Funding for defense in NY sex-trafficking case questioned

NEW YORK (AP) — Federal prosecutors are challenging how defense lawyers are being paid in the case against a self-improvement organization accused of branding female followers.

Court papers say a trust funded by Seagram’s liquor fortune heiress Clare Bronfman is bankrolling the defense for her co-defendants in the sex-trafficking prosecution. They include the leader of the secretive upstate New York group, Keith Raniere, and TV actress Allison Mack.

Prosecutors say the unusual arrangement could compromise the case. A judge ordered hearings Thursday to address the potential conflict of interest.

All the defendants have pleaded not guilty.

The case alleges that followers of the group called NXIVM (NEHK’-see-uhm) were coerced into becoming sex slaves who were branded with Raniere’s initials.

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