It’s been over two years since NXIVM leader Keith Raniere was arrested by Mexican federal agents in Puerto Vallarta, where several members of the group were about to embark on a “recommitment ceremony,” understood to mean group sex with the charismatic leader. Instead, Raniere was extradited back to the US, where he would eventually face trial on federal charges of child sex trafficking and conspiracy. The story of the rise and fall of NXIVM and the self-help guru who helmed it is captured in The Vow, a new nine part docu-series from HBO premiering Sunday. But viewers shouldn’t expect a tidy ending just because so much time has passed. Despite his conviction over a year ago in June 2019, Raniere is still sitting in a Brooklyn jail cell awaiting sentencing.
The sentencing phase of Raniere’s trial, initially scheduled for last year, has been beset with at least three delays, several of which are due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prevented Raniere from meeting with his lawyers and from being able to appear in open court. That doesn’t mean the case against him has been at a complete standstill, however. Just last week, a federal judge denied Raniere’s request for a new trial, comprehensively declaring that Raniere failed to demonstrate any of the testimony made against him in the initial trial was false. Raniere also remains a defendant in a class action civil suit filed by 80 former members of the sex slavery cult who allege the organization was also a pyramid scheme. One former member said she spent $145,000 over the years for NXIVM's self-help classes.
But finally, there does seem to be some movement toward justice, at least in the criminal proceedings against Raniere. Last week, a federal judge rescheduled sentencing again, this time to be held on October 27 in a courtroom that has been closed since March due to the pandemic. He faces anywhere from 15 years to life in prison.