Albany — New York’s second-highest court on Thursday unanimously denied the appeal of a former Halfmoon doctor who lost her medical license in 2021 for branding the initials of NXIVM leader Keith Raniere onto the pelvic regions of 17 of his female “slaves.”
The appeal of Danielle Roberts, who once worked as a hospitalist at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, was rejected in a 5-0 ruling by the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court’s Third Department in Albany. The court upheld the state Department of Health’s revocation of Roberts' license, which followed a unanimous decision by a hearing committee that Roberts engaged in 12 forms of professional misconduct.
Roberts, a native of Long Island who earned her medical license in 2009, is among a small group of NXIVM devotees who have remained loyal to Raniere, 62, a purported self-help guru widely viewed as a cult leader. In 2019, a federal jury in Brooklyn convicted Raniere, a longtime Halfmoon resident known as “Vanguard,” of sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and racketeering charges that included underlying acts of extortion, identity theft and possession of child pornography. He is serving a 120-year prison sentence in an Arizona federal prison.
Roberts, 41, used a cauterizing pen to brand women in the Raniere-controlled “master/slave” group known as Dominus Obsequious Sororium or DOS. Women in DOS told prospective members it was a women’s empowerment organization, but many ex-members later testified that to join DOS, also known as “The Vow,” they were required to provide “collateral” in the form of naked photos or forced to divulge claims that could destroy them or their families. Once in DOS, the women learned they were “slaves” who had made lifetime vows of obedience to their “masters” — none of whom was higher than Raniere, whose role in DOS was kept secret in NXIVM.
On Raniere’s orders, DOS members were repeatedly blackmailed into supplying additional “collateral,” told to wear chains to symbolize dog collars, starved on low-calorie diets, deprived of sleep and, in some cases, given so-called assignments to sexually please Raniere, the only male in DOS. That the symbol branded on DOS members' pelvic areas was of Raniere’s initials was not disclosed to the women.
Raniere’s crimes in DOS were a key part of the criminal case against him. Roberts, a member of DOS, was never charged with a crime. Her attorney, Anthony Z. Scher, told the Times Union in 2021 that he believed the health department decision was legally incorrect. He contended that Roberts was acting as a “branding technician” and not in her capacity as a physician.
On Thursday, the Third Department disagreed. In authoring the decision, Justice Lisa Fisher said it was apparent that Roberts used her medical knowledge to create a permanent physical condition — a scar — on DOS enrollees.
Fisher noted that Roberts also failed to report a flu-like communicable disease outbreak in 2016 that severely infected attendees at the YMCA Silver Bay resort on Lake George. The conference, which drew 438 attendees including 76 children, was where NXIVM for years held “V-Week,” an annual weeklong party to mark Raniere’s birthday.
“Here, we find that substantial evidence supports the committee’s determination to sustain the specifications of professional misconduct related to the ritual branding of members of DOS,” Fisher stated. “The record established that (Roberts) acknowledged that she relied on her medical background for 'life' and that she could not 'separate [herself] from [her] medical experience' or from her 'education as a physician.'”
Scher declined comment on the decision.
Justices John Egan, Christine Clark, Stanley Pritzker and Andrew Ceresia concurred with the ruling.
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