Health & Fitness

Nxivm trial: alleged sex cult leader tried to ‘break’ female followers, says witness

Mark Vicente, a key witness at Keith Ranieres trial, said women would also push their diets as penance if they made mistakes

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Several female members of an alleged New York sex cult, including the actor Allison Mack, became dangerously thin after following near-starvation diets at the direction of the groups leader, a 12-year veteran of the group testified in court on Monday.

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Film-maker Mark Vicente is a key prosecution witness at the criminal trial of Keith Raniere, whom authorities have accused of forcing female slaves within his Nxivm organization to have sex with him, lose weight and allow themselves to be branded with his initials.

Vicente, who left Nxivm in 2017, said he told Raniere that Mack seemed broken.

Raniere, he said, responded: Im trying to break her.

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Mack, who starred in the TV series Smallville for a decade, is one of five co-defendants, including Seagram liquor heiress Clare Bronfman, who have pleaded guilty to Nxivm-related crimes.

Vicente told jurors in US district court in Brooklyn the women would push their diets even further, limiting themselves to a few hundred calories a day, as penance if they made mistakes.

There seemed to be kind of a club of young women gathering around Allison Mack, and they just didnt look healthy, he said.

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Vicente previously told jurors Ranieres recruits came to view him as some kind of god, thanks to a sales pitch that portrayed him as a genius of unparalleled insight.

Prosecutors say Raniere traded on that status to force female slaves who joined a secretive sorority within Nxivm to follow his every command. The slaves were required to submit collateral, such as nude photos, which Raniere used to coerce their compliance, according to authorities.

Raniere faces life in prison. His lawyer has argued at trial that the women joined voluntarily and were never forced to do anything against their will.

Vicente said Raniere and his closest acolytes exercised strict discipline and control over his followers, forcing those who questioned his leadership to undergo training and excommunicating those who went against the group.

Many of us became very, very careful of the words we used, he said.

Vicente, who became the groups unofficial videographer, told jurors last week he was asked by the groups president, Nancy Salzman, to make videos showing Raniere in a positive light.

I really would love it if Keith Raniere does not die a criminal in the eyes of the world, Salzman told Vicente, according to his testimony. Salzman has pleaded not guilty.

Nxivm, which started under another name in 1998 and is pronounced Nexium, was based in Albany, New York, and operated self-improvement centers across North and Central America.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/13/nxivm-trial-keith-raniere-allison-mack-witness-testimony

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