A federal judge denied a second motion for a new trial from convicted self-improvement cult guru Keith Raniere.
Raniere, the disgraced leader of a self-improvement group in upstate New York convicted of turning women into sex slaves who were branded with his initials, faces the possibility of life in prison after he was convicted last year by a federal jury in New York. His sentencing is scheduled for Tuesday.
Raniere's lawyers argued in their second motion that new affidavits establish that "the Government engaged in a widespread, systemic effort to threaten potential defense witnesses and to prevent them from testifying."
Judge Nicholas Garaufis of Brooklyn federal court, who denied Raniere's first motion for a new trial, denied the second attempt on Friday. In the court's denial, Garaufis says the two testimonies that Raniere asserts are "newly discovered evidence," were not unknown to Raniere and could have been discovered "through due diligence."
"As the Second Circuit has repeatedly made clear, evidence that was knowable but unavailable to the defendant, including testimony by witnesses whom the defendant failed to call - regardless of the reason for that failure - does not warrant a new trial," the judge's ruling said, in part.
"I am innocent," Raniere said in an interview that aired Friday on "NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt." Raniere acknowledged he was a leader in an organization that kept women as virtual sex prisoners, but he said he is the victim of unethical prosecution.
"This is a horrible tragedy with many, many people being hurt," Raniere said. "There is a horrible injustice here. And whether you think I'm the devil or not, the justice process has to be examined."
Raniere's trial lasted weeks. It took a jury only a matter of hours to convict him last year.
He was convicted on all seven counts, which included racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, sex trafficking conspiracy, sex trafficking and attempted sex trafficking charges.
Raniere - known within the group as "Vanguard" - oversaw a barbaric system in which women were told the best way to advance was to become a "slave" overseen by "masters," prosecutors said. The women were also expected to have sex with him and do menial chores for masters, and to keep the arrangement a secret or be publicly humiliated, according to prosecutors.