Attorneys for former Smallville actress Allison Mack have filed new documents in Brooklyn Federal Court to support their motion to dismiss criminal charges for her involvement in an alleged “sex cult” within a purported self-help organization known as NXIVM (pronounced “nexium”). In April 2018, Mack and NXIVM founder Keith Raniere were indicted on charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and forced labor conspiracy; Mack has plead not guilty and is being held on house arrest in California. In new documents submitted with the court on Friday, December 28, Mack’s attorneys bolstered a previous motion to dismiss the charges dismissed by citing cases involving the Church of Scientology and Harvey Weinstein.
According to the original April 2018 indictment, prosecutors claim that Mack recruited female NXIVM members into a secret sect of the group, forcing them to provide naked photos and other damaging information in order to join. Prosecutors allege that members of the sect were starved, branded, coerced into having sex with Raniere and forced to perform free labor under threat of the collateral being released.
In their new court filing, Mack’s attorneys argued that the allegations do not rise to the level of threats of “serious harm” required by the forced labor charge.
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“The government argues that Ms. Mack obtained forced labor through ‘threats of serious harm,’ with serious harm being the embarrassment that would result from the exposure of one’s collateral,” attorneys William F. McGovern and Sean S. Buckley wrote. “Courts have found, however, that such an outcome, albeit embarrassing, does not amount to serious harm under the statute.”
As an example, the attorneys cited a 2009 civil case against the Church of Scientology brought by former members Clare and Marc Headley, who unsuccessfully sued for forced labor.
“The court did not find that plaintiffs were compelled to remain in the organization even though, if they chose to leave, they would be ‘excommunicated’ from their friends and family and labeled a ‘dissenter,’” Mack’s lawyers wrote about the lawsuit dismissal in 2012. “The threat of reputational damage and isolation from loved ones therefore did not qualify as serious harm.”
The filing goes on to argue that the alleged conditions in the NXIVM case “bear no relation” to those found in “most other” forced labor case, like “squalid living conditions, extreme isolation, threats of physical harm, lack of immigration status, lack of education, and unfamiliarity with English.” In fact, the attorneys write in a footnote, “The alleged victims in the instant case were educated, English-speaking adults, who were not forced or compelled to join the organization, nor kept physically isolated, and who could leave the organization at any time.”
The attorneys also argued that the sex trafficking charges should be dropped because the indictment does not contain any claims that Mack received “things of value” that are “economic in nature” — like compensation or membership fees — as a result of the purported sexual encounters between Raniere and the alleged victims. In a December 17th court filing, prosecutors argued for a more expansive reading of “things of value,” citing a recent ruling in a civil lawsuit brought against disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
In the lawsuit, filed in August 2018, Kadian Noble accused Weinstein of forced prostitution, saying he lured her to his hotel room in 2014 under the guise of an audition, and then groped her and forced her to help him masturbate. The judge in that case determined that, “[f]or an aspiring actress, meeting a world-renowned film producer” met the standard for “things of value.”
In their December 28th filing, Mack’s attorneys argue that the judge’s conclusion in the Weinstein case is “premised upon very different factual allegations” that “could not be farther from the facts” of the case against their client.
“The producer’s ability to give an actress a role in a film often leads to lucrative contracts worth millions of dollars,” the defense attorneys write. “Those ‘things of value’ turn on that inherent power dynamic within the movie industry and have no bearing on an organization like [NXIVM].”
Mack will be back in court on January 9th, when a judge will hear oral arguments from both the defense and the prosecution regarding her motion to dismiss the charges.