Department of Justice prosecutors last week briefed attorney Michael Avenatti and his alleged co-conspirator in the Nike extortion case, Mark Geragos, on the NXIVM secret society sex-trafficking case.
The bizarre twist in the NXIVM case, which involves billionaire Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman and “Smallville” actress Allison Mack, was revealed in a federal court in New York on March 27, with the judge asking Bronfman if she had retained Avenatti. Geragos is already representing Bronfman.
“Yes or no,” the judge asked, according to Emily Saul, a reporter with the New York Post.
The judge’s question caused Bronfman to faint.
Avenatti was arrested March 25 and charged with attempting to extort millions from Nike. According to The Wall Street Journal, which cited two people familiar with the matter, Geragos is the unnamed co-conspirator in the Nike case. Geragos hasn’t been criminally charged, The Associated Press reported.
Avenatti gained national attention by representing Stormy Daniels, the adult film performer who claimed to have had an affair with President Donald Trump. Daniels had retained Avenatti until earlier this month.
According to Saul, Avenatti never entered a notice of appearance in the NXIVM case.
“First assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Lesko says on the record he met with Geragos and Avenatti last week about THIS case,” Saul wrote on Twitter.
Saul added that Geragos wouldn’t admit that he was the co-conspirator in the Nike case. He also grumbled “no” when asked if he would be testifying against Avenatti.
Avenatti also represented one of the accusers of Justice Brett Kavanaugh during the judge’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings. After Kavanaugh was cleared of all accusations and confirmed, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee referred Avenatti and his client for criminal investigation for lying to Congress.
A federal court unsealed a superseding indictment on July 24 that charged Bronfman, a member of NXIVM’s executive board, for the first time, as well as Kathy Russell, a former bookkeeper, Nancy Salzman, the president of NXIVM, and her daughter, Lauren Salzman, also a board member.
All four women were charged with racketeering conspiracy, including identity theft, extortion, forced labor, sex trafficking, money laundering, wire fraud, and obstruction of justice.
The New York-based NXIVM masqueraded as a self-help company that ran “executive success programs” and other similar curricula. In the wake of the allegations, the company announced the suspension of all operations until further notice.
“The details of these alleged crimes become more and more grim as we continue to dig deeper into the conduct of this organization and its intended mission,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said in a statement accompanying the charges against Bronfman.
Members of the NXIVM society were recruited on the condition they gave up private information about themselves, including compromising images or videos, as “collateral.” Once inside, they were regularly required to provide additional materials to ensure they kept secret the society’s inner workings.
Bronfman was the group’s largest financial backer, contributing at least $150 million, Frank Parlato, a whistleblower who first broke the story about the society’s alleged schemes, told The Epoch Times. The $150 million was also cited in documents that came out in a legal case, going back to 2010.
While some money went into recruiting, the majority, Parlato said, went toward legal fees so NXIVM could prosecute its enemies, who were largely whistleblowers.
Brandon Porter, NXIVM’s doctor, is facing accusations of illegally conducting a slew of disturbing human experiments.
The New York State Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) accused Porter of moral unfitness, gross negligence, and gross incompetence.
Depending on the findings of a closed-door hearing, Porter, 44, a high-ranking member of the society, could face a criminal referral to the New York state attorney general. The current charges only center on suspending or revoking his license.
Porter is accused of conducting illegal and highly perverse experiments, including a so-called “fright study,” which involved showing murder and dismemberment videos to subjects without their consent. In another incident cited by the OPMC, 50 to 60 children fell ill from “an undetermined infectious disease” at an NXIVM retreat in August 2016.
Bowen Xiao contributed to this report.