The alleged leader of a sick upstate cult named Nxivm pleaded not guilty Friday to charges that he kept women as sex slaves and branded them like cattle — while his accused cohort, actress Allison Mack from TV’s “Smallville,” tried to wriggle out of attending their next hearing.
Keith Raniere appeared in federal court with a freshly shaven face and shaggy hair alongside co-defendant and alleged “slave” Mack.
Raniere’s lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, told Judge Nicholas Garaufis that his client pleaded “not guilty to each of the three counts.”
Prosecutor Moira Penza added to the judge that a superseding indictment with more charges and defendants could be filed next month.
Mack has already pleaded not guilty. She and Raniere are being tried together.
The judge set their trial date for Oct. 1 and the next hearing for June 12.
When her lawyer, Sean Buckley, asked that her next court appearance be waived, Garaufis refused the request, chiding, “People have to show up. This is a very serious matter.”
Raniere is accused of running twisted workshops on the Nxivm compound, about 20 miles outside of Albany, which taught women about “the need for men to have multiple sexual partners and the need for women to be monogamous.”
Mack allegedly recruited the women on the pretext that the cult was a “women’s empowerment group” and groomed them to have sex with Raniere.
The women allegedly were forced to remain exceptionally thin — to the point where one of the “slaves” stopped getting her period — and practice celibacy.
Nxivm (pronounced “Nexium”) billed itself as a self-help group and attracted many high-profile figures, including India Oxenberg, the daughter of “Dynasty” actress Catherine Oxenberg, and the son of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas.
Mack’s “Smallville” co-star Kristin Kreuk was also a member of Nxivm but left. She claimed she never saw any wrongdoing in the group.
Raniere, who was arrested in Mexico in March, is being held without bail. Mack is out on $5 million bail.
Both face 15 years to life in prison if convicted of the charges.
Actress says Allison Mack tried to lure others she met at auditions
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