NXIVM sex cult leader Keith Raniere speaks out for the first time since his arrest: ‘Yes, I am innocent'

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NXIVM leader Keith Raniere is proclaiming his innocence.

The 60-year-old spoke out for the first time since his arrest in an interview with NBC’s “Dateline” that first aired Friday. The disgraced guru of the self-improvement organization in upstate New York was convicted last year of sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy and racketeering.

“One of the things that’s most important in our country is the justice system,” said Raniere. “And although, you know, people can hate me and do, and I think I’m an odious type of character – you know, awful, actually – both the devil and a saint should be able to get the exact same treatment under our justice system.”

Raniere spoke to web journalist and former NXIVM spokesman Frank Parlato. According to the outlet, Parlato pleaded not guilty to charges that originated from his involvement with NXIVM. 

Keith Raniere, the ex-leader of NXIVM, was convicted in 2019 of seven counts that included racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and attempted sex trafficking.

In the HBO docuseries “The Vow,” it was revealed that Parlato broke the story that a group within NXIVM was treating women as sex slaves and branding them with Raniere’s initials

When asked if he intends on making a statement of his innocence at his Oct. 27 sentencing, Raniere responded, “Yes, I am innocent.”

“And although it is – this is a horrible tragedy, with many, many people being hurt, I think the main thrust of this has been the oppression," he continued. "But really a different issue, which is hard for me to express – there is a horrible injustice here. And whether you think I’m the devil or not, the justice process has to be examined.”

Still, Raniere admitted that he “clearly participated” in behavior that hurt people in the past.

The NXIVM Executive Success Programs sign outside of the office at 455 New Karner Road on April 26, 2018, in Albany, N.Y. Keith Raniere, the founder of NXIVM, was arrested by the FBI in Mexico in March of 2018.
(Photo by Amy Luke/Getty Images)

“I apologize for my participation in all of this pain and suffering,” he told the outlet. “I’ve clearly participated. I’ve been the leader of the community.”

The outlet noted Raniere could face life in prison when he’s sentenced Tuesday. A judge will also consider impact statements from over 100 victims.

Prosecutors told jurors that Raniere’s organization operated like a cult that won him the devotion of many women, including actress Allison Mack of TV’s “Smallville,” as well as Clare Bronfman, heiress to the Seagram’s liquor fortune.

Prosecutors also revealed Raniere formed a secret subgroup made up of brainwashed female “slaves” who were branded with his initials and forced to have sex with him.

Actress Catherine Oxenberg (L) and daughter India have spoken out against NXIVM.
(Charley Gallay/Getty Images)

Testimony showed Raniere used women known as "masters" to demand nude photos and other embarrassing secrets from "slaves." The material would be made public if they didn't obey orders to have sex with him to keep them in line, they claimed.

The branding was part of an initiation ceremony into NXIVM’s master-slave sorority, also known as DOS, People magazine reported.

Raniere and Mack, 38, were arrested in 2018. The fallen leader was found guilty of seven counts, including sex trafficking, racketeering and possession of child pornography. 

Mack pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges. In 2019, she tearfully told the judge, “I was lost.”  She still awaits sentencing.

Allison Mack, an actress known for her role in "Smallville," is charged with sex trafficking. Along with alleged cult leader Keith Raniere, prosecutors say Mack recruited women to an upstate New York mentorship group NXIVM that turned them into sex slaves.
(Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

In September, Bronfman, 41, was sentenced to an 81-month prison term and immediately thrown behind bars.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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