A television actress best known for playing a young Superman's close friend has been released on $5 million bail as she seeks to cut a deal with prosecutors in an alleged sex cult case in which she's accused of acting as a slave "master" and recruiting unsuspecting women.
"Smallville" actress Allison Mack, who was arrested last week for allegedly recruiting slaves into a pyramid scheme for the benefit of alleged sex cult leader Keith Raniere, appeared in Brooklyn federal court for a bail hearing Tuesday. A judge granted her $5 million bail on the condition she stay with family in California and agrees to electronic monitoring.
Mack, 35, appeared in tan jail smocks for the brief court appearance. She only spoke to answer "yes" when the judge asked her if she understood the bail conditions.
Among those conditions: No contact with current or former members of the secretive group known as NXIVM. She'll also be subject to electronic monitoring and restrictions on computer and cellphone use.
By the time Mack left the courthouse more than two hours later, she had switched into a jean jacket, gray slacks and sneakers. She stared straight ahead in silence as she and her lawyers fought through a media scrum to a waiting car, with at least three photographers tripping over each other and toppling to the sidewalk along the way.
Court documents signed by Mack's attorney says Mack is engaged with federal prosecutors in plea negotiations that would likely avoid a blockbuster trial in the heart of the borough.
The document also asks for a delay in moving toward any potential trial as the defense and prosecution negotiate. The 35-year-old Mack has remained in custody since her arrest.
Her publicist said Tuesday, "I have no comment regarding these matters."
The actress starred in the CW series "Smallville" and has played minor roles since the series ended in 2011. But authorities said she was a major player in Raniere's cult-like organization called NXIVM (pronounced Nex-i-um), helping to add unsuspecting women to what was purported to be a mentorship group.
Prosecutors said Friday that Mack stood at the level directly below Raniere in a pyramid scheme called DOS, into which she recruited fresh slaves. The government alleges that Mack forced those slaves to have sex with Raniere in exchange for what were described as "financial and other benefits."
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."
In a letter attributed to Raniere -- who was arrested in Mexico and returned to the United States last month -- previously posted on a website related to NXIVM, he denied the practices were sanctioned by the self-described self-help group.
The complaint against Raniere - known in the group as "Vanguard" - said that many victims participated in videotaped ceremonies where they were branded in their pelvic area with a symbol featuring Raniere's initials.
"During the branding ceremonies, slaves were required to be fully naked, and the master would order one slave to film while the other held down the slave being branded," the complaint says.
Raniere left the United States late last year after The New York Times reported the stories of some women who defected from their secret sorority and the government began interviewing potential witnesses. He sought to cover this trail by using encrypted email and ditching his phone, court papers say.
At the time of Raniere's capture, Mack was living with him at a luxury villa in Puerto Vallarta, according to court papers.
Both Raniere and Mack face charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy, for which they could receive 15 years to life in prison.