Prosecutors seek life term for man who abused college women

FILE - This undated file photo provided by the U.S. Attorney's office shows Lawrence Ray, the ex-convict charged with sex trafficking and extortion for forcing young women into prostitution or forced labor after winning trust by posing as a father-figure. In a submission in Manhattan federal court late Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, prosecutors are seeking a life prison term for Ray. (U.S. Attorney's office via AP, File) (Uncredited, U.S. Attorney's Office)

NEW YORK – Prosecutors seek a life prison term for an ex-convict who extorted and forced into labor or prostitution some women he met at his daughter’s on-campus housing at Sarah Lawrence College, while his lawyers request the mandatory minimum 15 years behind bars for his crimes, according to papers filed prior to sentencing next week.

In a submission in Manhattan federal court late Friday, prosecutors called Lawrence Ray's crimes “heinous,” saying he groomed and abused his young victims as he took "sadistic pleasure in their pain and enjoyed the fruits of their suffering.”

They said Ray, 63, has shown he is a danger to others, is incapable of contrition and must be incapacitated.

Ray was convicted last April of using threats and violence to enrich himself with millions of dollars as he ruined the lives of his daughter’s friends, watching them descend “into self-hatred, self-harm and suicidal attempts under his coercive control,” prosecutors said.

His sentencing is scheduled for next Friday.

His lawyers have argued for leniency, saying he should face 15 years behind bars. They said his own physical, sexual and psychological abuse he suffered as a child and through his young adulthood “bears a striking resemblance to the conduct underlying the offenses he now stands convicted of.”

Ray was convicted at a trial where weeks of testimony chronicled his psychologically manipulative relationship with young people he met in fall 2010 at Sarah Lawrence College, a small New York liberal arts school. Ray moved into his daughter’s dorm after finishing a prison stint for a securities fraud conviction.

He was convicted on 15 counts, including racketeering, conspiracy, forced labor, sex trafficking and obstruction of justice.

A jury returned its verdict after less than a day of deliberations following a monthlong trial that featured testimony from numerous victims. Some testified that Ray made them believe for most of a decade that they had poisoned or otherwise harmed him and they needed to pay him back.

One woman testified that she became a sex worker to try to pay reparations to Ray after becoming convinced that she had poisoned him. She said that, over four years, she gave Ray $2.5 million in installments that averaged between $10,000 and $50,000 per week.

Ray did not testify. Twice, the trial was interrupted as he was taken to the hospital in an ambulance for undisclosed illnesses.

In their submission Friday, prosecutors said Ray had “shown no remorse, accepted no responsibility, and impeded the prosecution of this case, including by disrupting the trial and prolonging the trauma to his victims.”

Several students testified that they were drawn into Ray’s world as he told them stories of his past influence in New York City politics, including his role in ruining the career of former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik after serving as the best man at his wedding years earlier. Ray had, in fact, been a figure in a corruption investigation that derailed Kerik’s 2004 nomination by President George Bush to lead the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Some of the students agreed to live with Ray in the summer of 2011 at his Manhattan one-bedroom apartment, where his sinister side emerged as he started to claim that the students had poisoned and harmed him or his property.