Sarah Lawrence Cult Jury Hears Key Witness: ‘I Became a Prostitute’

In journals, emails, and videos, Claudia Drury cataloged the transgressions that Lawrence V. Ray convinced her she had committed.

Damage Mr. Ray’s vacuum cleaner. Eat all his food. Even poison him with cyanide.

In reality, says Drury now, none of this happened. But Mr. Ray still demanded reparations. And even though she was short on money, she said, Mr. Ray steered her towards a way to have fun – while earning money to pay for it.

‘I became a prostitute,’ Ms Drury said in testimony that ended Friday in federal district court in Manhattan, where Mr Ray is on trial on 16 counts, including tax evasion. and extortion. “That was Larry’s suggestion.”

His testimony, which is nearing the middle of the trial, is critical to the prosecution’s case, providing an internal record in support of some of the most serious charges against him, sex trafficking and violent crimes for the benefit of the racketeering.

For several days, Ms Drury added new details about how Mr Ray, according to prosecutors, moved into a dormitory at Sarah Lawrence College in 2010 and spent years manipulating and abusing students there. met.

Ms Drury, one such student, described how Mr Ray exploited her at a time when she felt ‘ungrounded and anxious’.

He gained her trust by posing as a mentor, Ms Drury testified. Then, she said, he became abusive, pressuring her to admit the false offenses and using her confession to extract payments.

Mr Ray was arrested in 2020 after being the subject of an article in a New York magazine.

In her testimony, Ms Drury detailed how Mr Ray wielded power over her and other impressionable students at Sarah Lawrence, a private liberal arts college in Westchester County, New York, just north of New York.

Ms Drury described how Mr Ray made her believe she had committed crimes, took her away from her parents and groomed her for abuse. He first talked about sex, she testified, then initiated sexual contact with her and encouraged her to have sexual contact with others.

Finally, she worked for years as a prostitute, Ms Drury testified, soliciting clients on the internet and giving Mr Ray about $2.5 million in earnings.

She also testified that Mr. Ray became enraged after confiding in a client about aspects of his life. At one point, she said, he threatened to waterboard her and held a plastic bag to her head in a Manhattan hotel as she struggled to breathe.

“I was terrified,” she said. “I was shaking.”

Lawyers for Mr Ray have suggested that a group of storytelling students, some of whom had mental health issues, had hatched a ‘fantasy plot’ about him.

On cross-examination, Ms Drury admitted that she had a habit of embellishing anecdotes and she said she had fabricated a detailed account of being accosted on the street by mystery men with a message from the Mr. Ray’s former friend, Bernard B. Kerik, a former New York police commissioner.

Ms. Drury came into Mr. Ray’s orbit after he appeared at Sarah Lawrence’s dorm where her daughter, Talia Ray, lived. He had recently served time in state prison in New Jersey over a child custody dispute.

At the dorm, Mr. Ray regaled Mrs. Drury and the other housemates with stories of intrigue. She testified she learned of her time in the military and her role in bringing down Mr Kerik, who was appointed to a top federal post but eventually pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges and agreed free labor from a suspected tied contractor. to the crowd.

Mr Ray had a ‘very magnetic and charismatic personality’, Ms Drury said, adding that she believed he exposed a plot to ‘rip up the Constitution and hurt America’.

He described a philosophy he helped create called “Quest for Potential” and compared himself to Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius, Ms Drury said. She began to see him as a “confidant” who could help improve her life.

But even as he offered advice, he also displayed conspiratorial tendencies, Ms Drury said. She said Mr. Ray believed that Mr. Kerik and others were determined to hurt her.

In the summer of 2011, she said, she and other students frequently stayed at Mr. Ray’s apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where he offered so-called therapy sessions intended to make them “more developed people”.

Mr Ray also brought up sex, Ms Drury testified, referring to “swapping clubs” and sometimes touching her sexually.

He urged her to have sex with a classmate and with a salesman who visited the apartment, Ms Drury testified, adding that according to Mr Ray, “being very open and uninhibited” showed a “higher level high in personal development and self- comfort and honesty.

At the same time, he began to lay charges.

He said the students damaged his property, hid his belongings and threw away important documents. Hours-long interrogations followed, Ms Drury said, with Mr Ray interrogating the students until he obtained a confession. He also threatened students, she said, and sometimes attacked them violently.

Ms Drury said she admitted to things she hadn’t done partly because Mr Ray insisted she had and partly because the other pupils were confessing to imaginary offenses .

“It was very easy for me to say, well, maybe I damaged that,” she testified. “Once I kind of started confessing these things, each one was like further evidence of all the others.”

Ms Drury eventually confessed to poisoning Mr Ray. In a video he created, which was presented as evidence, he can be heard asking Ms Drury for details. She said she put “mercury, cyanide and arsenic” in her food and on her toothbrush.

Mr. Ray said he could send her to prison, Ms. Drury testified, and made her read Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago” so she would know what awaited her.

A taped phone conversation from 2012, also offered as evidence, captured Mr Ray prompting Ms Drury as she told her mother she dreamed of pushing her out of the window and strangling her father and wanted to go to the hospital.

Ms Drury testified that it was Mr Ray who first hinted that she wanted to hurt her parents and had not consciously thought of doing so. While she was hospitalized, she added, he told her that her parents wanted to hurt her and “distort the truth”. She said her relationship with her parents deteriorated until she completely lost contact with them.

“Larry was basically telling me that they were trying to hang me up to dry,” she testified. “I got really paranoid about them.”

In 2014, Ms Drury said, she started working in sex clubs at the suggestion of Mr Ray. He encouraged her to have sex with a taxi driver instead of paying for a fare and to have sex with a stranger in Central Park, she added. She also said he was “impressed” after telling her she let a man run a knife over her body and hit her with a heavy object during sex.

Throughout, Ms. Drury testified that she was afraid she would go to jail if she did not hand over to Mr. Ray the money he owed her as compensation for the harm she had caused him, particularly the alleged poisonings. Mr Ray told her prostitution would be ‘fun’ and a ‘sexual rush’, she said.

Ms Drury said she worked as a prostitute from early 2015 until spring 2019, living in hotels, seeing up to five men a day, seven days a week, and charging them up to $2,000 for an hour. She testified she gave the money to Mr Ray and Isabella Pollok, a former roommate of Sarah Lawrence who prosecutors say became Mr Ray’s ‘trusted lieutenant’ and who was charged with conspiring with him to commit sex trafficking, extortion and racketeering.

‘I felt immense pressure from Larry to get the money,’ Ms Drury said, adding that she also wanted ‘to get rid of my soul’ that she had behaved towards him from an “unforgivable” way.

In late 2018, Ms Drury said, Mr Ray showed up at a Midtown hotel where she was staying, ordered her to remove her clothes, then handcuffed her to a chair. For about seven hours, she said, he placed a pillow over her face, strangled her with a collar and leash, and covered her head with a plastic bag, saying at one point: “I’m going to kill you.”

This, she testified, was a turning point.

“I was scared for my life,” she said. “I was increasingly anxious to know if he was really who I thought he was.”

She said she fled New York about six months after the encounter. She never saw or spoke with Mr. Ray again.

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