(commenter's username deleted for privacy - Corboy)
I’m sure we all have our One Taste stories so here’s mine:
A few years back they had a booth at the Green Festival (!) when it was still on Bryant Street.
I stopped by out of curiosity and Nicole and a female assistant were there. They presented themselves as a sort of body/mind integrative therapy modality and encouraged me to check it out.
I had a pretty serious spinal injury at the time from getting in the middle of a high-speed police chase in New York (anyone who wants to know why I’m angry about this kind of thing, there’s your answer), and I was desperate to find anything that could give me relief from the pain I was in. Plus they were SO NICE!! So I was very tempted to drop by.
Then I started hearing stories about how the yoga classes were all naked, because Nicole had 3rd-degree burns all over her body she was trying to heal. It didn’t seem like my scene exactly but I still thought of Nicole as the nicest person so I figured whatever she was doing was legit.
Now it seems like I was completely wrong about that, and I’m feeling pretty lucky I never went. But I’m starting to wonder if that’s how a lot of other people were drawn to One Taste.
OneTaste cofounder Nicole Daedone turned herself into federal authorities in New York on June 13 and entered a not guilty plea, according to court documents. She was released on $1 million bail—secured by a property in Mendocino County—and will hand over her passport as part of the agreement, among other requirements.
he indictment is not the first time OneTaste has made news. Following media attention in 2018, the company gave itself a kind of facelift, and several years later, OneTaste launched a number of spinoffs under different names, including a nonprofit institute.
Anjuli Ayer, CEO of OneTaste, said in a statement that Tuesday’s indictment was based on “unfounded allegations of forced labor. Given OneTaste’s culture of individual empowerment, choice and consent, this is completely unjustified.”
Ayer claimed that the five-year FBI investigation into the company was based on an “error-riddled” Bloomberg Businessweek article and culminated in the indictment.
“We are appalled by this long-term, misogynistic, media-driven campaign to tear down a feminine empowerment project and the women who devoted their lives to it,” Ayer said.
If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
"Daedone said little during the proceeding, sitting bolt-upright in her chair and offering one- or two-word answers when US federal Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom addressed her. Her friend and former colleague at OneTaste, Marcus Ratnathicam, secured her release by putting up his $2 million property in Fort Bragg, Calif., as collateral. But even as Daedone walked free, Bloom starkly warned her to watch her step. “You are under a microscope,” Bloom told the 56-year-old defendant. “You should consider you’re being watched.”
One attorney whose practice focuses on sexual abuse allegations against religious groups, cults, or "spiritual communities," told Insider that (in some cases) the former members can seek some form of civil legal reparation through a federal law called the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA)
which states that whoever forces or entices a person "through fraud or coercion" to "engage in a commercial sex act" is in violation of the law.
Carol Merchasin, an attorney at McAllister Olivarius who leads the firm's sexual misconduct in spiritual communities practice, said that it's often difficult to hold religious groups or cults accountable.
She argues in her paper about applying (TVPA)
to cults that these groups may cite "religious expression through the First Amendment" to operate as they please, and US law currently offers scant ways to bring a lawsuit "claiming coercive control."
But perhaps "the biggest legal obstacle," she writes in the paper, is the statute of limitations, which sets deadlines for victims to file a lawsuit. Some states, including New York and California, have enacted laws that provide sexual assault survivors a brief window to pursue cases even after the statute of limitations expired.
"We don't have enough resources and we don't have enough tools in the legal justice system to go after these cults and spiritual communities," Merchasin said.
The solution, according to Merchasin, could be through a nascent application of the federal human-trafficking law, and she turns to a case that was made against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein as a prominent clue.
In 2018, a Manhattan judge allowed a lawsuit accusing the disgraced film executive of violating the federal sex-trafficking statute to proceed in court. Plaintiffs argued that Weinstein had promised some form of career advancement before they were sexually assaulted.
The trafficking charges were dropped after accusers agreed to a $17-million settlement, but allowing the case to proceed in court at all offered victims such as the former OneTaste employees an avenue for a civil lawsuit, even if women weren't moved across state lines as is often the case, Merchasin said.
The attorney argued that "if you entice, recruit, harbor or obtain, in our case, in these cult communities ... to engage in what the law calls a 'commercial sex act," then OneTaste could be scrutinized through the federal trafficking law.
In this case, "commercial sex act," doesn't have to have anything to do with money but something of value, Merchasin said in the interview, meaning that the law doesn't have to be limited to prostitution.
By the time Nelson was being groomed by the Welcomed Consensus, OneTaste was booming. It was still edgy, but good marketing helped it inch its way toward mainstream acceptance with profiles in publications like The New York Times — and it made lots of money along the way.
But Daedone herself was a student with the Welcomed Consensus in the late 1990s and early 2000s, multiple sources told KQED, including a former housemate of hers and a colleague at OneTaste. Talbott Acosta described her mission with OneTaste as attempting to make the courses scalable, startup-style.
“He was my world. I worked for him and he was my lover and my dad and my family, really, my family,” Talbott Acosta said. “RJ referred to that time as the Wild West. We didn’t have any structure, it was just a sex commune with lots of drinking and drugs and violence and drama.”
A person with long hair looks out of a window in a residential setting.
Christine Talbott Acosta stands in her home in San Francisco. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)
Talbott Acosta then moved into a house near Oak and Fell streets that was affiliated with an East Bay sex commune called Lafayette Morehouse, which taught and sold sex classes through its so-called More University that began in 1977.
Everyone at her new house was taking classes from More University, with topics ranging from “Advanced Sensuality” to “Expansion of Sexual Potential.” Elite members of Morehouse lived at the commune’s larger property in Lafayette.
At around age 20, Talbott Acosta began living with Testerman at a house on Joost Avenue in San Francisco’s Glen Park neighborhood with about seven others while working for him at the hair salon. It was there in the early ’90s that Testerman formed the Welcomed Consensus, using the teachings and financial models he learned with More University.
“It was word for word,” Talbott Acosta said of how the Welcomed Consensus model is based on More University.