BURLINGTON — A former senior producer for CNN television, who admitted luring a Nevada woman and her adopted pre-teen daughter to Windsor County to have sadomasochistic sex with the girl, is close to striking a settlement in a civil lawsuit with the juvenile.
John J. Griffin, 45, formerly of Stamford, Conn.. is facing a possible life sentence in prison after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court in Burlington in December 2022 to a felony sex charge.
Griffin admitted enticing the then-9-year-old girl and her adoptive mother to fly from Las Vegas to Boston in July 2020. Griffin picked them up in his red 2019 Tesla and drove them to his slope side home at Okemo Mountain in Ludlow where he engaged in sex with the girl and mother during a weeklong stay, records show.
His sentencing in the high-profile coast-to-coast sex trafficking case has been postponed a few times. Now a senior federal judge this week approved another 3-week delay to give the defense more time to sort out the financial problems of the former TV man leading a double life.
Defense lawyer David V. Kirby asked for the latest delay as the parties try to resolve financial issues, including the settlement in the civil lawsuit brought on behalf of the 9-year-old victim, records show.
Kirby, in his latest court filing, said the proposed settlement “has a substantial effect on Mr. Griffin’s financial picture and on his ability to pay any fine the court may deem appropriate.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont is suggesting that Griffin is hiding assets, Kirby said.
“That simply is not the case,” wrote Kirby, a former U.S. attorney for Vermont.
“At this point, there is no accurate picture of his assets,” Kirby asserted.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office never responded to Kirby’s motion to delay the sentencing before Senior Federal Judge WIlliam K. Sessions III granted the defense motion.
Besides the civil lawsuit filed on behalf of the 9-year-old, who is now living in Connecticut with a guardian, Griffin’s estranged wife filed for divorce in Stamford (Conn.) Superior Court one month after his arrest.
Allyson Griffin said in January 2022 she wanted custody of their then-9-year-old daughter and twin 6-year-old boys, records show. She also was fighting for much of their property including a $4.5 million home in Norwalk, Conn.
Allyson Griffin also has filed to intervene in the civil lawsuit in an effort to try to protect the assets that she is seeking in her divorce petition. She has maintained she was unaware of her estranged husband’s sexual behavior. They had been separated for about two years at the time, according to lawyers.
Meanwhile the adoptive mother, who brought the child to Vermont, has been sentenced to 8 to 20 years in prison in Nevada in connection with the sex case, news accounts note.
The 48-year-old Henderson, Nev., woman was arrested on two counts each of child abuse and sexual assault on a child under age 14, along with three counts of lewdness with a child under 14, newspapers reported. Some of the Nevada charges are linked to the Vermont trip, records show.
The interstate case began to unfold because the 9-year-old’s biological mother, who is still in contact with her daughter, spotted some troubling text messages on the child’s cellphone, records show. The adoptive mother had contacted Henderson Police because of a custody dispute over the girl, records show.
The newspaper is not naming the adoptive mother or showing her mugshot because it would identify the 9-year-old sex crime victim.
There has been considerable national interest in the criminal case for several reasons including Griffin boasting after his arrest by the FBI that he was worth $35 million to $40 million, court records note.
Griffin also has bragged he worked “shoulder-to-shoulder” with now disgraced CNN Anchor Chris Cuomo. CNN fired the high-profiled Cuomo in December 2020 after he was linked to trying to help his older brother Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo fight numerous sexual misconduct claims by multiple women.
The records also showed Griffin did not need a mortgage when he and his wife paid $1.8 million for their ski house in Ludlow, where the week-long sex getaway happened.
The three-story Ludlow home next to a chairlift at the ski resort sold last summer for more than $2 million, according to federal court records. His share in the divorce, at least $1,002,000, has since been deposited with the federal court clerk’s office in Burlington.
Kirby noted the civil lawsuit, which was filed in Superior Court in Bridgeport, Conn., on behalf of the 9-year-old victim in the sex case, is almost over.
“The case has been settled in principle, but the settlement document is still not completed and signed. Further, after the document is signed, it has to be approved by the probate court,” Kirby wrote.
“Then the process of funding the settlement can begin. This will take some time because the settlement calls for money to come from various sources and a valuation of some assets prior to finalization,” he wrote.
Kirby asked for the deadline for filing objections be extended. He said the deadline was late May and he hoped it to be bumped until at least May 30 with the sentencing postponed until later.
Judge Sessions has now set June 20 for the sentencing in Burlington.
Kirby said he is not the only person having trouble getting a real handle on Griffin’s financial standing.
“Mr. Griffin has no access to this information. Indeed, even his divorce attorney cannot get financial information from the various institutions, which, at least in the past held assets,” Kirby wrote.
Griffin’s divorce lawyer had recently asserted he was getting little to no cooperation from the fund managers. Kirby said the divorce lawyer indicated the fund managers “were beyond uncooperative last time.”
Kirby said with any luck both the settlement and how it will be funded will be known in three or four weeks.
“As a result of complications with the finances, Mr. Griffin cannot properly fill out a financial affidavit as both Probation and his plea agreement require. We will not have a chance to rebut the government’s claim that he is hiding assets. Thus, we need the extension of time to properly respond” to the PSR on these issues.”
Kirby said Griffin has the right to object and make comments about the Pre-sentence Report.
“Further, counsel will not be able to provide effective assistance if its submissions are rushed or are, by necessity, incomplete,” Kirby noted.
The government, after Griffin’s arrest, had maintained he had had deep pockets.
“He is a wealthy man who will be desperate to avoid facing justice. He has a history of mental illness and substance abuse and has recently consumed intoxicants,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael P. Drescher said in his motion to detain Griffin.
A 2018 Mercedes Benz convertible also is in the process of being sold and his share, about $48,000 is being forfeited to the court for the time being.
Also, various computers, phones, cameras and videos also were seized from the defendant on Sept. 2, 2020, during a court-ordered search, according to the plea deal.
It remains unclear why the FBI waited over a year to arrest Griffin.
Griffin has been detained on the three-count indictment since his arrest in December 2021 in New Haven, Conn. He is expected to get his detention time credited to his final sentence. Griffin most recently has been at the Cheshire County Jail in Keene, N.H.
“The defense simply cannot meet the current schedule without compromising Mr. Griffin’s defense. The process of dealing with the settlement, obtaining a complete picture of his finances and obtaining the information disclosed in the sealed filing should not be rushed,” Kirby wrote this month in asking for the delay.
Kirby said some information has been and will continue to be filed under seal. This will prevent the public from hearing all details concerning Griffin’s standing.
The high-profile criminal case is one of the more secretive in federal court history in Vermont. More than two-dozen documents were filed under seal before Griffin’s indictment, which also was hidden until he was arrested. Some of the hidden documents are believed to be related to search warrants.
The indictment noted Griffin in 2019 and 2020 communicated with people using various platforms, including one that described itself as a “BDSM dating, Fetish, and Kink Site.” BDSM is an overlapping definition for bondage, discipline, domination, submission, sadism and masochism.
While Kirby has said Griffin is facing a life sentence, Sessions said at the change of plea hearing in December 2022 that the defendant could face a prison term somewhere between 10 years and life in prison.
Griffin also would face up to a possible lifetime of supervision, if and when he is released from prison and up to a $250,000 fine. Griffin also was ordered to pay $5,100 in court assessments at the hearing.
As the change of plea was being considered in December there was no agreement between the prosecution and defense about a proposed prison sentence. The federal sentencing guidelines, which are advisory, are projected to propose a penalty of more than 20 years behind bars.
Sessions noted at the time Griffin would face an additional eight levels in the guideline calculations because the child was under the age of 12.
The court also would increase six more levels by adding two for each of three findings: because the case involved a sex act, because the child was in his custody, and because Griffin used a computer to entice the mom and child for sex.
The plea agreement goes on to describe the unlawful conduct in detail.
Under the plea agreement, Griffin will need to register as a convicted sex offender when released from prison. He also must seek sex offender evaluation and treatment, Sessions said.
According to the 13-page plea agreement, Griffin and a mother met on a website about sexual bondage during the summer of 2020 and by June they were communicating through the computer app known as Kik.
During various communications through Kik, text, phone and video chats, Griffin persuaded the Nevada woman to bring her 9-year-old adopted daughter to Vermont to engage in sex, the agreement noted.
He used the Mercedes convertible to drive the child and her adoptive mother throughout Vermont while visiting and that made the car eligible for forfeiture, Drescher has said.
Griffin sent the woman $2,000 in June 2020 and $1,350 in July 2020 to help cover the travel expenses for her and the child, records show.
There were at least two other attempted luring cases in April and June 2020 , according to the 3-count indictment.
Griffin, a 1999 Princeton University graduate, previously worked at ABC News for 8 years. He also worked for about 3 years each with the Fox News Channel and CBS News, records show.
CNN said it suspended Griffin the day they learned about the arrest and fired him three days later when details of the lurid case became known.