because I believe that the nature and seriousness of her conduct warrants such a substantial fine, and because I find that her personal financial circumstances do not preclude me from imposing it."
"In determining an appropriate sentence, I am guided by the Second Circuit’s instruction that I use the Guidelines 'as an initial benchmark, and then make an informed and individualized sentencing determination, taking into account all the statutory factors'. […] Applying the statutory factors to this case, I find that a substantial upward variance is appropriate."
"[T]he nature and circumstances of Ms. Bronfman’s offenses exacted a harm not reflected in the Guidelines and placed her conduct outside the ordinary realm for these offenses."
"[H]er repeated attempts to leverage her wealth and status as a sword against Raniere’s enemies and her decision, as she became aware of DOS, to remain steadfast in her support of Raniere— lead to the conclusion that a sentence greater than the upper limit of the Guidelines is warranted."
"I therefore sentence Ms. Bronfman as follows:  a prison sentence of 81 months, which is three times the high end of the Guidelines range and which takes into account the severity of Ms. Bronfman’s illegal behavior;  a fine in the amount of $500,000, the statutory maximum, payable immediately;  a $200 Special Assessment, also due immediately;  three years of post-incarceration supervised release on each count, to be served concurrently;  and restitution of $96,605.25 to Jane Doe 12 on Count One. Finally, I also enter  a forfeiture money judgment of $6,000,000—which Ms. Bronfman consented to in her plea agreement—payable within 30 days."
SO ORDERED. Dated: Brooklyn,
New York September 30, 2020
NICHOLAS G. GARAUFIS United States District Judge
[Clare Bronfman was remanded, and left the courthouse in handcuffs to the same Brooklyn jail Raniere is in.]