A man who ran a secret sex cult with help from Smallville star Allison Mack has been found guilty of sex trafficking, possession of child pornography, extortion and racketeering.
In 1998, 58-year-old Keith Raniere founded a self-help company called NXIVM (pronounced nex-ee-um) in Albany, upstate New York.
But during his trial, prosecutors said NXIVM was in fact cover for a sex cult that manipulated and brainwashed dozens of victims.
Five women have pleaded guilty to their role in assisting Raniere.
They include Mack and Seagrams heiress Clare Bronfman.
Prosecutors said that Mack was a senior member of what amounted to a hidden cult within NXIVM called D.O.S.
The court heard how Mack worshipped the controlling and charismatic Raniere, referring to him in text messages as the “smartest man in the world”.
The jury even heard a tape recording in which Mack and Raniere discussed how to brand new female members.
In it Raniere says: “Do you think the person who’s being branded should be completely nude and sort of held to the table like a, sort of almost like a sacrifice?
“Also of course videoing it… videoing it from different angles or whatever gives collateral.
“And the person should ask to be branded.
“…should say ‘please brand me it would be an honour’ or something like that. ‘An honour I want to wear for the rest of my life’.”
Mack then describes how she was branded in an earlier ceremony, and how a fellow member of the group asked her to think about how the pain and sacrifice represented love for her “master”.
The actress sobbed as she gave evidence against Rainere.
She told the court: “I was lost and I wanted to find a place, a community in which I would feel comfortable.”
Mack apologised, saying that she was “truly very sorry”.
NXIVM victims told the court how painful it was to be branded.
Other described being ordered to have sex with Raniere in his bedroom, how they had to call him “vanguard”, and how they were put on starvation diets.
They told of how they had to hand over embarrassing photographs and documents that were kept as collateral to keep them quiet about what was going on.
Raniere’s control was apparently so absolute that one woman testified about how she was confined to a single room for two years after she said she was attracted to someone else.
In closing arguments, prosecutors called Raniere “a con-man, a predator”, and “a crime boss”.
Raniere’s lawyer has argued that thousands of people over the years have benefited from his client’s self-help teachings, that he has always acted in good faith, and that all sexual contact was consensual.
But the jury didn’t believe it.
Raniere faces life in prison.
Allison Mack and her other co-defendants are due to be sentenced later this year.
Mack faces up to 20 years in prison.