Six legal and forensic experts held a press conference on 6 October 2022, alleging that the FBI tampered with evidence in the Keith Raniere NXIVM “sex slave” trial – resulting in Raniere’s conviction of 120 years in prison.
Below is the video of the press conference.
The full transcript follows.
Chase Geyser 0:00
Good morning everyone. My name is Chase Geyser and today I will be moderating the press conference. Welcome to the press conference this morning. Thank you for being here both panelists and attendees alike. The prepared portion of the press conference will be 15 minutes, and will be followed by a q&a.
Chase Geyser 0:25
In a moment. I’ll introduce today’s speakers, then present to you a two minute video of recorded statements, which will be followed by live statements from the speakers. We’ll conclude the press conference by taking questions from the media. If you have questions, please post it in the zoom q&a box and make sure to include your name and your publication. A press kit will be available with transcripts of statements and other relevant background at the end of the program. If you’d like a Press Kit, please submit your email address in the q&a box and one will be emailed to you after press conference. So we’re gonna go ahead and get started with introductions. First like to introduce Dr. Kiper, who is a former FBI special agent, former FBI forensic examiner instructor, and former FBI Academy Unit Chief at Quantico. Stacey Eldridge, who’s a former FBI senior forensic examiner and digital evidence instructor for FBI Cart headquarters. Joseph Tully as a criminal defense attorney. Bud Cummins is a former US Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Alan Dershowitz is a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School. And Ron Sullivan is a Harvard law professor as well.
Chase Geyser 1:37
To start off, we are going to be playing a pre recorded two minute video, and then we will take statements from our distinguished panelists following that, so stand by one moment and then we’ll go ahead and play this video.
Stacey Eldrich 1:52
I worked in the FBI for about 10 years, it is clear that the photos in this case were planted there.
Steve Abrams 2:01
This is the most serious tampering of evidence that I’ve ever seen.
Wayne B. Norris 2:05
It’s inescapable that the FBI proactively created fake evidence
Stephen Bunting 2:11
It was changed while in FBI custody, it was changed, it was modified and was altered…
William Odom 2:16
In 25 years of digital forensic investigations, five of which was with the FBI. The amount of technical ability and premeditation to perform this fraud in the case against Mr. Ranieri – I’ve never seen anything like that.
Dr Rick Kiper 2:33
In my 20 years experience with the FBI I have never seen data manipulation, evidence tampering anything like this on this scale.
Ronald Sullivan 2:45
When I first read the papers that Mr. Ranieri presented on tampering I was shocked.
Judge Richard Mays 2:51
I’ve never seen an instance where the system threw away its credibility purely for the purpose of convicting a defendant
Dr Yuseff Salam 2:51
If it could happen to a person who was educated, who was white, who has the complexion for acceptance as I would say, none of us are safe.
Joseph Tully 3:09
There is no need to fabricate evidence for a guilty man. The fact that they fabricated evidence here and to the degree that they did shocks the conscience.
Alan Dershowitz 3:20
If this alleged FBI malfeasance turns out to be true, as our experts say it is, then this is really historic. This is really an attempt to frame somebody based on manipulation of data. That’s just unacceptable in an American court, and in the American legal system.
Bud Cummins 3:42
I’m the former United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. In the face of this alarming evidence, there’s really no excuse for the court or for the prosecutor to hide behind procedural delays in waiting to get to the bottom of this. They should take immediate action and if they can’t, or they won’t. United States Attorney General should appoint an independent prosecutor. If an independent investigation determines this tampering occurred, there must be accountability. People have to be criminally prosecuted. This is very serious.
Chase Geyser 4:31
Thank you for watching the introduction video. At this time, we will begin the portion of the press conference where our distinguished speakers will be making live statements. First we’ll hear from former FBI experts Stacy Eldridge and Dr. Kiper. I believe you’re going first so go ahead and take it away.
Dr Rick Kiper 4:47
My name is Dr. Rick Kiper. I’m a retired FBI special agent and forensic examiner. This is a joint statement on behalf of six independent computer forensic examiners including myself, former FBI senior forensic examiner Stacy Eldridge, who joins me on the call. Former FBI Special Agent forensic examiner Bill Odom, Former state constable Steven Abrams, Former University of Delaware Police Captain Steven bunting and software engineer Wayne Norris. We are all qualified as expert witnesses in the area of digital forensics. Together we have a combined experience of nearly 200 years in digital forensics and law enforcement.
All our analysis is based on the information used by the government during trial none of us have, ever in our careers, claimed to have witnessed government tampering much less the scale of tampering that we’ve seen in this case. But after examining the evidence…excuse the announcement in the background. Cooperation, I’m at an airport excuse the background noise.
None of us have ever in our careers claimed to have witnessed government tampering much less than the scale of tampering we’ve seen in this case. But after examining the evidence presented by the government, we’ve all concluded that the digital evidence devices used to convict Mr. Raniere of child pornography and sexual exploitation of a minor were significantly manipulated. Additionally, we know to a scientific certainty that some of the evidence was altered while in the possession of the FBI. Although we don’t know the precise timing of the tampering, we do know someone extensively altered the media. The media card used to justify the charges. And we know dozens of files including the alleged contraband photos were planted on the hard drive and were made to look like a backup.
Stacey Eldrich 6:56
The alteration of evidence and serious breaches of evidence handing protocols are indisputable, and they appear to align with the government’s narrative at trial. Additionally, official documentation shows that several FBI employees violated FBI policies, forensic protocols and standard operating procedures during this investigation. These violations were atrocious. Therefore, we strongly believe that anyone who has a high level of digital forensics knowledge, training and experience and who has access to the same facts would also conclude that the action of a person or persons in the DOJ or FBI resulted in significant tampering of evidence.
Chase Geyser 7:48
Before we hear from Joseph Tully, I just want to remind the journalists that if you do have questions that you would like answered at the end of these statements, please make sure to include your name and publication in the q&a section of the Zoom call, and we’ll be sure to address any questions that we can. Next we will be hearing from Joseph Tully, who is the attorney for Keith Ranieri.
Joseph Tully 8:07
Good morning everyone. My name is Joseph Tully. I am Keith Raniere’s attorney. The level of government malfeasance uncovered here is extreme. Top forensic experts as we’ve just heard, have documented multiple instances of evidence tampering, requiring the coordination of multiple actors to frame Keith Raniere with some of the most heinous charges in our judicial system. If he were guilty, the government would not have needed to go to such lengths to create evidence. However, his innocence or guilt is irrelevant. This is about all of our rights to due process and our right to receive a trial free of manufactured and altered evidence by bad government actors. The court must hear this evidence immediately and grant the appropriate relief.
I am further concerned about Mr. Raniere’s well-being well in custody. It appears that he has been retaliated against in the prison based on our filings. First, he was kept in solitary confinement conditions in the special housing unit for 97 days without cause and not given timely hearings. Now, he is enduring more confinement in the special housing unit again without cause this time for over 60 days and counting. I call upon the warden of the facility where Mr. Raniere is housed, Warden Mark Qataris, to investigate Mr. Raniere’s conditions. I’m further concerned that Mr. Raniere may be transferred to another location where his safety may be threatened.
Chase Geyser 9:57
We will now hear from former US attorney Bud Cummins.
Bud Cummins 10:02
My name is Bud Cummins. I’m an attorney. I’m licensed in the state of Arkansas and in the District of Columbia and I’m the former US Attorney in the Eastern District of Arkansas. As you’ve heard these highly qualified experts are quite sure that evidence tampering has occurred in this case. As a former United States Attorney as former member of the Department of Justice, I would say this is more than enough to deem this matter of high priority throughout the department. The government authorities must quickly ferret out the truth in this case. In recent years, I think we all know there’s been a variety of revelations in cases unrelated to this one that have left DOJ’s reputation and the FBI reputation in tatters. And I think it’s an understatement to say that their credibility is in question. Even so, it would be a historic finding if it were determined that someone tampered with the evidence in this particular case. I believe the United States Attorney and the FBI should immediately get to the bottom of this. The opinions of these experts are too credible and too serious to simply marginalize the allegations is frivolous. The government should not circle the wagons they should not hide behind procedure. They should want to know the truth more than anyone. If a fair and thorough investigation of these facts is not initiated immediately, a neutral authority should step in. We must know what really happened here.
Chase Geyser 11:46
We will now hear from Ron Sullivan and Alan Dershowitz attorneys for Clair Bronfman and Keith Ranieri, Mr. Dershowitz we’ll start with you. Go ahead.
Alan Dershowitz 11:56
Thank you very much. This is a joint statement between myself and my colleague, Professor Ron Sullivan. We represent both Mr. Raniere and Miss Bronfman. Multiple experts have concluded that government tampering of digital photos is, at the very least, a highly likely conclusion. If true, this represents a level of corruption that is so unprecedented, so high, by whoever may be responsible, the current situation is simply untenable. There must be immediate action.
There should swiftly be an evidentiary hearing that will determine the truth. Appropriate relief may include a new trial obviously, but it may also include dismissal of the indictment on the basis of outrageous government misconduct. Their cases supporting that form of relief. If there is a hearing, Mr. Raniere wishes to attend by videoconference rather than be transported.
But this is a really important test of our legal system, whether you like Mr Raniere or not the question is, can we be fair, even to those who are despised? I challenge the media to vigorously and critically examine and evaluate all the facts until it is fully heard and addressed. That’s the appropriate role of the media. If this alleged historical government malfeasance is true, then every additional day that Mr. Raniere was prompt has been behind bars, waiting for this evidence to be heard in a court would be a further into this injustice.
Chase Geyser 13:51
Mr. Sullivan, go ahead. Make sure you unmute your microphone, Ron.
Ronald Sullivan 14:02
With apologies, thank you very much. My name is Ronald Sullivan. I represent Claire Bronfman and all matters related to this. The government, it seems has not taken very seriously the credible evidence that has been presented, which suggests photo manipulation. In fact, the Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York on the matter Kevin Trowel, called the claims frivolous, however, does not present one shred of evidence contrary to the claims that the experts you’ve heard from have made.
Judge Nicholas Garrifus has deferred the ruling on this issue has deferred a court hearing on this issue on procedural grounds, classifying it as not raising a substantial issue. We are simply asking that the that this matter be heard for its substance.
Now it’s clear with respect to my client, Ms. Bronfman, that the only reason she and frankly the others accepted a plea bargain in this case is because of this evidence that appeared at the 11th hour, this evidence that was so prejudicial, that they felt, Miss Bronfman, felt and I imagined the others felt that taking a plea was their only option.
Now there will be more announcements as this matter develops. We are calling on the media to help bring scrutiny to the issue, demand responsiveness from the government as Bud Cummins suggested it seems to me that it’s in their interest as well, to get to the bottom of this and for the Court to hear these meritorious claims and to make a decision on the substance. Thank you.
Chase Geyser 16:14
This concludes the prepared conference for our or excuse me the prepared content for our press conference today. Again, a press kit with a press release summary of statements speaker bios and summaries of the tampering and the motion filed this morning will be made available for all attendees. To receive a press kit you must submit your email address in the zoom q&a box and one will be emailed to you. Thank you everyone for coming.
What I want to do now is make sure to remind any of the journalists who are with us today, if they have any questions for any of our guests to go ahead and submit your name and the name of your publication as well as your question and we’ll be happy to have any members of this panel answer those questions as promptly and thoroughly as possible. So go ahead and tap the q&a section of this zoom call and enter any questions that you may have and we’ll be happy to answer them.
Chase Geyser 17:15
The first just to kind of get everything kick started since we haven’t had any journalist submit questions yet. Do you want to ask and I think my questions probably for for Joseph Tully though it’s not that’s that’s fine. I just want to learn a little bit about the what the procedure looks like now. Where exactly is this case in? What’s the timeline for the next steps that that we’re to, that we’re to face in the coming days or weeks?
Joseph Tully 17:41
So right now, this is a post conviction case. So this is after jury trial. The there is an appeal that was filed, and it was argued and it is now sitting waiting for the Second Circuit to file it. So there’s a trial court and then the appellate court right now the case is with the appellate court however, the tampering issues that we’re uncovering can only be addressed in the trial court. So we need to have the district court or the appellate court, unfreeze the motion, or unfreeze the appeal so that the tampering issues can be heard in the District Court. That motion was filed early this morning. And I requested of the Second Circuit to to hold their to put their appeal on pause so that the tampering issue can be heard in the district court and unfortunately, there’s no no timeframe right now. We’re basically waiting to hear from the Second Circuit and the District Court.
Chase Geyser 18:46
Thank you for taking the time to answer that. We’re not getting any questions from our journalists but we have had quite a great attendance from the media here today with dozens of people attending and listening to the panelists. This does conclude the content for the press conference. Again, one final reminder that our press kit, the press release, summary of statements, speaker bios and summaries of the tampering and the motion filed this morning will be made available for all attendees. If you’d like to receive a press kit, you must submit your email address in the zoom q&a box and one will be emailed to you. Thank you everyone for coming. It’s been an honor and a pleasure to have you and best of luck.
Chase Geyser 19:32
We do have one more question that just came in just a moment ago. Clint Russell would like someone to go deeper into who and what was tampered with. So if there’s anyone that’s still with us on the call, who’s able to answer that question, we’ll try to sneak in the response there. But if not, then that is totally acceptable.
Dr Rick Kiper 19:55
I could speak to that unless someone else wants to
Chase Geyser 19:59
Go ahead Dr. Kiper
Dr Rick Kiper 20:03
The technical findings in this case are very extensive. But what we can definitely say for sure, in a nutshell and something that’s conveyable in short period of time is that the the file access dates for files on one of the devices that was used in the conviction were updated while in the custody of the FBI. That’s an indisputable fact. It’s also not in dispute that the evidence handling in this case, broke protocol broke the FBI’s own digital evidence policy guides. It broke chain of custody, where one of the pieces of digital evidence was transported in an unsealed state.
Some of the other alterations that we see are things like timestamps, and timestamps in this case, was used as the sole evidence to date photographs, which would date those photographs where the subject of those photographs will be 15 years old. That is the only digital evidence that was used in the case. We know that that that particular evidence – those timestamps – are unreliable. We know from a forensic examination of both devices that that type of evidence was altered extensively. And so that evidence is completely unreliable. And the FBIs expert witness in this case, misrepresented the reliability of that evidence extensively. I hope that answers the question.
Chase Geyser 21:58
It does. Thank you. Is there anything at this point that the Department of Justice can do or Merrick Garland could do? What kind of power can leadership the DOJ leverage in order to address the specific case, if any? Alan, can you answer that question?
Alan Dershowitz 22:23
Sure. The Department of Justice has complete plenary authority to investigate in some cases. There have been numerous cases where the Justice Department has gone to court and sided with the defendants in the case saying this is a substantial enough claim that we too want to have an evidentiary hearing. We don’t want to leave the situation where it is now with very credible and serious claims of very serious misconduct and leave the record the way it is. So I would believe that the Attorney General the United States the head of the criminal division, other reasonable people in the Justice Department would be on our side on this issue of an evidentiary hearing. If the evidentiary hearing determines that there were changes in the dates which went to the innocence of the defendant. They should come in and join us in at least a motion for a new trial, perhaps dismissing the indictment. So remember, the Justice Department is not in the business just of winning cases it is as the sign in front of the Justice Department says justice is done essentially when the truth comes out. So they should be as interested in we are as the truth coming out. Also, if the evidentiary hearing somehow manages to disprove these claims, which seems very unlikely, that also benefits the Justice Department so it’s a win win for the Justice Department and they ought to be seeking an evidentiary hearing as soon as possible.
Ronald Sullivan 24:05
I’ll just add on to what my colleague said, I agree 110% And there’s an irony here that shouldn’t be lost that the Department of Justice gave these prosecutors an award for the prosecution of this case. Now that evidence is available that suggests that there was data manipulation in the case, the Justice Department ought to look at this and they ought to look at this seriously. That this many experts have come to the conclusion that there is a real serious and genuine problem here cannot be overstated.
The this one of the primary aim, probably the primary aim of the criminal justice system is the truth seeking function with a due process function as a close second behind it. This implicates both goals of the criminal justice system, whether it’s fundamental fairness or whether it’s seeking the truth. On either pillar of the criminal justice system, the Department of Justice ought to stand up and if they can refute these allegations, or not correct the injustice that was done.
Bud Cummings 25:37
I would add to that, you know, when you when you work at the Department of Justice, and you’re you have that immense power at your disposal, your job is not to celebrate convictions and you don’t mourn acquittal. Your job is to is to put evidence fairly in front of the court and seek justice. And you know, I can just tell you if this had happened 15 years ago and Easter this Arkansas you wouldn’t have to wait for a judge to set a hearing. There’d be an investigation going on right now. Because they can’t tolerate if something like this has actually happened. The FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice can’t tolerate that. Because their credibility is so important. And like I said before, it’s already in pretty bad shape.
I’ve been frustrated since I left the Department of Justice because so many times I’ve said to people you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. People are probably doing their jobs, but we just aren’t seeing it. But at the end of the day, that’s not always the case. There’s been disappointment after disappointment that goes all the way to the leadership at Department of Justice and FBI. And this situation is only going to make it worse. Somebody needs to stand up right now and say we need to get to the bottom of this right now. And if we find that there’s malfeasance and the people that are best situated to figure this out, are the FBI and the Department of Justice so they should get to the bottom of it. And they should come forward and offer the evidence. As Professor Dershowitz and Professor Sullivan said, they should join with the defense if they find that this is true, and see the appropriate remedy immediately.
Chase Geyser 27:25
Shaylen Dewan with the New York Times asks, and I quote, ‘I thought they also used the existence of a scar to date the photos’ end quote, Joseph, this is probably a question for you can you talk a little bit about that?
Joseph Tully 27:38
Sure. Yes, there. There was some testimony regarding that. However, there is a an absolute defense to that. The existence of a scar is is a misnomer. What it is, is the subject of these photos, had an appendectomy and when she leans over, you can see scar tissue bunch up. So it’s not the existence of a scar. It’s scar tissue bunching up in certain positions. In other positions, that scar tissue doesn’t bunch up and it doesn’t show. So the existence of the scar was used in trial however it was it went un-rebutted and there is clearly material to rebut it.
Chase Geyser 28:26
Very good. What kind of criminal ramifications can the DOJ bring if if this is true? What are the ramifications for perhaps employees or members of the FBI or different investigators who may have participated in the manipulation of this evidence? Question for any takers.
Bud Cummings 28:55
I may be the best person that should be able to answer that. Most quickly. I can’t lie to you a statute but I guarantee you that there are criminal statutes that would be implicated and criminal prosecution would be available.
Chase Geyser 29:12
I see. And for Stacey, the question came up these are big claims to make of malfeasance. How certain are you and the other five experts of these findings?
Stacey Eldrich 29:27
So based on the documentation that we’ve received in terms of evidence handling and violations of policy, it’s very clear as to which policies were violated and how they were violated, such as unauthorized FBI personnel accessing digital evidence, giving it to the US Attorney’s office when it was not allowed to be given, and even the conducting of a second forensic examination which is prohibited by FBI policy.
Chase Geyser 30:00
Makes sense. We have one final question for Mr. Dershowitz. Why aren’t media and others covering this and what can we do about it?
Alan Dershowitz 30:10
It’s a very, very good question. Look, I think the media often bases its priorities on the popularity of the defendant. If this were a defendant or defendants who were favored by the public, favored by the media, I think many of the media would jump on this immediately. But when you have a situation where a defendant is widely despised, I think many journalists don’t want to be on the side of possibly seeing what they believe is a guilty person acquitted based on due process or constitutional violations.
Alan Dershowitz 31:04
As somebody who’s litigated these kinds of cases now for over 50 years, I can say this just nothing more important than the media which is, in a democracy, ultimately, the court of last resort. The media looking into these cases and looking very, very hard at these cases, whether you like or dislike the defendant or the defendants whether you approve or disapprove of generally at the Department of Justice to the FBI, those are not the issues. The issue is, was there a manipulation here, regardless of what other evidence may have been introduced? If there was a manipulation here, that really challenges our system of justice, and my only concluding statements is, if this can happen to these two defendants, it could happen to a member of your family, to a friend, and even in the end to you. And that’s why the media has to prioritize these serious claims of possible government misconduct.
Chase Geyser 32:17
Thank you for that thorough response to that question. This does conclude content for the press. Conference ….real quickly.
Bud Cummings 32:24
Go ahead and I I would refer the reporter to 18 USC 1512 tampering with a witness victim or format, that somewhere in that statute or statute very close to that is probably the legal criminal remedy for conduct like this.
Joseph Tully 32:44
I think it’s 15 19 18 USC 1519 for the evidence, and then there’s also perjury, which is alleged in in our briefs.
Alan Dershowitz 33:00
If a Defense Attorney were ever accused of comparable tampering with evidence. There would be immediate media focus and the defense attorney would be subject to discipline and possible disbarment and you can’t have a double standard. In fact, there is a double standard the obligation is much higher on the government not to be not to use improper means – it’s high on both sides. But if anything, the obligation is higher on the government than it is on defense counsel.
Ronald Sullivan 33:37
I think that’s absolutely true. Just as we’re closing out here. Prosecutors in our system are supposed to be ministers of justice, not advocates seeking a win, but rather ministers of justice. So properly understood when an issue like this is presented, the prosecution and the defense should be walking arm and arm toward ferreting out what the answer is.
In addition, all courts outside of the statutes that were mentioned, all judges have general supervisory authority over a case and that sounds in equity. And what I mean by that is when something is going on in a case in a courtroom that is fundamentally unfair, all judges have general supervisory authority to engage these sorts of situations. So again, all we’re asking is that people look at this information and evaluate whether they have any cogent response to what these very many experts have concluded.
Chase Geyser 34:56
Do you have one more question that we’re gonna stick in for Dr. Kiper? It’s from Frank Parlato from the Frank Report. He says it is curious that forensic examiner Booth spoke of EXIF data as highly reliable. Steven Flatly conversely was said to be in Ghana. He previously testified that and metadata is not reliable. Can you speak up a little bit Dr. Kiper?
Dr Rick Kiper 35:19
Yes, it’s a very interesting ituation in this particular case, Stacy mentioned that there were two examinations done, which is itself against policy against FBI policy, unless you have a very, very high authority to do it, which didn’t happen. But in this case, there were two examinations done and the first examination was done by the first forensic examiners, Stephen Flatley, and he came to a certain report, forensic report. And then Brian Booth, did another forensic examination. And in the last week of trial, and his report contains additional information, and those additional files created a stronger relationship between the two devices, which was the goal of the government’s narrative in this case.
So what happened was that Stephen Flatly created his report that didn’t have that stronger connection. And then four weeks of trial went by and he did not testify and he did not present his report, in trial. And all of a sudden he received an assignment for overseas, and that card that he was examining that camera card was transported via to other people, and delivered to the second examiner in an unsealed container, and then that second examiner created other or his report contains additional information that aligned with government’s narrative.
Now, Steven Flatly had testified three years earlier, that the type of metadata that’s infused into the contents of files is not reliable. He said it several times during that previous trial. And he said emphatically that the FBI would never rely on that type of timestamp data in order to date a particular file. So it’s the exact opposite of what Brian Booth testified in this case, where he was saying that the EXIF data was very reliable, very difficult to change. There are 15 pages in the trial transcript where the prosecutor and this examiner was discussing the reliability of this particular evidence that Mr. Flatley three years earlier had had disqualified as reliable evidence.
Chase Geyser 38:01
Thank you, Dr. Kiper. Again, I want to remind all of the journalists in attendance that a press kit with the press release summary of statements, speaker bios and summaries of the tampering and motion filed this morning will be made available for all attendees. If you’d like to receive a press kit, please submit your email address in the zoom q&a box and one will be emailed to you. That is a wrap for everything that we have today. Special thanks to our panelists for being here and to members of media for coming and showing an interest in this important story. And everyone take care. Thanks again for being here.