Actress arrested in sex trafficking in 'guru to stars' case

A television actress best known for playing a young Superman’s close friend pleaded not guilty Friday to sex trafficking after federal prosecutors said she worked as a slave “master” recruiting unsuspecting women to a cult-like group led by a man who sold himself as a self-improvement guru to the stars.

Allison Mack was accused in an indictment unsealed by the federal court in Brooklyn. She entered her plea and was remanded to custody after Judge Cheryl Pollak refused a request from Mack’s lawyers to release her without bail. A bail hearing will be held Monday.

Mack, 35, starred in The CW network’s “Smallville.” Since that series ended in 2011, she has played only minor roles. Prosecutors said she helped recruit women for leader Keith Raniere and his cult-like organization called NXIVM. She told the women they were joining what was purported to be a female mentorship group, prosecutors said.

But “the victims were then exploited, both sexually and for their labor,” according to federal prosecutors.

“Mack and other … masters recruited … slaves by telling them that they were joining a women-only organization that would empower them and eradicate purported weaknesses the NVIVM curriculum taught were common in women,” prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said she required women she recruited to engage in sexual activity with Raniere, who paid Mack in return.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Moira Kim Penza said in court that that “under the guise of female empowerment” Mack “starved women until they fit her co-defendant’s sexual ideal.”

Federal authorities raided an upstate New York residence near Albany where NXIVM was headquartered in March. The organization also ran programs in Mexico.

Raniere, 57, was arrested in Mexico, brought to the U.S. on March 26 and is being held without bail in Brooklyn.

The FBI has filed sex trafficking charges against him, saying that with the help of mostly female assistants, he blackmailed and coerced women into unwanted sex. Prosecutors hinted in earlier papers that Mack was one of the co-conspirators; it’s not clear who else may be charged.

Raniere’s attorney has said the facts would show Raniere did not compel or pressure anyone to do anything. He says everyone was acting in accordance with his or her free will at every instant.

Raniere sold himself as a self-improvement guru to the stars and his core disciples who include actresses, wealthy heiresses and a son of the former president of Mexico.

Mack’s “Smallville” co-star Kristin Kreuk says she was involved with one of the group’s self-help programs but left about five years ago. She wrote on Twitter last month that she didn’t experience any “nefarious activity” and was “horrified and disgusted” by the allegations.

Founded in 1998, NXIVM promoted Raniere’s teachings as a kind of mystical, executive coaching designed to help people get the most out of life. Enrollees in its Executive Success Programs paid handsomely for his advice. The organization also drew criticism from people who likened it to a cult.

Last year, the accusations took a new twist, with women who were part of a NXIVM subgroup coming forward to say that they had been physically branded with a surgical tool against their will.

Prosecutors said in court papers that Raniere created a society within NXIVM called “DOS” — an acronym based on a Latin phrase that loosely translates to “Lord/Master of obedient female companions.” Women were required to provide damaging material about their friends and family, naked photos and even sign over their assets as a condition for joining, they said. Many were branded with his initials, they said.

———

This story has been corrected to show that “Smallville” ended in 2011, not 2015.

Associated Press Writer Tom Hays contributed to this report.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ABC News: Entertainment

Conor McGregor turns himself in following Barclays Center scrum

Conor McGregor, the veteran Ultimate Fighting Championship star, turned himself in to police late Thursday after a violent incident at Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn.

Video footage shows McGregor, among a group of people, throwing trash cans and other items at a bus full of fighters slated to fight on Saturday, according to ABC New York station WABC.

McGregor, who earlier crashed a press conference at the arena, has been charged with assault and is expected to be arraigned on Friday.

Last year, McGregor boxed Floyd Mayweather, losing by technical knockout in the 10th round, but he hasn’t fought for UFC since November 2016.

UFC President Dana White said McGregor would be stripped of his lightweight title, which would go to the winner of Saturday’s bout. McGregor responded on with a profane tweet.

In response to the incident Thursday night in Brooklyn, White told ESPN he felt McGregor’s actions were “disgusting,” adding, “I don’t think anybody is going to be huge Conor McGregor fans after this.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ABC News: Entertainment

UFC star McGregor facing criminal charges in New York

UFC star Conor McGregor is facing criminal charges after a backstage melee injured two fighters and forced the removal of three bouts on Saturday night from UFC’s biggest card this year.

Video footage appears to show the promotion’s most bankable star throwing a hand truck at a bus full of fighters on Thursday after a news conference for UFC 223 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

The New York Police Department says McGregor was charged, facing three counts of assault and one count of criminal mischief. He’s making a court appearance on Friday. It was not immediately known if McGregor has an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

UFC President Dana White said Friday he spoke to McGregor via text and the brawler said the confrontation “had to be done.”

“It was probably the worst conversation we ever had,” White told FS1’s “First Things First” on Friday morning. “We talked yesterday before he turned himself in.

“It’s not that I don’t think he understood what happened. He justified it. It was justified to him.”

White said the 29-year-old McGregor said he was sorry about the fighters who were injured, but, “this had to be done.”

Video showed McGregor with a group of people causing chaos Thursday as they took an elevator to the loading dock at Barclays Center. He can be seen tossing trash cans and being prevented from throwing a barricade at a bus during his unannounced appearance in New York.

Michael Chiesa was sent to the hospital with injuries sustained in the attack and was forced out of his scheduled fight against Anthony Pettis.

“A decision was made by the New York State Athletic Commission to pull me from UFC 223,” Chiesa tweeted. “I’m devastated to say the least. @showtimepettis I hope to run this match up ASAP. June 9th in your backyard. That’s all I have to say for now. Much love.”

Flyweight Ray Borg suffered multiple cornea abrasions in the wake of the McGregor attack and his fight against Brandon Moreno was also scratched.

“The organization deems today’s disruption completely unacceptable and is currently working on the consequences that will follow,” UFC said in a statement. “Individuals involved in the incident are not welcome at tomorrow’s ceremonial weigh-in or Saturday’s event at Barclays Center.”

McGregor hasn’t fought for UFC since November 2016 and was stripped this week by UFC President Dana White of the 155-pound championship he had never defended. White also said this week he did not expect McGregor to attend Saturday’s fights.

McGregor profanely responded on Twitter and wrote, “You’ll strip me of nothing.”

McGregor last fought in a boxing match he lost to Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Aug. 26, 2017.

The popular Irishman is tight with UFC 223 fighter Artem Lobov, who was involved this week in a scuffle in a hotel with Khabib Nurmagomedov. The fight between Max Holloway and Nurmagomedov was canceled Friday when Holloway didn’t make weight for the main event, a lightweight championship left vacant by McGregor.

Lobov was yanked from the card and banned from the building.

White said this week in New York that McGregor would fight again for UFC this year. McGregor’s actions now put future fights in doubt.

McGregor once held the 145 and 155-pound championships at the same time and boldly stated he wanted an ownership stake in UFC.

But the trash-talking, egocentric has been out of the fight game except for his boxing dalliance with Mayweather that made him wealthy enough to never need to fight again. McGregor and his girlfriend welcomed their first child, a son, in May 2017.

———

Associated Press writer Dan Gelston in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ABC News: Entertainment

Menendez brothers who killed parents reunited in prison

The Menendez brothers, who were convicted of killing their parents in their Beverly Hills mansion nearly three decades ago, have been reunited in a Southern California prison.

Erik Menendez, 47, has moved into the same housing unit as his 50-year-old brother, Lyle Menendez, Corrections department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said Thursday.

The brothers are serving life sentences for fatally shooting their parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez, in 1989.

Lyle Menendez was moved in February from Mule Creek State Prison in Northern California to San Diego’s R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility, after his security classification was lowered. But the brothers lived in separate housing units and would not have seen each other, Thornton said. The prison houses nearly 3,900 male inmates.

That changed Wednesday, when Eric moved into the same housing unit as his brother, a unit where inmates agree to participate in educational and other rehabilitation programs without fighting or creating disruptions.

“They can and do interact with each other, all the inmates in that facility,” she said, though she didn’t know how the brothers reacted during their reunion.

The brothers had asked two decades ago, after they were sentenced, to be sent to the same prison.

Prison officials said then that they often balked at putting partners in crime together, and the Beverly Hills detective who investigated the slayings argued that the brothers might conspire to escape if they were together. Leslie Abramson, Erik Menendez’s attorney, at the time called housing the brothers separately “exceedingly cruel and heartless.”

Lyle, who was then 21, and Erik, then 18, admitted they fatally shot-gunned their entertainment executive father and their mother, but said they feared their parents were about to kill them to prevent the disclosure of the father’s long-term sexual molestation of Erik.

Prosecutors contended there was no evidence of any molestation. They said the sons were after their parents’ multimillion-dollar estate.

Jurors rejected a death sentence in favor of life without parole.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ABC News: Entertainment

British royals go to Easter service without Harry and Markle

Queen Elizabeth II, Prince William and his wife, Kate, and other senior British royals celebrated an Easter church service Sunday at the chapel where Prince Harry and American fiancee Meghan Markle will get married in May.

Harry and Markle did not attend the service at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, England. Palace officials said their weekend plans were private.

Prince Philip, the queen’s husband, also did not attend. The 96-year-old has retired from public duties and been seen less frequently.

Most of the royals walked down the hill from Windsor Castle to the chapel, but the 91-year-old queen arrived by car, wearing a purple fuchsia coatdress and matching hat.

William and Kate also took a car to the chapel, arriving at the church a few minutes late. They emerged without their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte. Kate is expecting the couple’s third child later this month.

Jack Brooksbank, who is engaged to the queen’s granddaughter Princess Eugenie, made his first Easter appearance with the royal family. Brooksbank and Eugenie, the daughter of Princess Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, plan to wed in October.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ABC News: Entertainment

Meghan Markle's life before Prince Harry examined in new book

Meghan Markle is less than 50 days away from becoming a member of Britain’s royal family but a new book is shedding light on her life before meeting Prince Harry.

The book, “Meghan: A Hollywood Princess,” claims Markle’s divorce from her first husband, producer Trevor Engelson, was so abrupt that Markle sent her ring back through the mail.

“Trevor went from cherishing Meghan to, as one friend observed, ‘feeling like he was a piece of something stuck to the bottom of her shoe,’” royal biographer Andrew Morton writes in the new book.

Morton portrays Markle in the book as a social climber.

“A networker to her fingertips, she seemed to be recalibrating her life, forging new friendships with those who could develop her career,” he writes.

Markle, 36, is a California native who ended her seven-season run as an actress on the TV show “Suits” when her engagement to Harry, 33, was announced last November.

“Because I’m from the states, we don’t grow up with the same understanding of the royal family,” Markle said last November in her first engagement interview with Harry. “And so, while I now understand very clearly that there’s a global interest there, I didn’t know very much about him.”

A person Morton identifies as a childhood friend of Markle’s is quoted in the book saying the former actress was in fact “always fascinated by the royal family.”

The friend is also quoted as saying Markle “wants to be Princess Diana 2.0,” referring to Harry’s late mother, who was a noted humanitarian.

Markle, who graduated from Northwestern University, is also a humanitarian who worked with the United Nations on women’s issues and was an ambassador for World Vision prior to meeting Harry.

Morton interviewed Markle’s teenage friends who claim Markle was crying as they watched the funeral for Diana in 1997.

“According to family and friends, she was intrigued by Diana not just for her style but for her independent humanitarian mission, seeing her as a role model,” Morton writes.

As Markle prepares for her May 19 wedding to Harry, she has thrown herself into humanitarian work.

Markle, who now lives in London, has been warmly welcomed by residents of the U.K. as she has traveled the country alongside Harry. She has also worked closely with Harry and Prince William and Princess Kate on The Royal Foundation, the royals’ charitable arm of which Markle will become a patron.

Markle has also, by all accounts, been warmly welcomed by the royal family.

Harry and Markle did not join Queen Elizabeth, William, Kate and other family members on Sunday for Easter services at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor’s Castle, where the couple will wed.

“Meghan: A Hollywood Princess” will be released in the U.S. on April 17.

Andrew Morton will discuss his new book about Markle live on “Good Morning America” on Monday, April 16. Tune in from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., EST.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ABC News: Entertainment