FILE - In this April 13, 2018 courtroom sketch, Keith Raniere, center, leader of the secretive group NXIVM, attends a hearing at court in the Brooklyn borough of New York. 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, May 7, 2019, is expected to feature testimony from women who claim that they were forced to have sex with Raniere. (Elizabeth Williams via AP, File)

Trial opens in sex-trafficking case against self-help guru

May 07, 2019 - 11:38 am

NEW YORK (AP) — 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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