Smallville's Allison Mack May Be Negotiating Plea to 'Cruel and Punitive' Role in Sex Trafficking Case
Three defendants accused of crimes from sex trafficking to conspiracy as part of a controversial New York-based self-help group are in “active plea negotiations” as their scheduled trial next month draws near, according to prosecutors.
This revelation came out in court on Monday as a fourth defendant, Nxivm co-founder Keith Raniere, entered a not guilty plea to newly filed child pornography charges related to the case, according to the Albany Times Union, CBS News and the Associated Press.
Among those charged is actress Allison Mack, who was accused last April of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy through her involvement with Nxivm and its sub-group DOS, which prosecutors have described as an all-female secret society of “masters” and “slaves” in which women allegedly were forced to be sexually subservient to Raniere.
“These slaves said Mack was incredibly intimidating, cruel and punitive,” a source close to two former DOS members told The Hollywood Reporter in a cover story published last May.
Raniere earlier pleaded not guilty to all other charges against him in the case. A fifth defendant, the Seagram liquor fortune heiress Clare Bronfman, likely will be the only one besides Raniere to go to trial, Bronfman’s attorney Mark Geragos said in court Monday, reports CBS News.
That would leave Mack, along with former Nxvim bookkeeper Kathy Russell and Lauren Salzman, the daughter of Raniere’s second-in-command Nancy Salzman, as the three remaining defendants with whom prosecutors are in “active plea negotiations,” according to the statement in court Monday by Assistant U.S. Attorney Moira Penza, reports the Associated Press.
The prosecutor’s office declined PEOPLE’s request to formally identify those with whom they were negotiating. Along with Mack, Russell and Lauren Salzman also have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
Nancy Salzman, who co-founded Nxvim with Raniere, pleaded guilty Wednesday to racketeering conspiracy in the case, insisting to a judge, despite her plea, “I still believe some of what we did was good,” reports the Times Union.
It was the first conviction in the case that has drawn the attention of federal investigators.
Nxivm was based out of Albany, New York, and has been the subject of scrutiny from both law enforcement and journalists after it came under fire from Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg, whose estranged daughter, India, joined the group in 2011.
Oxenberg first opened up to PEOPLE in 2017 about how she believed India had been “brainwashed” by Nxivm.
Last month a federal judge denied a third request for bail from Raniere, meaning he will remain behind bars until at least April 29 — the scheduled start of his trial on sex trafficking and forced labor charges.
The judge’s decision to reject the motion for $1 million bail argues that Raniere remains a flight risk, according to records obtained by PEOPLE.
The order refers to Raniere’s decision to travel to Mexico in the fall of 2017, upon learning investigators were closing in on Nxivm to arrest some of its senior members.
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Nxivm, which suspended operations in 2018, has been described by at least one former member as a “cult.”
Mack, one of the group’s most prominent members, is best known for her years-long role as Chloe Sullivan on The WB’s Smallville. She is facing a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
Raniere, who was arrested in March 2018, faces the same charges plus wire fraud and racketeering. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
Federal investigators have accused Mack of recruiting women into the Nxivm sub-group that was purported to be a female mentorship group to address their weaknesses but was, allegedly, a group created by Raniere that took advantage of women sexually.
“The victims were then exploited, both sexually and for their labor, to the defendants’ benefit,” Richard P. Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, alleged in a statement issued at the time of Mack’s arrest, referring to both Mack and Raniere.
Bronfman was charged last July with racketeering conspiracy in connection to her involvement with the group. She has pleaded not guilty and was released on a $100 million bond, according to the Associated Press.