Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman nearly fainted in court Wednesday after a judge revealed that Michael Avenatti had spoken to prosecutors on her behalf for her NXIVM cult case, Vulture reports. The drama began when Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis asked if Avenatti, who was arrested Monday on charges of extortion and fraud, was one of Bronfman’s lawyers. “I want the truth, did she retain Mr. Avenatti to represent her in this case? Yes or no?” the judge asked. After a minutes-long sidebar, Bronfman reportedly appeared “unsteady on her feet,” and grasped the table for support, prompting an ambulance to be called. Proceedings were halted as she was placed on a stretcher and taken into a conference room. The judge later adjourned the hearing until 2 p.m. on Thursday.
Bronfman is currently represented, in part, by Mark Geragos, a veteran celebrity attorney who has been named as an alleged co-conspirator in Avenatti’s extortion case. When a reporter asked Geragos if he was the co-conspirator while he exited the courthouse, he simply mumbled “no.” Bronfman is accused of using her sizable fortune to help fund NXIVM, an organization that’s been described as a “pyramid scheme,” and whose founder, Keith Raniere, has been accused of branding and sexually assaulting members. Prosecutors also allege that Brongman “conspired to commit identity theft” by allegedly obtaining personal information about Raniere’s critics.