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The young actress from California was at a low point during her first winter after moving to New York City when Allison Mack invited her to join Nxivm, a purported self-help group near Albany.
The woman, who was identified only by her first name, Nicole, said she had been trying to build upon an acting career that had included mainly commercial work, and was impressed by Ms. Mack, an actress who had starred in the television series “Smallville.”
Ms. Mack, a senior figure within Nxivm, recruited Nicole as a “slave” in the organization, presenting it initially as an avenue toward fulfillment, then obtaining from Nicole sensitive personal information that was used to control her.
Ms. Mack brought the younger actress to an Albany suburb, perhaps to be near Keith Raniere, the cultlike group’s guru, Nicole testified on Friday at Mr. Raniere’s trial in Federal District Court in Brooklyn.
Ms. Mack told her to inform Mr. Raniere that she would do anything he asked, adding, “Now go be a good slave,” according to Nicole’s testimony.
The next day, Nicole said, Mr. Raniere led her to a house blindfolded, ordered her to disrobe and tied her wrists and ankles to a table. Mr. Raniere then circled the table and asked questions about her sexual history as a third person began performing oral sex on her.
“I was so confused,” Nicole said on the witness stand, her voice breaking as she recalled the scene. “It’s terrifying.”
The testimony, coming in the fifth week of Mr. Raniere’s trial, provided the most direct evidence yet to support the charge of sex trafficking, perhaps the most explosive of the counts Mr. Raniere is facing.
Mr. Raniere and Ms. Mack were both charged with the sex trafficking of a woman referred to as “Jane Doe 5,” who has been identified by prosecutors as Nicole. In April, Ms. Mack pleaded guilty to conspiracy, extortion and forced labor charges, though not the sex trafficking charge.
Nicole testified that she had told Ms. Mack that her mentorship appeared to be part of “a plot to get me up here for Keith.” Ms. Mack denied that was the case. “I was already stuck,” Nicole said. “I wanted to believe her.”
Mr. Raniere, 58, founded Nxivm in the 1990s as a self-help group based near Albany. His followers regarded him as a guru-like figure who could help them achieve their goals.
But prosecutors have said that he preyed upon and exploited other members of Nxivm. In addition to racketeering and sex trafficking, he has been charged with conspiracy, identity theft, extortion, forced labor, money laundering and wire fraud.
Witnesses have testified that in 2015, Mr. Raniere formed a clandestine organization within Nxivm known as D.O.S., whose members were referred to as “slaves” and “masters.”
It was proclaimed to be a women’s empowerment group, but Mr. Raniere was its secret head, or “Grandmaster.” Some D.O.S. members were branded with his initials and assigned to have sex with him, according to testimony.
Disillusioned with the trajectory of her career, Nicole joined D.O.S. in 2016, after Ms. Mack met with her at the Ace Hotel in Manhattan and invited her to join a group that would “fix how I’m feeling,” she testified.
Nicole said that to join the group, she provided “collateral” to demonstrate her reliability, including a solo sex tape and a letter falsely claiming that she had been sexually abused by her father.
Then the assignments from Ms. Mack started coming in.
The first was to stop having sex with a former boyfriend. The second directed her to remain celibate for three months. Nicole began spending time in the upstate town of Clifton Park, staying with Ms. Mack and going on walks with Mr. Raniere, who would call at 3 or 4 a.m. to arrange meetings.
On the day of her initial sexual encounter involving Mr. Raniere, Nicole testified that he led her to a house, told her to remove her clothes, commented on her body and then blindfolded her so tightly that he left marks around her eyes. Then the two rode in a car to another house about 10 minutes away, she said.
Nicole remembered Mr. Raniere taking her hand after the car stopped. Still blindfolded, she could not see where she was being led, but remembered having the sense that she was walking through woods.
Again she was told to undress and lie down on a table, Nicole said. Her wrists and ankles were bound. The table was cold, she said, and she felt “super vulnerable and exposed.”
She said she assumed that Mr. Raniere was the one who began performing oral sex on her until she heard his voice. Then she concentrated on staying calm and answering his questions, she said, even telling him that she was “O.K.” In court, she testified that she “didn’t think that there was an option.”
After the oral sex, she said, Mr. Raniere told her she was brave. Nicole said she was “completely in shock.” She returned to Ms. Mack’s house, sat down by a fireplace and told her what had happened.
“She also said I was brave,” Nicole said. “I think she also said I had earned working more with Keith.”