Lawyer for NXIVM chief Keith Raniere leaves case, agency

Albany defense attorney Danielle Smith, part of the defense team for NXIVM leader Keith Raniere, has left the case and departed the law firm of longtime area attorney Paul DerOhannesian.

Smith, a University at Buffalo Law School graduate who has worked for DerOhannesian & DerOhannesian since 2013, left the firm to move closer to her family, according to an email. Smith was one of four trial attorneys who sat in a federal courtroom in Brooklyn with the reputed cult leader known within NXIVM as “Vanguard.”

“Prior to leaving, she discussed the issue with Mr. Raniere who agreed that she would no longer represent him in this matter upon her departure from D&D,” DerOhannesian informed Senior U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis.  “I have since spoken to Mr. Raniere and he once again reiterated his consent to Ms. Smith’s withdrawal as an attorney in this matter. Mr. Raniere will suffer no prejudice as a result of her withdrawal. I therefore respectfully request that she be terminated as an attorney of record in the above matter.”

Raniere, who was convicted of all charges, including sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy and racketeering charges that included possession of child pornography, extortion and identity theft, is serving 120 years in a federal prison in Arizona.

Raniere’s lead attorney, Marc Agnifilo, left the case last month along with Teny Geragos, another attorney at his firm who had been representing Raniere at trial.

DerOhannesian, at least for now, remains part of the legal team for Raniere, 60, formerly of Halfmoon. Raniere has hired appellate lawyers that include Jennifer Bonjean, Joseph McBride and Steven Alan Metcalf II.

Read more in Robert Gavin’s Law Beat column.

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