Keith Raniere courtroom artist sketch
© Elizabeth Williams/AP
In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Keith Raniere, center, sits with attorneys Paul DerOhannesian, left, and Marc Agnifilo during closing arguments at Brooklyn federal court, Tuesday, June 18, 2019 in New York. A federal prosecutor said Raniere used his NXIVM organization to "tap into a never-ending flow of women and money." Attorneys for the defendant say he had no criminal intent and that his sexual encounters with followers were consensual.
Former members of group say "Kay Rose" rallies are meant for cult-like group's leader.

Outside Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center, a group of people dance every night to support federal inmates, including one in particular: Kay Rose.

There is, however, no inmate by that name in the Brooklyn facility — or anywhere else in the federal prison population, for that matter. But "Kay Rose" shares the initials of someone who has spent the past two years in the downstate lockup: Keith Raniere, the leader of the formerly influential and now shattered organization known as NXIVM.

Former NXIVM members say what has been billed by a group called We Are As You as a campaign to buck up prisoners as they live under peril of COVID-19 infections is being organized by a group of the remaining loyal disciples of Raniere, the 59-year-old convicted sex trafficker from Halfmoon known within his cult-like personal growth group as "Vanguard."

We Are As You has met outside the detention center every night at 8 p.m. since July 3. Its members — who post about their activities on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter — blast music, dance and even do backflips. While the former NXIVM members acknowledge it's impossible to know how many of the participants are familiar with Raniere, they say the organizers of the street rallies have a single audience member in mind.

"It's a cover movement for Keith Raniere — it's a Trojan Horse," said Mark Vicente, a filmmaker and former high-ranking NXIVM member who was a key witness against Raniere during his trial last year. "Why are all the key figures Raniere loyalists? This is all in tribute to Raniere."

Vicente told the Times Union that he recognized at least six people leading the dancers as well-known members of NXIVM. He noted that the social media followers of the group were a "Who's Who of the NXIVM World," naming nearly a dozen people.

Raniere, whose Colonie-based company had operations in Vancouver, Los Angeles and Mexico, is in the Metropolitan Detention Center awaiting sentencing after being convicted in June 2019 on all of the federal counts lodged against him — including racketeering, sex trafficking and forced labor conspiracy. He faces a possible life sentence; his sentencing has been adjourned indefinitely because the coronavirus pandemic has prevented his lawyers from visiting him.

Raniere's attorneys, Marc Agnifilo and Paul DerOhannesian, declined to comment.

The dance group's events were reported last week by the Frank Report, a website run by longtime NXIVM critic Frank Parlato, a western New York-based writer who broke from NXIVM after initially being hired to do public relations for the group.

Social media posts for We Are As You show dancers with signs that include a phone number for those interested in joining the cause. Guidelines on the group's website ask dancers to wear a mask and practice social distancing, to wear light-colored clothing and bring lights and banners so prisoners can see them. It asks them to "dance peacefully and joyfully."

Nothing in the online description of We Are As You identifies it as being linked to NXIVM. Former members of NXIVM and its longtime critics are concerned that people with friends and family members in the detention center could support the group out of genuine concern for their loved ones while remaining unaware of its ties to Raniere and his crimes.

Vicente explained that We Are As You appeared to have derived its name from a project that Raniere hatched in Mexico in 2008 that involved dancing and singing at the same time every night.

"Back then, the motto was 'You are my other me,'" Vicente said. "They have not updated their strategies in 12 years. Either Raniere is directing them from prison or ... disconnected from their source, they are using very old tactics. Either way, it's a cruel and terrible ruse. And a dishonor to the families they are enrolling in this sham of a movement."

He noted that hashtags for We Are As You mention the Black Lives Matter movement. "Imagine what Black Lives Matter would think if they found out this was a cover for a white, convicted pedophile sex slaver," Vicente said. "It is highly offensive."

"When this many diehard Raniere supporters gather, it is a cause for concern," said Neil Glazer, an attorney who represents litigants in a federal civil lawsuit against Raniere and 14 of his associates. "Clearly, none of these people have an issue supporting a notorious human trafficker, whom it appears they now refer to as 'Kay Rose' in signs signifying their love for the man. Why the subterfuge?"

"The fact that they have created a new name, launching a new 'movement' right outside of the federal facility where their leader is being held pending a possible life sentence ... leads me to wonder if they are using this as a pretext to start recruiting for a re-branded NXIVM," Glazer said. "And, if they are, whether they intend to use this pretense to start bilking people out of money once again, or perhaps even to start trying to apply the incredibly harmful NXIVM 'tech' on unsuspecting people."

According to Vicente, Glazer and Ivy Nevares — another former high-ranking NXIVM member who has since defected — the dancers have included members of Raniere's once-secret "master/slave" club known as Dominus Obsequious Sororium (DOS), in which women were branded in their pelvic area by a person using a cauterizing pen.

Testimony and evidence presented at Raniere's trial detailed how women in DOS were ordered to live on 500-calorie-a-day diet; ordered to be ready around the clock to respond to text messages commanding they to undertake certain tasks; and had to pledge obedience to their "masters" who in turn were under the control of Raniere. The women were forced to submit embarrassing information, referred to as "collateral," to their masters as a tool to guarantee loyalty or at least silence.

"If you're following #WeAreAsYou and come across @WeAreAsYou, be warned: Some of the organizers belong to the sex trafficking ring #DOS and support convicted pedophile #KeithRaniere," Nevares wrote on Twitter last week.

One of the dancers outside the detention center was identified by Vicente and Glazer as Danielle Roberts, a doctor and DOS "slave" who conducted the branding of women at secret ceremonies. Former "Battlestar Galactica" actress Nicki Clyne, a "first-line slave" in DOS who according to trial testimony answered directly to Raniere, was also spotted outside the MDC in social media posts. Other people present in photos, including Eduardo Asunsolo of Brooklyn, attended Raniere's trial and openly supported him.

Jim Del Negro, a high-ranking member of NXIVM and member of Raniere's inner circle, tweeted a link to the videos of We Are As You, saying, "I love my friends. ... Terrific act of compassion!!!!"

When the Times Union called the number for We Are As You on Friday, a woman answering the phone provided an email to send media requests. Asked about the group, she said, "It's for all the friends and family who have people inside."

Asked if there was a connection between the group and NXIVM, she said, "This is really just about providing entertainment for guys who have been on lockdown for months and haven't been able to have visitors and see their families, so that's what it's about. ... You could just email us and we'll provide you with all the materials of what you need to write."

The group did not respond to an email. When the Times Union called back, the woman said, "This number is for friends and family of inmates only, so I'd really appreciate it if you don't use it. Thank you."

She hung up.

Robert Gavin covers state and federal courts, criminal justice issues and legal affairs for the Times Union. Contact him at (518) 434-2403