In case you missed it, actress Allison Mack pleaded guilty earlier this week to charges in a sex trafficking case. She had been accused in a scheme that turned women into sex slaves for the spiritual leader of a cultlike group called NXIVM.
Mack is perhaps best known for her role as Chloe Sullivan, a young Superman’s close friend, on the CW series “Smallville.”
The 36-year-old’s guilty plea came Monday, the same day jury selection began for a federal trial in the same case. Mack’s signed plea agreement means she won’t go to court, but NXIVM leader Keith Raniere will, along with wealthy heiress Clare Bronfman and another member of Raniere’s inner circle, Kathy Russell.
NXIVM, by the way, is pronounced “Nex-e-um," and Bronfman is a daughter of Edgar Bronfman Sr., a billionaire behind the Seagram (liquor) fortune. Vanity Fair has reported that she, along with a sister, has given millions of dollars to help finance NXIVM and the alleged investment schemes of its leader, Raniere.
Bronfman, Raniere and Russell have all pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.
Mack, on the other hand, wept as she admitted her crimes and apologized to the women who prosecutors say were exploited by Raniere and the so-called self-help organization.
“I believed Keith Raniere’s intentions were to help people, and I was wrong,” Mack told a Brooklyn judge, according to a report from The Associated Press.
'A better person'
Mack also said that after months of reflection since her arrest, “I know I can and will be a better person.”
She is set for sentencing Sept. 11 on two federal racketeering counts that each carry maximum terms of 20 years in prison. It’s likely that she’ll face far less time under sentencing guidelines.
According to the New York Post, Mack got involved with NXIVM in 2006, along with one of her co-stars on “Smallville.”
That same co-star, Kristin Kreuk, has admitted her involvement with NXIVM but said it was before the group was accused of ritual brandings and other humiliating practices to which the cult subjected women, the Post said.
Who else is involved?
About two hours after Mack entered her guilty plea, potential jurors got their first glimpse of the jailed Raniere, who faces new allegations that he exploited a teenage girl.
Opening statements are scheduled for April 29 for a trial that is expected to last up to six weeks.
Court papers allege NXIVM formed a secret society of women who were branded with Raniere’s initials and forced to have sex with him. Defense attorneys have insisted any relationship between Raniere and the alleged victims, including women expected to testify against him at trial, was consensual.
On Monday, Mack said that at Raniere’s direction, she obtained compromising information and images of two unidentified women -- called “collateral” within the group -- that she threatened to make public if they didn’t perform “so-called acts of love.”
DOS: A group within NXIVM
The New York Times started writing about NXIVM in 2017, which is around the same time that Mack’s name first surfaced in connection with the group. The Emmy Award-winning actress was then arrested in April 2018.
NXIVM, for reference, is based in Albany, New York. The organization claims to offer courses and workshops designed to help improve self-fulfillment. Its website describes it as “new ethical understanding that allows us to build an internal civilization and have it manifest in the external world.” (So take that for what it’s worth).
This is where it gets complicated: The most loyal members of NXIVM are sometimes asked to join a group within the organization called DOS, or “dominus obsequious sororium” -- which is Latin for “master over the slave women,” according to published reports. This DOS group is accused of operating as a sex cult, with Raniere at the helm, investigators say.
Sarah Edmondson, of Vancouver, said in the podcast “Uncover” that she was recruited to DOS and that Mack was in Raniere’s inner circle. Edmondson shared a lot about what allegedly went on in the group, until she abruptly dropped out -- and then eventually told her story to a reporter with CBC News, a Canadian network.
Also in recent years, Catherine Oxenberg, from the 1980s show “Dynasty,” has been vocal about her distrust of the group. She even met with prosecutors in New York to detail the experience of her daughter, India, within NXIVM.
For a time, Oxenberg feared that her daughter, who’s in her late 20s, had been starved and blackmailed. Oxenberg spoke with Megyn Kelly on NBC about the fight to save her “hijacked” daughter.
Watch the clip below.
Oxenberg told People magazine last year that her daughter eventually left the group.
Before this week’s plea agreement, Mack had previously pleaded not guilty to charges including sex trafficking, forced labor and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.
Prosecutors claimed Mack helped recruit women by telling them they were joining a mentorship program. As part of her role, authorities said, Mack helped Raniere in the sex trafficking.
The women were presented to Raniere for sex and some had his initials branded on their bodies, prosecutors said.
This fall, we'll learn more about Mack's sentence. It appears she hasn't acted since 2015.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Graham Media Group/The Associated Press