The story of NXIVM, DOS and the fall of their founder and leader Keith Raniere is the subject of a true crime documentary series Oath on HBO Max.
On October 27, 2020, Raniere was found guilty of racketeering, human trafficking, forced labor conspiracy, and electronic fraud, and was sentenced to 120 years in prison. He was also fined $1.75 million.
Raniere has always denied all the allegations against him.
Since his imprisonment, Raniere has had many supporters campaigning for his release, and in recent months has attracted the attention of a new team of lawyers and experts who have raised concerns about key evidence presented at his 2019 trial.
Now, Raniere’s legal team, led by attorney Joseph Tully, accuses the FBI of manipulating photographic evidence to fit the “government narrative” which was then used to “secure racketeering convictions for possession of child p*rnography and s*xual abuse of minors.” “. “according to the “Motion to Stop Appeal” documents seen by Newsweek, which were submitted on October 6, 2022 by Tully.
The allegations of evidence tampering and tampering have been backed by experts including former FBI Special Agent and Computer Forensics Examiner and Instructor Dr. J. Richard Kiper and former FBI Senior Forensic Examiner Stacy Eldridge. They were joined by Harvard Law School professors Ron Sullivan and Alan Dershowitz, and former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Bud Cummins, as well as Tully from California.
The six-person panel believes that new evidence has emerged of significant due process violations during Raniere’s original trial.
speak to NewsweekCummins, who is one of the lawyers advising on the case, said: “We have a lot of experts in digital forensics, someone who has experience with the FBI and is very familiar with their procedures who are willing to disclose and testify that they believe there was manipulation.”
Date manipulation of photos and folders
Raniere was found guilty of racketeering, one of those charges being possession of child p*rnography found on a hard drive seized from Raniere’s March 27, 2018 townhouse in Halfmoon, New York, and two counts of child s*xual abuse for allegedly accepting the picture.
The allegations relate to Camila (not her real name), who was 15 when she reportedly began having s*xual intercourse with Raniere. She did not testify at the trial, but in a victim statement read in court, Camila confirmed that she was a victim of s*xual abuse at the hands of Raniere.
Prosecutors successfully argued at trial that Raniere s*xually groomed three daughters from one family, the eldest “Marianna”, the middle “Daniela” and the youngest “Camila”. They used a series of WhatsApp messages exchanged between Camila and Raniere in which Raniere referred to her as his “slave” and asked her to recruit more “s*x slaves”, along with testimony from her sister Daniela. They also presented 22 nude photos of Camila, allegedly taken in 2005 by Raniere when she was 15 years old.
Raniere’s defense team argues primarily that Camila’s photos were clearly not child p*rnography and were only deemed p*rnographic based on the shooting dates of 2005, when Camila would have been underage.
Six experts, including Kiper, say the dates of the photos on the hard drive have been manipulated and the folder names have been spoofed to make it look like they were created automatically in 2005.
Tapper said Newsweek: “The external hard drive allegedly stores backups of photos that were taken on the camera card. You can take pictures with the camera, then they are stored on the camera card and then transferred to another computer, an intermediary computer that was never found, never produced, never seen. But then, from this mystery computer, all these photos were backed up to an external hard drive, and it was on this hard drive that the alleged child p*rnography was found. In fact, no child p*rnography was found on this camera card. I just want to be clear on this point. There was nothing that would naturally associate alleged child p*rnography with this camera card, except for what we call redundant data or metadata, which is very easy to tamper with.”
To show that Camila was under 18 in the photos, the government used metadata, primarily the creation dates of the 22 photos in the removable image file (EXIF) format. FBI Senior Forensic Examiner Brian Booth testified under oath that EXIF data cannot be easily tampered with, which six experts say is false. They also allege that Booth committed perjury by making this affidavit as requested by Raniere’s attorney Tully in October 2022.
The EXIF date of the photo will not change without changing the data manually, Kiper explained Newsweek.
He added: “The government relies entirely on timestamps to signify that these photos on an external hard drive deemed them child p*rnography, because according to this timestamp, the subject of these photos would be 15 years old. That’s their entire child p*rn fee based on those timestamps, and timestamps are extremely easy to change.”
FBI Senior Forensic Examiner Booth also testified at trial that it was not unusual for agents to receive unsealed evidence with no record of unsealing.
In court papers, Raniere’s team argues that this also amounts to perjury, as FBI policy specifically states that there is a chain of custody to determine that evidence has not been tampered with in any form.
Kiper said: “The intention of the government was to create a strong link between the camera card and the backup hard drive which allegedly contained these [child p*rnography] backups, but the first FBI investigative report that was produced contained only four files that were common to both the camera card and the external hard drive. That was in the first FBI report, and this FBI forensic expert was not allowed to testify.”
He continued: “In the final week of the trial, he was given an overseas assignment and this camera card was handed over to another forensic expert, incidentally, in an unsealed package, and this second examiner found 37 additional files and additional photos on the camera card. and 31 of them involved an external hard drive.
“In other words, a second forensic examination was conducted on this camera card, which itself violates an FBI policy we call the Digital Evidence Policy Guide, and so a second forensic examination resulted in conveniently more photos that had something to do with external hard drives.”
Kiper, who also trained the FBI’s computer analysis response team, explained how serious it is to deal with unsealed evidence.
He said Newsweek: “Every time we submit evidence to the FBI, we not only have a chain of custody that the person signs accepting to keep the evidence dated and timed, but they also sign if the evidence appears to be sealed and must be sealed with the evidence tape with the person’s initials and date across the seal.
“Once that seal is broken and opened, it is used, photographed and studied. Then, when it is transferred to another person, it must be resealed and reinitialized, and so on. But when that camera card went to the second examiner, it was unsealed by the second examiner, which is crazy.”
Manipulating images on the camera card
According to court documents, experts believe the camera’s card was likely changed between April 11, 2019 and June 11, 2019, while in FBI custody.
Consistent with FBI practice, no e-evidence examination may take place prior to a forensic image (an exact copy) of the device being made by CART [Computer Analysis Response Team] lab. However, on September 19, 2019, an FBI examiner removed the camera card from evidence inspection for “review” before CART processed the evidence, according to court documents.
Raniere’s attorney argued that on the same day, the camera’s card was accessed without a write lock, which he claims means the last access dates were overwritten, inevitably erasing all traces of last access to the evidence.
What worries experts and Raniere’s attorney, Tully, is that the evidence review took place before 22 photos of alleged child p*rnography were officially discovered and then presented at trial.
In addition, experts discovered that files 93, 94, 96 and 97, which were used by the prosecution to argue that Camila’s photos were taken with Raniere’s camera when she was a minor, contained thumbnails of the blonde on the camera’s card. However, on the hard drive, the thumbnails of photo files 93, 94, 96, and 97 showed a completely different woman with brown hair.
Tapper described the discovery of the miniature as “a smoking gun”.
He explained: “This would mean that the camera would be able to take two photos of two different women at exactly the same time. That doesn’t happen, so obviously the new files that came up in the second FBI report, they were put there, very likely to create a stronger link between the camera card and the external hard drive.”
In a normal backup, the camera card images, including their thumbnails, would be identical to their hard drive counterparts.
Tully argued in the appeal application “this anomaly” amounted to “manual manipulation” only.
After the appeal is filed, the trial judge declined to respond to the request listen to the evidence. Newsweek contacted the FBI for comment.
Raniere remains imprisoned in the United States Correctional Facility in Tucson and continues his fight for freedom.
Oath is now streaming on HBO Max.
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