Days before a scheduled appeals court hearing, a man facing a 120-year sentence claimed FBI agents doctored evidence against him.
Keith Raniere founded the Nxivm cult, which he marketed as a self-help group, based in Albany, N.Y. The organization started by catering to wealthy and famous people by promising to help them take personal ownership of their emotions. It ended up as a cult for sex slaves who were branded with Raniere’s initials followed by a unique number.
A federal investigation followed a 2017 New York Times expose of the cult. Raniere was arrested March 26, 2018, after several members were convinced to testify against him, the report noted.
One of the most compelling witnesses against Raniere was Camilla, a woman whose last name was reportedly redacted from original reports by order of a New York judge. The female alleged that she first met the Nxivm leader when she was 13-years-old. Her parents sent her to live in Albany with Raniere shortly after their arrival from Mexico, according to the report.
Camilla testified during Raniere’s trial that he took naked photos of her and raped her in September 2005 when she was just 15.
Raniere claims computer forensic experts have determined the photographs that F.B.I. agents swore pictured an underage Camilla were falsified.
“Specifically, there is evidence that computer data related to digital photographs taken of a nude female were materially altered to make it appear that these photographs were taken in 2005,” said Raniere’s attorney in a court filing. “The government used the year 2005 to establish the female as being under the age of eighteen, making the photographs contraband.”
Richard Kiper worked as an F.B.I. computer forensic examiner from 1999 to 2019, according to The Epoch Times. Kiper made a sworn statement that he believes there was evidence tampering in Raniere’s case.
“In my 20 years serving as an FBI agent, I have never observed or claimed that an FBI employee tampered with evidence, digital or otherwise,” the former FBI agent stated. “But in this case, I strongly believe the multiple, intentional alterations to the digital information I have discovered constitute evidence manipulation.”
“My analysis demonstrates that some of these alterations definitely took place while the devices were in the custody of the FBI,” he added. “Therefore, in the absence of any other plausible explanation, it is my expert opinion that the FBI must have been involved in this evidence tampering.”
Kiper’s affidavit is bolstered by further sworn testimony from Steven Abrams, an attorney and retired digital forensics expert, and computer scientist Wayne Norris. They both agreed Kiper was correct.
“I believe, based on what I have reviewed, that Dr. Kiper is correct in his assessments that no plausible explanation exists for the anomalies in the Government’s exhibits other than intentional tampering on the part of the Government,” said Norris.
Raniere requested his scheduled May 3 appeal hearing be put on hold and a new trial ordered.
Federal prosecutors responded to his motion the same day, calling the accusations against the FBI “frivolous.”
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