NXVIM: Has Sex Cult Leader Keith Raniere Apologized for His Role?

Keith Raniere just apologized for his role in NXIVM, but it's just another contradicting line in his request for a new trial. The founder of the group some call a "sex cult," who is also known as "Vanguard," still says he's innocent despite facing possible life imprisonment.

The former NXIVM leader explained his stance in a the interview that aired on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt on Friday. It seems Raniere's views on his leadership may have changed. While he's still not fessing up to puppeteering a sex cult, exactly, Raniere is now focused on embracing his image as a "bad guy" but still asking for fair justice.

"Yes, I am innocent," Raniere began in conversation with journalist Frank Parlato, the man who first broke the NXIVM story. "And although it is—this is a horrible tragedy with many, many people being hurt, I think the main thrust of this has really been the oppression. But really a different issue, which is hard for me to express. There is a horrible injustice here and whether you think I'm the devil or not, the justice process has to be examined."

Keith Raniere
Keith Raniere's faith in NXIVM was documented in HBO documentary series "The Vow." HBO

Raniere was found guilty of racketeering, forced labor conspiracy and sex trafficking back in June 2019. It all had to do with NXIVM, a "self-help" organization that promoted personal evolution. Inside the group, which is widely regarded as a cult, were more sinister teachings, including a sub-group called DOS.

Vanguard apparently used DOS, a pyramid-scheme-type group of all women, to recruit his own sex slaves. The women in the group were branded with Raniere's initials and forced to produce "collateral" which was used to blackmail them from ever revealing the group's gruesome inner workings. While NXIVM is now publicly shamed, there are still active members campaigning for Raniere's innocence. They've apparently found some success with a petition endorsed by true-crime expert and wrongfully convicted, Amanda Knox.

In the conversation that aired on NBC, Raniere did apologize. "I apologize for my participation in all of this," he said. "This pain and suffering. I've clearly participated. I've been the leader of the community." This, and his statement that NXIVM was a "tragedy" seems to show a change of heart since September when a court document from his lawyers told a very different story.

"He is not sorry for his conduct or his choices," Raniere's legal team wrote in official court documents in September, according to the New York Times. Their statement continued to claim Raniere is not guilty and he "intends to fight this case with all of his might, confident that he will one day be vindicated."

Raniere made it clear he is looking for a new trial in the conversation on NBC, as his answers were pointed to the alleged injustice in his sentencing.

"You know, one of the things that's most important is our justice system," he said via telephone to NBC. "And although, you know, people can hate me and do, and think I'm an odious type of a character, you know, awful actually. Both the devil and a saint should be able to get the exact same treatment under our justice system."

The petition from NXIVM supporters outlined some of the shared thoughts on the alleged injustice. Apparently, the document "demands that prosecutors answer whether they tampered with evidence, suborned perjury, threatened witnesses and more" according to the Albany Times Union newspaper.

Raniere's sentencing is planned to start on Tuesday, and the court is expected to hear over 100 victim impact statements.