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Self-help guru denies enslaving, branding women in sex cult

Lawyers for Mark Raniere, accused of sex trafficking and forced labor, say, "Everything was consensual."
by Corky Siemaszko /
Image: Allison Mack
Actress Allison Mack leaves U.S. District Court in Brooklyn on Friday after a hearing. Jemal Countess / Getty Images

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A self-help guru accused of running an upstate New York sex cult that included "Smallville" actress Allison Mack pleaded not guilty Friday to enslaving women and branding them with his initials like cattle.

Keith Raniere and Mack were ordered to return to U.S. District Court in Brooklyn for another hearing on June 14 and given an Oct. 1 trial date.

After the hearing, Raniere's lawyers insisted that "everything was consensual."

“There are well-known groups of men who brand themselves,” attorney Marc Agnifilo said. “A group of women do that and suddenly they’re victims.”

But when pressed about the branding, he replied, “I’m not qualified to say what is normal.”

Raniere, 57, was arrested in March in Mexico and accused by federal prosecutors of, among other things, coercing women in his Albany-based self-help group Nxivm into having sex with him.

Mack, 35, who prosecutors say recruited “slaves” for Raniere, has already pleaded not guilty to federal charges of sex trafficking, conspiracy to commit forced labor and other crimes.

Unlike Raniere, who is being held without bail on charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor, Mack is free on $5 million bond and under house arrest at the home of her parents in California. She refused to answer any questions entering and leaving the courthouse.

Mack is best known for playing the part of Superman’s good friend Chloe Sullivan in the TV show “Smallville” from 2001 to 2011.

In a criminal complaint, federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York said Raniere, aka “Vanguard,” would charge his followers up to $5,000 per session for courses in personal and professional development and take their possessions as collateral if they couldn’t pay.

Prosecutors say Raniere had a stable of "over 50 female slaves." They say he told his followers that men needed multiple sexual partners while women should be monogamous.

Former Nxivm members have called Raniere's group a cult. If convicted of all the charges, Raniere and Mack could be sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

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