In this courtroom sketch Keith Raniere, second from right, leader of the secretive group NXIVM, attends a court hearing in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The spiritual leader of an upstate New York self-help group has pleaded not guilty to new charges accusing him of possessing child pornography. File picture: Elizabeth Williams via AP
In this courtroom sketch Keith Raniere, second from right, leader of the secretive group NXIVM, attends a court hearing in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The spiritual leader of an upstate New York self-help group has pleaded not guilty to new charges accusing him of possessing child pornography. File picture: Elizabeth Williams via AP

Spirits, sexual content spook potential jurors in NXIVM sex cult trial

By Shayna Jacobs, New York Daily News Time of article published Apr 24, 2019

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New York - Dozens of would-be jurors in the trial of the NXIVM

sex cult leader have been released so far this week after giving a

range of excuses for not being qualified to serve.

About half of the roughly 80 panellists who were prescreened this

week have been sent packing at Keith Raniere's trial for imprisonment

of victims, sex trafficking, child porn and other crimes in

connection to a subversive secret society.

The trial is expected to last six weeks in Brooklyn Federal Court,

and while many complained they would not be paid by their employers,

others claimed they had conflicts that did not always pass muster.

One man, a naturalized citizen, got US District Court Judge Nicholas

Garaufis incensed when he insisted he didn't want to expose himself

to sexually explicit material out of fear that it would shake his

Christian convictions.

"I do not want to know about these organizations," the man said,

adding that his "conscience says I don't want to listen" to the

disturbing details that are central to the case.

Garaufis, noting that no one was asking the man to buy into any

belief, was clearly annoyed.

A woman with a heavy Spanish accent said she was spooked "by spirits

and voodoos" and was not sure if she could get past the freaky forced

labour the 58-year-old Raniere allegedly orchestrated.

"I'm afraid of rituals and bad spirits," she asserted, later

admitting that serving would be an "inconvenience."

"There's a lot of things I have to do at home," she added.

And earlier in the day, a music licenser carried out a thinly veiled

campaign to get cut.

First, she argued that her employer could not get by without her, and

then she insisted she has very strong feelings on abortion. Raniere

allegedly forced dozens of enslaved women he had sex with to

terminate their pregnancies.

The prospective juror was also one of several people who insisted

they were uniquely repulsed by allegations of child sex abuse.

"All of her answers were coloured by the fact that this is an

inconvenience for her," Garaufis said. "This is a juror who is

qualified, she just doesn't want to do it."

Raniere was the founder of the Albany-based sex slavery organization

that masqueraded as a self-help group, and oversaw the branding,

sexual assault and abuse of its recruits, prosecutors say.

dpa

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