Former Nxivm member Sarah Edmondson is in shock over founder Keith Raniere's official sentencing.
On Tuesday, 60-year-old Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison, more than a year after being convicted on federal sex crimes and other charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of New York announced on Twitter. Raniere was found guilty of federal sex trafficking, extortion, obstruction and racketeering charges back in June 2019.
The sentencing came two years after authorities took Raniere into custody in Mexico — and many years after Nxivm became the subject of scrutiny from both law enforcement and journalists after coming under fire from Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg, whose daughter, India, became deeply involved with the cult for several years.
In an Instagram Live interview Tuesday night between comedian Whitney Cummings and Edmondson, 43, a former recruiter for Nxivm — whose defection and whistle-blowing against the cult is documented in HBO's The Vow — reacted to the sentencing.
"I am in a total state of shock right now," said Edmondson, processing the news, later adding while getting emotional: "It's a huge relief. It's over. … And also, I feel so f—— safe. I feel so much safer now."
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Edmondson wrote the book Scarred: The True Story of How I Escaped NXIVM, the Cult that Bound My Life about her experiences in the controversial cult. She further shared her reaction to the sentencing, telling E! News that it feels like a moment of closure to a saga that accumulated much of her life.
"That was just in the back of my mind for so long, so just to have the world know who he really is and have the spotlight shot on him and all of his crimes and with such clarity is just massive closure for us that we can move on," she told the outlet.
"I learned that I'm stronger than I ever could have known," Edmondson added. "I've learned who I am, I've learned what my character is, which is so ironic because Keith tried to teach us about character and of course it meant that I needed to leave the group, and help take down the group in order to discover what my true character is really made of."
Edmondson shares two kids with husband Anthony "Tippy" Ames, and said they are her priority: "I've got two beautiful children who I want to pour all of my heart and my energy to. They lost part of me to this fight, and I don't want that anymore."
Speaking to PEOPLE on Tuesday, Catherine, 59, said the sentence "is a victory on so many levels."
"Tragically, he abused and exploited my own beloved daughter and countless others. My faith in the justice system is renewed," she said. "Keith can no longer use his power, privilege and access to unlimited wealth to silence and abuse his victims. He has been held accountable for his crimes. I am so grateful to the court, the many branches of government who helped take him down, especially EDNY [US District Court, Eastern District of NY] and FBI. The world is a safer place with Keith Raniere behind bars for the next 120 years."
As he was sentenced Tuesday, Raniere questioned the victims' stories of abuse. "They’re lying for a reason and that reason stems from me," Raniere said in court according to the New York Post.
Raniere also said he was innocent of all the charges but told the court he was “deeply remorseful,” the Albany Times-Union, reported. “I am truly sorry,” he said. “It’s still painful.”
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