A federal jury has found Lawrence Ray guilty of 15 counts related to allegations he moved into his daughter’s dorm at New York’s Sarah Lawrence College and manipulated her friends into a cult-like devotion to get free labor and millions of dollars.
The jury of six men and six women returned its verdict around 1:45 p.m. local time Wednesday after deliberating for only about four hours. Ray, 62, was charged with 15 counts, including racketeering, sex trafficking, conspiracy, forced labor, extortion, tax evasion, and other crimes.
His sentencing is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sept. 16, when he faces a maximum of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years.
Ray wore navy pants, a light blue shirt and a black leather belt and appeared wary in the moments before me learned his fate. He appeared to have no obvious reaction as he stood facing the jury. After learning of the conviction, he sat down and whispered in his defense attorney's ear.
Defense attorneys declined to comment after Wednesday's news. U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement that Ray "used violence, threats, and psychological abuse to try to control and destroy" his victims' lives of over the course of a decade.
"He exploited them. He terrorized them. He tortured them," Williams said. "Let me be very clear. Larry Ray is a predator. An evil man who did evil things. Today’s verdict finally brings him to justice."
Federal prosecutors said Ray, an ex-convict, started by charming his young victims, then turned to physical abuse and psychological torment to extort money, sex and other favors.
He tricked some into believing they had poisoned him, prosecutors said. One woman testified she was coerced into prostitution.
Although he did not testify, Ray maintained through his lawyers that he was falsely accused.
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 City.
At the trial, Ray was accused of spending nearly a decade manipulating a circle of his daughter's friends, who he met after moving into her dorm in 2010.
One of them testified that Ray encouraged her to become a prostitute and pay him sex work proceeds as compensation for having poisoned 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 closing arguments, defense attorney Marne Lenox contended that Ray was the victim, and that the young people he lived with were "storytellers" who had made him feel attacked and paranoid.
"Everyone was out to get him, Larry believed," Lenox said.
The unusual trial featured testimony from several of the men and women who lived with Ray for much of the last decade before his arrest in early 2020 disrupted what Bracewell characterized as the operations of a crime syndicate she labeled the "Ray Family."
The trial was twice interrupted so Ray could be taken to the hospital for treatment of medical issues that Judge Lewis J. Liman assured jurors was unrelated to the coronavirus.
In her closing, Lenox said Ray in the fall of 2010 impressed friends of his daughter at her on-campus dormitory at Sarah Lawrence College with his claims that he'd spoiled the rise of former New York City police Commissioner Bernard Kerik after serving as best man at his wedding.
She said he told them that people including Kerik were out to get him.
Kerik was 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 withdrawn as the nominee.
Shortly afterward, the Daily News reported that Ray, who was under indictment in a stock scam, had produced evidence that Kerik failed to report thousands of dollars in gifts he’d received while working for the city. Kerik eventually served nearly four years in prison for tax fraud and other crimes.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Bracewell said Ray initially won respect from the students with his stories of influence as he moved into his daughter's dormitory, 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 commands.
"Every single one of his actions was designed ... to keep control over them," Bracewell said, urging jurors to reject defense claims that Ray acted as he did because he believed they had poisoned him and he wanted to build a criminal case.
She asked: "Why on earth would you share meals with your supposed poisoners?"
Fox News' Marta Dhanis contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press.