Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman collapsed in Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday, shortly after the judge in her racketeering conspiracy case asked if she’d secretly retained embattled lawyer Michael Avenatti in a bid to negotiate a deal with prosecutors.
Bronfman was charged in July in connection with the activities of NXIVM, a self-proclaimed self-help organization that authorities say operated as an abusive cult where selected female “slaves” were forced to have sex with leader Keith Raniere and were branded with his initials.
Bronfman is represented by attorney Mark Geragos, who was identified by The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press this week as an unindicted co-conspirator in what federal prosecutors say was a scheme by Avenatti to extort millions from sportswear giant Nike.
Under questioning by U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, Geragos admitted that he and Avenatti had met with prosecutors on Bronfman’s behalf. New York Post reporter Emily Saul tweeted that Avenatti has not entered a notice that he will appear in court on Bronfman’s behalf, but Geragos has. She tweeted that Geragos told Judge Garaufis that he did not know if Avenatti intended to appear before the court in the Bronfman matter “because of the other case.”
It was not clear whether Geragos was referring to the Nike extortion case or a separate case in which Avenatti was charged by federal prosecutors in California with wire fraud and bank fraud.
A few moments later, Bronfman collapsed and was evaluated by medics. She left the courtroom with assistance from Geragos.
The drama played out as part of a so-called Curcio hearing to evaluate whether Geragos can adequately represent Bronfman in the face of a potential conflict of interest. The hearing is scheduled to resume Thursday.
Avenatti was not in the courtroom Wednesday and did not respond to Fox News inquiries about the matter.