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A federal jury found Lawrence Ray guilty of 15 counts related to allegations that he moved into his daughter’s dormitory at Sarah Lawrence College in New York and manipulated his friends into sectarian devotion to obtain free labor and millions of dollars.
The jury of six men and six women delivered their verdict around 1:45 p.m. local time on Wednesday, after deliberating for only about four hours, in less than two full days. Ray, 62, was charged with 15 counts including racketeering, sex trafficking, conspiracy, forced labor, extortion, tax evasion and other crimes. He faces a maximum life sentence and a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years.
Ray was wearing navy pants, a light blue shirt, and a black leather belt and seemed suspicious in the moments before I learned of his fate. He seemed to have no obvious reaction as he stood facing the jury. After learning of the sentencing, he sat down and whispered in his lawyer’s ear.
Federal prosecutors said Ray, a former convict, began by flirting his young victims, then turned to physical abuse and psychological torment to extort money, sex and other favors.
He made some believe they had poisoned him, prosecutors said. A woman testified that she had been forced into prostitution.
Although he did not testify, Ray maintained through his lawyers that he had been falsely accused.
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Federal authorities began investigating Ray after a lengthy article in New York magazine explored his relationship with students at Sarah Lawrence, a small private liberal arts college just north of New York.
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At trial, Ray was accused of spending nearly a decade manipulating a circle of his daughter’s friends, whom he met after moving into her dorm in 2010.
One testified that Ray had encouraged her into prostitution and paid him the proceeds of sex work as compensation for poisoning him. She said she paid Ray $2.5 million over a four-year period, giving him between $10,000 and $50,000 a week.
In her closing arguments, defense attorney Marne Lenox argued that Ray was the victim and that the young people he lived with were “storytellers” who made him feel attacked and paranoid.
“Everyone was out to get it, Larry believed,” Lenox said.
The unusual trial featured testimony from several men and women who lived with Ray for much of the past decade before his arrest in early 2020 disrupted what Bracewell said were the operations of a crime syndicate that she referred to as the “Ray Family”.
The trial was twice halted so Ray could be taken to hospital for treatment of medical issues that Judge Lewis J. Liman assured jurors were unrelated to the coronavirus.
In his conclusion, Lenox said that Ray in the fall of 2010 impressed his daughter’s friends in his dorm on the campus of Sarah Lawrence College with his claims that he had ruined the rise of the former police commissioner from New York, Bernard Kerik, after being best man at his wedding.
She said he told them people, including Kerik, were there looking for him.
Kerik served as the city’s police commissioner from 2000 to 2001, serving during the 9/11 attacks, and he nearly became President George Bush’s Homeland Security Secretary in 2004, but his name was abruptly retired as candidate.
Shortly after, the Daily News reported that Ray, who was indicted for a stock market scam, had produced evidence that Kerik had failed to report the thousands of dollars in gifts he had received while working for the town. Kerik eventually served nearly four years in prison for tax evasion and other crimes.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Bracewell said Ray first earned the students’ respect with his stories of influence as he moved into his daughter’s dorm, but he quickly turned their trust against them by convincing them that they had poisoned him and owed him millions of dollars in compensation. .
Then, she said, he used violence and threats and terrified them into following his orders.
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“Everything he did was designed … to keep them in check,” Bracewell said, urging jurors to reject defense claims that Ray acted the way he did because he thought they had poisoned him and that he wanted to mount a criminal case.
She asked, “Why the hell would you share meals with your supposed poisoners?”
Marta Dhanis of Fox News contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press.