In the fall of 2022, Keith Raniere’s lawyers and highly renowned experts released a bombshell in a court filing and a press conference – the government “significantly manipulated” photographic evidence that was used to convict their client of child pornography and sexual exploitation.
The convened panel that made such allegations in tandem included professors Ron Sullivan and Alan Dershowitz, both of Harvard Law School, attorney Joseph Tully from California, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Bud Cummins, Dr. J. Richard Kiper and Stacy Eldridge, both former FBI Computer Forensics experts, and Special Agent Cummins formerly of the FBI’s Computer Forensics Unit.
Dr. Kiper stated his finding during the press briefing that federal agents appear to have “extensively altered the media card used to justify the charges” and that they “significantly manipulated” other crucial evidence used against Raniere.
Raniere’s attorney of record, Joseph Tully, stated, “the level of government malfeasance is extreme.” Tully also described how Raniere had been subjected to punitive measures, such as solitary confinement, for what he believes was retaliation for speaking out against the tampering..
In June 2019, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York found Raniere guilty on all counts. Among the charges leveled against him were those of “sex trafficking,” “attempted sex trafficking,” “racketeering conspiracy,” “forced labor conspiracy,” “involuntary servitude,” “wire fraud conspiracy,” “identity theft conspiracy,” “sexual exploitation of a child,” and “possession of child pornography.”
Raniere, now 62 years old, was given a sentence of 120 years in jail. His attorneys claimed he was not remorseful for his conduct and promised to clear his record in the future.
A federal judge eventually ordered Raniere to pay around $3.46 million in reparations to 21 victims, which included the price of “past or future” procedures to remove scars or tattoos on women who had taken part in a branding ceremony and received Raniere’s initials on their pelvic region.
The new evidence brought forth by the convened panel of experts and skilled attorneys “suggests photo manipulation” by the authorities, according to Sullivan, who represents co-defendant, Clare Bronfman, heiress to the Seagrams fortune. He asserted that his client’s guilty plea should be overturned because of material “so prejudicial” that was entered at the “11th hour” that has been found to contain unmistakeable hallmarks of fabrication.
Dr. Kiper explained his finding that, while a camera card was in FBI custody, “the file access dates for files on one of the devices were updated.” Since the dates don’t add up, he said, it’s likely the evidence was tampered with. He further detailed how the FBI had broken “chain of custody” regulations by passing the evidence around improperly from person to person.
Dershowitz called the team’s charges “very credible and serious,” urging the U.S. Department of Justice to fulfill its mandate to pursue justice rather than merely convictions. He emphasized that he thought the Department of Justice should at least agree to a hearing to hear the defense’s allegations. A dismissal of the charges against Raniere or a new trial were among the options he proposed.
After submitting a 64-page filing to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, where Raniere’s case is now pending, attorneyTully called a news conference to discuss the matter. In the motion, Tully is asking the Court of Appeals to delay their ruling on the appeal so the trial court could first hear argument related to the tampering and manipulation of evidence that occurred during jury trial.
The filing also makes reference to “newly discovered information” that the government switched one crucial FBI witness—whose testimony would have cleared Mr. Raniere—for another crucial FBI witness—who testified directly contrary to commonly understand technical concepts in order to falsely implicated Mr. Raniere—during the final moments of the trial.
When reviewed by several top-level digital forensic specialists, a hard disk and a camera memory card displayed “anomalies,” which could only be reasonably explained by government tampering and manipulation of the trial evidence.
According to the panel of experts, the government manipulated metadata to falsely show that Raniere had child pornography in his possession and had exploited a minor for sexual purposes, all of which constitute racketeering offenses. This case revolved around “22 naked photographs found on a backup hard drive” of a woman named “Camila” in court documents.
According to the exhibit, three computers were backed up onto one hard drive, which contained the images. The government only partially and belatedly revealed this information to the defense during the trial.
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