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Accused college sex cult leader Lawrence Ray has opted not to testify in his own defense.
Ray’s defense team rested Monday morning after calling just two witnesses to the stand in the sensational case, including one of Ray’s attorneys who said he had once advised Ray that he could accept “compensation” from alleged sex trafficking victim Claudia Drury without paying taxes, according to Law & Crime.
Prosecutors have said Ray forced Drury into prostitution and then pocketed $2.5 million of her earnings himself over a four-year period.
Ray’s legal team presented a surprising defense to the tax evasion charges, arguing that Ray had been given legal advice instructing him that he could accept tax-free money from Drury as reparations for allegedly poisoning him, a claim she has said she was forced to make under duress as part of Ray’s ongoing attempts to manipulate and control the Sarah Lawrence College students he met through his daughter.
Glenn Ripa, a former IRS agent, testified Monday that he had given Ray the advice while working on retainer and was aware that Drury made her money through sex work.
Ripa represented Ray in a 2014 housing court proceeding and said he believed Drury had poisoned Ray because of her own testimony that she had done so during the proceeding. However, prosecutors quickly honed in on the lack of evidence supporting those allegations, other than Drury’s word.
“Did he provide you with any medical bills?” the prosecutor asked Ripa.
“No, he did not,” Ripa replied, adding that he had written to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York to ask them to investigate the poisoning claim.
While Ripa admitted to giving the tax advice, he said he was not aware of the full scope of the allegations against Ray and told prosecutors that he had “absolutely not” told Ray he could beat Drury up or force her into prostitution.
Prosecutors have alleged that Ray often manipulated the college students—who he met after moving into his daughter’s dorm room in 2010—into recording false confessions admitting to poisoning him or his family or damaging his property. He’d later use the recordings to extort money from the members of the group known as “The Ray Family,” prosecutors said. He's pleaded not guilty in the case.
In her own testimony during the trial, Drury testified that she had been tortured for hours at a Manhattan hotel room after Ray forced her to strip down naked, handcuffed her to a chair and repeatedly suffocated her with a plastic bag.
The “terrifying” seven-hour torture session allegedly came after she told one of her regular clients that Ray had published a list of her clients on a website.
Drury said for years she had been forced to hand over the money she made through prostitution to Ray or his alleged co-conspirator Isabella Pollok, who is facing her own set of charges in the case and has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors presented cell phone data that traced Ray and Pollok’s movements when they allegedly picked up the money.
Authorities used text messages and other evidence to determine when the pickups were likely made to support Drury’s testimony while laying out the case against Ray.
However, Ray’s defense team challenged that evidence, calling a witness to the stand who questioned some of the maps presented by prosecutors.
The weeks-long trial also focused on testimony from other alleged victims, including siblings Yalitza Rosario, Felicia Rosario and Santos Rosario.
Santos testified that Ray hit him with a hammer for “several hours,” according to The New York Times.
To support the claims of the alleged victims, prosecutors presented video recordings obtained by Oxygen.com appearing to show Ray body-slamming Felicia to the ground, aggressively interrogating Drury about supposed property damage and another video of Santos repeatedly slapping himself in front of his sister.
For their final witness, prosecutors called the siblings' mother Maritza Rosario to the stand, who testified that she had given her children more than $150,000 in cash between 2012 and 2014 to meet Ray’s growing financial demands, The Daily Mail reports.
Maritza testified that her son Santos asked her for thousands of dollars multiple times a week to pay for allegedly damaging Ray’s property, including his stove or refrigerator.
While she said she didn’t believe her son, he was “desperate” and she “didn’t know what to do.” She was cut off from her children for seven years before reuniting with them in 2021, according to the news outlet.
If convicted on the charges against him, Ray could face a maximum sentence of life in prison, CBS News reports.
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