The Latest: Witness testifies about ‘sex slave’ initiation

NEW YORK (AP) — The Latest from the trial of a self-help guru charged with sex trafficking (all times local):

5 p.m.

A witness is testifying about how she was recruited into a secret sorority that prosecutors say consisted of sex slaves for the former leader of an upstate New York self-help group.

The woman told a jury on Tuesday that she was under orders to try to “seduce” Keith Raniere as part of her initiation in 2015. She claimed Raniere got her to text nude photos as a prelude to meeting with him in person.

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The witness testified using only her first name – Sylvie – to protect her identity at the federal sex-trafficking trial. She’s expected to return to the witness stand on Wednesday to continue her account.

Raniere has pleaded not guilty. The former leader of the group called NXIVM claims his encounters with several alleged victims were consensual.

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1:50 p.m.

The lawyer for a self-help guru accused of turning followers into sex slaves says his client’s methods were meant to help people.

Defense attorney Marc Agnifilo said in opening statements Tuesday at the sex trafficking trial of Keith Raniere (rah-NEER’-ee) in New York that his client is misunderstood. He also says his alleged victims were never forced to do anything against their will.

A former member of NXIVM (NEHK’-see-uhm), the group run by Raniere, took the witness stand briefly after the openings before a lunch break. She was to resume testifying later in the day.

Raniere has pleaded not guilty to the charges in federal court in Brooklyn. The trial is expected to last six weeks.

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11:40 a.m.

A federal prosecutor says a self-help guru used threats, “shame and humiliation” while grooming women for sex.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Hajjar presented opening statements Tuesday at the sex-trafficking trial of Keith Raniere, the former leader of an upstate New York group called NXIVM (NEHK’-see-uhm) that’s been likened to a cult.

The prosecutor alleged that Raniere had sex with a 15-year-old girl and took nude photos of her. She also described how some female followers were branded with Raniere’s initials.

The trial is expected to feature testimony from women who claim they were forced to have sex with Raniere.

Raniere denies the allegations. His lawyers say his relationships were consensual.

Five of Raniere’s co-defendants, including TV actress Allison Mack, have pleaded guilty.

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1:25 a.m.

A New York City jury is set to hear opening statements and testimony at the sex-trafficking case against a self-help guru.

The trial beginning Tuesday is expected to feature testimony from women who claim that they were forced to have sex with Keith Raniere. He’s the former leader of an upstate New York group called NXIVM that’s been likened to a cult.

Raniere has pleaded not guilty and denied the charges. His lawyers say his relationships with the alleged victims were consensual.

The defendant was captured last year on a U.S. warrant in Mexico. That’s where he fled after sensational news reports about a secret society within his group that branded his so-called sex slaves with his initials.

Five of Raniere’s co-defendants, including TV actress Allison Mack, have pleaded guilty.

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