Allison Mack, best known for her role as Chloe Sullivan in the CW series ‘Smallville,’ gets sentenced to three years in prison for her involvement in the NXIVM sex-slave cult.
What We Know:
- Mack, 38, was arrested in 2018 on charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and forced labor conspiracy. In 2012, she became fully involved in NXIVM (pronounced NEX-ium), a “self-help” group that became a pyramid scheme and secret sex society. The group was founded by Keith Raniere, 60, in 1998, along with Nancy Salzman, who was a nurse and hypnotist. They would recruit mostly celebrities and wealthy men and women in various industries.
- Some notable members of NXIVM are Clare and Sara Bronfman, daughters of Seagram’s former chairman, the late Edgar Bronfman Sr. Edgar was also a part of the group but called it a cult when he noticed how much money Clare and Sara were putting into it. India Oxenberg, daughter of “Dynasty” actress Catherine Oxenberg, joined after she dropped out of college. Salzman’s daughter Laura was also heavily involved in the cult.
- Close to 18,000 people joined NXIVM from 1998 to 2018, with some becoming long-term members. Raniere would force his followers to call him “Vanguard” and branded the ladies on their pelvises with his initials. He would pressure them into having sex with him and put them on near-starvation diets to maintain his preferred body type on a woman. According to the New York Times, one of Raniere’s abuse victims was 15-years-old.
- In 2017, many members reached out to the New York State Police to look into the illegal works of The Vow or D.O.S– an acronym for “Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions.” This was an empowerment group with a master who had slaves, and those slaves had slaves. If a slave spoke on the group’s doings, then “collateral” information was released about them. The New York Times released a piece on NIXIVM and their branding process, which prompted a criminal investigation into the cult.
- Raniere was arrested in March 2018 for sex trafficking and was sentenced to 120 years in prison; the judge also required him to pay a $1.75 million fine. Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis (NY) took into account the testimonies of 15 witnesses, who spoke about how Raniere traumatized, brainwashed, and abused them.
- Mack, Salzman, and Clare were all charged due to their connection to NIXIVM. Last year, Mack, a high-ranking NIXIVM member, pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges. Salzman pleaded guilty to identity theft and changing records to help sway the outcome of the case. Clare pleaded guilty to two charges of immigration fraud and identity theft and has been sentenced to 7 years in prison.
- On Monday, Mack released a letter expressing her remorse for getting involved in NIXIVM. She stated that she believed in Raniere and his teachings and that she was completely loyal to him, and being so was the biggest mistake of her life. Mack also wrote that she was sorry she exposed other individuals “to the nefarious and emotionally abusive schemes of a twisted man.”
- Mack began working with the government a week before pleading guilty on all charges and has been cooperative since. She gave “critical” evidence during the Raniere case- a recording of her and Raniere talking about the branding ceremonies- that helped seal Raniere’s fate. Since then, she did some work as a caterer, received her associate’s degree, and enrolled at the University of California- Berkely for her bachelor’s degree.
- Jessica Joan, an actress who joined NIXIVM in 2016, called Mack and Raniere “the most evil monsters I ever met.” She believes that Mack enjoyed causing harm to others and at times there were things Mack did that Raniere didn’t necessarily tell her to do. Joan also claims that Mack made her take nude photos of herself for Raniere and made her believe that having sex with him would cause all of her sexual abuse trauma to go away. Another woman, who only went by Nicole, considered her relationship with Mack “an abusive one.”
In court, Garaufis explained how Mack used her celebrity status to coerce people to join the cult, making her an “essential accomplice” to Raniere. Mack will remain under home confinement until September when she will be transferred to a federal facility to began her sentencing. Salzman will be sentenced on July 28th.
Classes canceled at Howard University as US Government investigates ransomware cyberattack
Howard University officials along with leading cyber experts are trying to assess what has been compromised in an active ransomware, cyberattack on the HBCU campus. Officials have deemed the attack criminal.
What We Know:
- Monday, the university issued a statement to faculty and students that “the service disruption was caused by a ransomware cyberattack against the university.”
- Classes have been canceled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Students have been notified that online and hybrid classes will remain canceled and only essential staff will be allowed on campus. All in-person undergraduate, graduate, professional, and clinical experiential courses will resume as scheduled on Wednesday.
- A ransomware attack can be triggered by simple, everyday activity. Opening a unintended link inside of can lead to a cyberattack. Computer, tablet and phone users are encouraged to change their passwords and security questions regularly.
Howard University is home to several notable high profile Black alumni such as Chadwick Boseman and Phylicia Rashad.
New Orleans 911 Operator Wanted After Allegedly Disconnecting Calls on Purpose
A New Orleans 911 operator deliberately disconnected emergency calls without obtaining necessary information or relaying the callers’ emergencies to other dispatchers, and she is now facing arrest, according to authorities.
What We Know:
- Precious Stephens, 25, is wanted on a count of malfeasance in office, and she remained at large Thursday, police said. She has been fired from her job as a 911 operator, officials said.
“(The district) has and will continue to cooperate with the … investigation into this matter and dedicated to providing any and all assistance to aid in (the) efforts.”
- Stephens worked for the Orleans Parish Communication District, which dispatches first responders to 911 calls. On Aug. 24, the district reported to police that Stephens had deliberately disconnected 911 calls without obtaining vital information or informing other dispatchers about the callers who were in need of help. The district conducted an investigation into the quality of a random set of calls when they detected the problems with Stephens during her shifts Aug. 20 and Aug. 21, officials said. A statement from the district highlighted how its own internal protocols identified the issues with Stephens, who was immediately turned over to police and dismissed from her post.
Police asked anyone who knows where Stephens is to call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111. Tipsters may be eligible for a cash reward.
Louisiana law defines malfeasance in office as unlawfully performing a job in public service. It can carry up to five years in prison.
R&B Star R. Kelly Jurors Summoned for Sex Trafficking Trial
The first phase of R. Kelly‘s trial began on Aug. 9 with a jury selection after several delays.
What We Know:
- U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly asked potential jurors if they could keep an open mind about Kelly as he faces charges for abusing women and girls for nearly two decades. Donnelly also reminded jurors that Kelly was presumed innocent, so they should not feel influenced by any bad publicity the singer experienced because of the accusations.
- Due to pandemic restrictions, the event took place online. Because of this, Kelly and the jurors faced difficulty popping up on the screen and the audio cut off at times.
- During the trial, jurors will expect to hear testimonies from several of Kelly’s accusers. In addition, a judge ruled that officials may only use the women’s first names. Currently, Kelly faces sex trafficking charges. Scrutiny around Kelly’s sexual behavior has followed him for decades. These include charges for child pornography. Alongside the sex-trafficking case in New York, Kelly also faces sex-related charges against him in Illinois and Minnesota.
- In addition, prosecutors might provide evidence that Kelly schemed with others to buy a fake ID for late R&B singer Aaliyah. In 1994, when Aaliyah was only 15, Kelly married and began a sexual relationship with her; it is also speculated he impregnated her. Prosecutors believe he married her so that she could not testify against him.
- In regards to his sex-trafficking trial, Kelly denies any wrongdoing; he has pleaded not guilty to leading a criminal enterprise of managers, bodyguards, and other employees who recruited women and girls for sex. Concerning the criminal enterprise, federal prosecutors reported the group found victims at concerts and other venues. After recruiting the women and children, they would make travel arrangements so they could meet with Kelly. Kelly’s lawyers claimed the victims were “groupies” who showed up at his concerts and “were dying to be with” Kelly.
The case is scheduled to officially begin on Aug. 18 with opening statements.