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Co-founders of self-help group plead not guilty

Clare Bronfman, right, leaves Federal court with her attorney Susan Necheles, Wednesday, July 25, 2018, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (Mary Altaffer / Associated Press)
Clare Bronfman, right, leaves Federal court with her attorney Susan Necheles, Wednesday, July 25, 2018, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (Mary Altaffer / Associated Press)

NEW YORK – An heiress to the Seagram’s liquor fortune, a TV actress and the co-founders of a purported self-help group appeared in court together for the first time on Wednesday to face charges in a case accusing the group of branding women and forcing them to have unwanted sex.

Keith Raniere, the former head of NXIVM, and Allison Mack, best known for playing a teenage friend of Superman in the CW network’s “Smallville,” pleaded not guilty to conspiracy charges contained in a revised indictment unsealed earlier in the week. They had previously pleaded not guilty to sex-trafficking charges.

The new indictment added heiress Clare Bronfman and group co-founder Nancy Salzman as co-defendants. Both also pleaded not guilty.

Raniere is being held without bail, while Bronfman is free after posting a $100 million bond. Mack and Slazman are free on $5 million bonds.

The three women left court without speaking to reporters. All have denied any wrongdoing.

A lawyer for Raniere, Mark Agnifilo, repeated assertions that the alleged victims were never forced to do anything against their wills.

“These were choices by grown adults about how to be with each other,” he said.

Prosecutors have accused Mack of helping help Raniere recruit women to a secret sub-society within NXIV, for years a target of criticism by ex-followers who called it a cult. The women were branded by way of a surgical tool with a symbol that resembled Raniere’s initials and expected to have sex with “masters” prosecutors said.

The government has charged Bronfman with bankrolling the conspiracy by giving away tens of millions of dollars of her fortune to support Raniere.

On Wednesday, the judge moved a trial date from the fall to Jan. 7.


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