Federal prosecutors urged a jury Monday to finally hold Sarah Lawrence College sex cult leader Lawrence Ray accountable for his 10-year reign as the sick patriarch of “The Ray Family,” saying his verbal, physical and sexual abuse of young acolytes was part of a master plan to extract money from shell-shocked victims.
The feds argued in closing statements that Ray, 62, along with his daughter Talia and his trusted lieutenant Isabella Pollok, ran a criminal enterprise that used sex trafficking, extortion and assault to maintain complete control over its members. Ray met many of the victims through his daughter when she was a student at the idyllic Bronxville college.
“You heard how he brutalized them with a hammer, with pliers, with punches, with a plastic bag, with vicious abuse, with forced labor,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Molly Bracewell. “You heard how he took their money again and again.”
The wild four-week trial was paused for days as Ray suffered apparent seizures and was twice whisked out of Manhattan Federal Court on a stretcher. In another shocking moment, federal prosecutors accidentally released a list of prostitution clients compiled by Claudia Drury, who testified that Ray forced her into sex work and took the lion’s share of the proceeds.
Ray viciously assaulted Drury while she was working for him as a prostitute, tying her naked to a chair in a hotel room and repeatedly suffocating her with a plastic bag, she testified at trial.
Another victim, Santos Rosario, testified that he endured Ray hitting him repeatedly in the legs with a hammer over a made-up transgression. Ray’s control over Rosario was so complete that he convinced the troubled youngster to slap himself until his face was swollen, Rosario testified.
On top of the abuse, Ray convinced many of his followers that they were poisoning him and were part of a sinister plot led by former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik to destroy him, prosecutors claim.
But the defense countered that Ray also believed the sinister fantasies that became the cult’s reality. Federal Defender Marne Lenox described Ray’s followers as a group of wayward “storytellers.”
“The world that Larry and the others cultivated over the course of a decade may not be one that you or I could ever understand, but...through the looking glass, this world was real,” said attorney Marne Lennox.
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