Billionaire heiress Clare Bronfman fainted in court after being asked by the judge if she had secretly hired Michael Avenatti as her attorney. She was taken out of a federal courtroom on a stretcher and the hearing was rescheduled for today.
The Seagrams heiress is on trial for offenses related to her involvement in the sex-slave cult DOS. She is reportedly a leader of the controversial NXIVM sex cult.
Bronfman was joined in court by lawyer Mark Geragos who sources say is the co-conspirator in Avenatti’s Nike extortion case. Although Avenatti has not submitted paperwork attesting to being an attorney for anyone in the sex-cult case, Assistant US Attorney Mark Lesko revealed in court on Wednesday that he had met with Geragos and Avenatti last week to discuss the case.
Judge Nicholas Garaufis ordered Bronfman to appear in court on Wednesday for a curcio hearing … a hearing that specifically examines whether a person can provide an adequate and a sufficient legal representation.
Wednesday, the judge immediately got to the point and asked Bronfman and her attorney if she was being represented by Michael Avenatti.
Bronfman remained quiet while her lawyer Geragos objected to the question. The judge seemed irritated and called a sidebar, eventually demanding that Bronfman give him a “yes or no” answer.
It was at that point Bronfman stumbled back to her table in the courtroom and collapsed onto the floor. She reportedly did not lose consciousness.
Bronfman is scheduled to be back in court today to answer the question about whether Avenatti is representing her. Experts say that the curcio hearing was called because of the legal issues Avenatti and Geragos now have. The judge will want Bronfman to openly state in court that she will not try to put the federal case on hold on account of not having her counsel available.
Several co-defendants in the case have sought plea deals. It is not known if the heiress will also. Last week, there were reports that Allison Mack and Kathy Russell were hoping to get leniency in exchange for their testimony.
Nancy Salzman, a co-founder of the group along with Keith Raniere, went a different route. She broke down in tears early in March while entering a guilty plea to one count of racketeering and apologizing to her daughter and co-defendant, Lauren. “I am deeply sorry for the trouble I have brought to my daughter,” she sobbed. There was no plea deal in place for Salzman and she indicated she was ready to begin atoning for hers sins. Her crime carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Separately, attorneys for the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York began laying out a case against other members of the group, who in addition to NXIVM were also involved in the branded sex cult DOS.
One alarming detail emerging so far in court documents is the claim that Raniere raped two underage girls on multiple occasions. Raniere was also reported to be having an intimate relationship with Bronfman, who had previously funded the legal defense for her five co-defendants but is now distancing herself from them.
Salzman is quoted as saying at her hearing, “I got involved with NXIVM because I believed we would be helping people, and I still believe some good came out of it.”
The new filing submitted by the prosecution on Monday states: “NXIVM’s teachings and practices are no more inflammatory than the allegations surrounding the predicate acts and charged offenses themselves, which include keeping a woman in a room for nearly two years, non-consensual sex, extreme diets and sleep deprivation, sexually explicit photographs and branding of Raniere’s initials on women’s bodies without their knowledge.”
Seagrams heiress Clare Bronfman and Mark Geragos leaving the courthouse Wednesday after Bronfman’s fainting episode. -Curtis Means for Daily Mail
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— A Sketchy Chicken (@goodowens) March 27, 2019
Did she use her best southern accent and fan herself “my, my I believe I have the vapors!”?
— ConnieB (@michigancon) March 27, 2019
No one really, actually faints anymore, hence the collapse of the fainting couch industry. I say it’s courtroom theatrics.
— Richard Lindsay (@richXXIII) March 27, 2019
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