A jury has found Sarah Lawrence ‘sex cult’ leader Larry Ray guilty on all charges just hours after they began deliberating in Manhattan federal court.
Lawrence ‘Larry’ Ray, 62, faces life in prison when he is sentenced by Judge Lewis Liman on September 16 in Manhattan federal court, for physically and mentally abusing the students in order to gain control of them for what one prosecutor called a desire for power, money and sex.
He is accused of exploiting his daughter’s college friends to get free labor and millions of dollars after convincing them they’d poisoned him or wronged him, and owed retribution.
He tricked some into believing they had poisoned him, prosecutors said. One woman testified she was coerced into prostitution.
The Manhattan federal court jury began deliberating late Tuesday afternoon.
Larry Ray, 62, is accused of running a sex cult out of daughter Talia’s dorm at the elite liberal arts college in Bronxville, New York
Although he did not testify during his trial, Ray maintained through his lawyers that he is not guilty of charges that he abused several students that he met after moving in to his daughter’s dormitory at Sarah Lawrence College in fall 2010.
Closing arguments concluded Tuesday and U.S. District Judge Lewis Liman instructed jurors on the law they must follow during deliberations.
The defense argued in closing Tuesday that the alleged victim who testified that Ray tortured her in a New York City hotel room, ‘enjoyed sex and BDSM’, ‘went to sex clubs’ and ‘has problems with truth telling.’
But Ray’s lawyer, Federal Defender Marne Lenox, claimed he was a victim of the young people he lived with who made him feel paranoid and under attack.
‘Everyone was out to get him, Larry believed,’ Lenox said, portraying his daughter’s friends as ‘storytellers’ who he believed had intentionally poisoned him.
In closing arguments, prosecutors urged jurors to hold Ray accountable for a ‘campaign of terror’ against his victims and that the October night in 2018 – when Ray is accused of torturing Claudia Drury at a Midtown hotel – is ‘a snapshot’ that tells them ‘almost everything’ they needed to know about their decision.
Ray and his co-conspirator Isabella Pollok allegedly tortured Drury, who he had forced into prostitution, by stripping her naked, tying her to a chair and nearly suffocating her with a plastic bag.
‘This single night of crime tells you almost all you need to know,’ Assistant US Attorney Mollie Bracewell told Manhattan federal court jurors.
Ray’s lawyer countered Tuesday that Drury enjoyed sex and BDSM, and that it was her decision to be an escort.
Both parties have rested in the Sarah Lawrence College ‘sex cult’ case and the judge is expected to send the jury to deliberate. Larry Ray, 62, (pictured) facing charges of tax evasion, racketeering and money laundering, multiple counts of sex-trafficking and forced labor
Drury told the court how Ray (right) allegedly forced her into a life of prostitution, abused her, and threatened to kill her after ingratiating himself with her and her friends when she was a student at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York
Lenox added that Drury thought about what wealthy clients would want and wrote in support of sex work in her iCloud. Lenox went on to say that Drury gave money to Ray because she believed she had poisoned him and she wanted to pay him back.
When Drury broke contact with Ray, he didn’t go after her, Lenox told jurors. She said that it’s up to the jury to review Drury’s credibility, adding that she has problems with truth telling.
The lawyer cited examples that Drury is ‘not credible,’ arguing that she claimed a homeless man bit her finger and that there was ‘no assault in the Gregory Hotel.’
In a rebuttal summation, Assistant U.S. Attorney Danielle Sassoon criticized the defense for saying that multiple victims lied on the witness stand about their experiences during most of a decade with Ray.
The judge warned jurors that prosecutors had used ‘strong language’ in its rebuttal argument, but that they should keep in mind that defense lawyer Marne Lenox and the other lawyers had not acted improperly in closing arguments.
‘Tactics and methods of counsel in this case was proper,’ he said. ‘Each lawyer was just doing their jobs.’
Ray’s lawyer, Marne Lenox, concluded closing arguments Tuesday, telling jurors that Claudia Drury ‘enjoyed sex and BDSM’, ‘went to sex clubs’ and ‘has problems with truth telling’
Judge Lewis Liman on Tuesday charging the jury in the ‘sex cult’ case. The jury is expected to deliberate today
Ray made the decision to not take the stand in his own defense after intense discussions with his legal team over the weekend. He informed Liman of it Monday morning ahead of the jury entering court and before the defense stepped up to present its case.
After three weeks of often harrowing and graphic testimony, and a plethora of witnesses for the prosecution – including four former ‘cult members’ – the defense case lasted barely two hours and called just two witnesses.
The first, forensic cell phone analyst John B. Minor, attempted to cast doubt on the credibility of government maps that tracked cell phone activity and appeared to incriminate Ray and co-conspirator Pollok by putting them in the same place as Drury at key times.
Across several days of testimony Drury told the court that she was forced into a life of prostitution and handed over more than a million dollars to Ray by way of ‘reparations’ for wrongs he coerced her into believing herself guilty.
On Monday, jurors heard that the data was unreliable but under cross examination the quality of Minor’s conclusions was undermined leaving it unclear what, if any, gains his testimony had made.
Claudia Drury testifies at trial for Larry Ray on March 21, 2022
Ray allegedly subjected Drury (pictured) to hours of torture in her room at Manhattan’s Gregory Hotel in October 2018
Next came attorney Glenn Ripa, the subject of a hearing late Friday.
The defense had initially hoped to introduce an ‘advice of counsel’ defense with Ripa’s testimony, arguing that Ray acted in good faith collecting ‘reparations’ from students including Drury and not paying taxes on them having been told that those actions were legal by Ripa.
Lewis did not allow this, finding that Ripa’s testimony – which he described as ‘all over the place’ – fell far short of reaching that bar.
Across days of testimony, alleged sex cult victim Claudia Drury told the court that she had been forced into a life of prostitution and handed over more than a million dollars to Ray
Drury (pictured in a court sketch in March) told jurors at Manhattan Federal Court how how she went from naïve college student to a life of prostitution
The 31-year-old witness (pictured outside court in March) took the stand to describe the alleged gas-lighting, physical and sexual abuse that she claims she suffered at Ray’s hands
Instead, Ripa could only testify that he told Ray that reparations for personal damages were not considered taxable income and that he understood Drury to have confessed to having poisoned Ray. But on cross-examination, the prosecution established that the attorney had no records regarding this ‘advice,’ and made no mention of it to the defense before March 30 this year.
Under intense questioning Ripa went on to admit that he had no idea Ray was already taking money from Drury when he allegedly advised him and that he had no clue that the sums of money involved ran to more than $2million.
Yalitza Rosario, Felicia Rosario, Santos Rosario. Felicia, 39, told the court how she saw herself as Ray’s ‘wife’ only recently realizing their relationship was a sham. Yalitza, 32, testified that her relationship with Ray ‘tore her world apart’ and led to her mental breakdown. Santos, 30, told of violent physical abuse, coercion, extortion to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars
Assistant US Attorney Mollie Bracewell delivered the prosecution’s closing Monday afternoon. She sought to strip back a case that has been often dumbfounding in detail and refocus the jury on what, she maintained, was at the heart of it.
Ray, she told the court, had presided over a criminal organization that existed entirely for his benefit. He used trust to assume power and mounted a campaign of terror, sustained over close to ten years, to induce confessions and turn the students of Sarah Lawrence into ‘piggy banks.’
She replayed some of the most disturbing audio and video: Santos Rosario, 30, being beaten with a hammer by Ray whose blows rained down again and again; Daniel Levin being tortured with pliers, clamped to his tongue and a hammer thrust beneath his chin or into his torso.
Felicia Rosario (pictured arriving court earlier this week) told jurors how she came to realize her ‘romance’ with alleged sex cult leader Larry Ray was a sham
Felicia, 39, told the court how she regarded herself as Ray’s ‘wife’ only recently realizing their relationship was a sham
And she reminded the jury of the night when Ray and Pollok allegedly subjected Drury to hours of torture in her room at Manhattan’s Gregory Hotel.
On that night Ray allegedly stripped Drury naked, tied her to a chair and repeatedly suffocated her with a plastic bag, choked her with a leash, poured water over her while sitting her in the frigid blast of an AC unit and cut her hair with souvenir scissors that had been a gift from a client and she had kept because she thought them pretty.
They did it because Drury – by then a prostitute – had become too close to the client, Bracewell said, and had to be ‘brought to heel.’
Jurors heard audio of this sustained attack during Drury’s testimony.
At one point Ray can be heard asking Pollok to pass him the plastic bag – ‘an instrument of torture,’ Bracewell said – at another Drury can be heard choking.
‘You can listen to it again,’ Bracewell told the jury Monday afternoon and added, ‘If you are able.’
The night, she said, was ‘a snapshot’ that told them ‘almost everything’ they needed to know about Ray and his crimes.
The effect was powerful and immediate. Jurors sat riveted, some took notes.
Larry Ray’s sex trafficking trial was halted after the accused sex cult leader suffered another medical emergency in court
Isabella Pollok is accused of being Ray’s ‘lieutenant’ and conspirator
Ray ultimately ingratiated himself with his daughter Talia’s friends at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, including Santos Rosario (pictured left with Talia) Daniel Levin, Felicia Rosario (right) and Isabella Pollok
Ray, Bracewell told them, was at the head of a criminal structure that had a hierarchy, a group of followers and an anointed few – his ‘lieutenant’ Pollok and his daughter Talia Ray. Both, she argued, were complicit in his crimes.
This was all about the control that Ray ‘ruthlessly and relentlessly’ pursued over Drury, Levin and the Rosario siblings.
Pollok is due to stand trial on multiple counts later this year. Talia Ray, 29, remains unindicted.
Anticipating the biggest stumbling block of all – the how? of the whole affair – Bracewell reminded jurors of the testimony of psychologist Dr Dawn Hughes, given four weeks ago.
Hughes had outlined the ways in which coercive control is gained and the tactics used. She listed ten: Establishing Trust, Physical Violence, Sexual Abuse, Isolation, Indoctrination and Gaslighting, Emotional Abuse, Deprivation, Economic Abuse and Collateral.
Ray may not have written this playbook, Bracewell suggested, but he studied it and he followed it verbatim.
The evidence, she told the jury, ‘is overwhelming.’ She said ‘This man reigned over his criminal family and enterprise so he could profit and gain power.
‘He did so with fear, violence, manipulation, lies and schemes and he did so for years.’
This was, she said, ‘nothing but a long con,’ – a means to the millions Ray and Pollok used to prop up a lifestyle of designer clothes, luxury hotels and expensive dinners and funneled into a domain name portfolio worth, Ray boasted to his father, more than $34million.
She concluded, ‘He told his victims his acts of cruelty were attempts to hold them accountable for made up acts against him.
‘It is time to hold him accountable for his litany of crimes. We are asking you to bring Lawrence Ray to justice.’
Sarah Lawrence College is an elite liberal arts college in Bronxville, just north of New York City
Federal Defender Marne Lenox addressed the court Monday and concluded Tuesday – arguing it was all about ‘storytelling’ and storytellers who lost track of the difference between truth and fiction.
They all, she said, ‘believed’ – Ray included. Ray believed he was the victim of a massive conspiracy, that he had been poisoned and was due reparations.
The students turned his villains into their own and spun tall tales that they themselves came to believe.
Lenox took a long deep breath, steadying her nerves before she began. ‘Some people’ she admitted ‘thought Lawrence Ray was crazy.’ But others did not. Others believed in the world in which, she maintained, Ray and the students lived.
She said, ‘That world may not be one that you or I can ever hope to understand but for the defendant and others, through the looking glass, this world was real.’