NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors asked a judge Friday to limit what jurors can hear of the psychological history of victims in a forced labor case, saying they were manipulated by a man who posed as a mental health expert and was sometimes there before or after many of them attempted suicide.
The request came in the case against Lawrence Ray, 61, who was arrested in February 2020.
Ray has pleaded not guilty to charges that he forced vulnerable college students into prostitution or unpaid labor over the span of a decade starting in 2010, when he moved into his daughter’s residence at Sarah Lawrence College.
Prosecutors say he befriended her classmates and became a patriarchal figure who exerted a manipulative influence over their lives.
Ray used physical, sexual and psychological abuse to extort nearly $1 million from victims, including five students, prosecutors said. One victim was forced into prostitution, the government has said.
A message seeking comment was sent to Ray’s attorneys.
In papers filed Friday in Manhattan federal court, prosecutors revealed more about their case, saying Ray knew his victims had a history of mental health issues and sought to build trust by presenting himself in the role of a mentor or therapist after describing his experience in medicine and mental health treatment.
They said he was present before or after some of them attempted suicide and were hospitalized and tried to insert himself into their treatment by making statements to their physicians and by interfering with the involvement of the victims’ family members as the victims tried to recover.
Prosecutors said Ray often acted as if he was diagnosing particular mental health conditions, such as borderline personality, before asserting control over their mental health treatment by receiving updates from the women about sessions with therapists or by participating in therapy sessions.
Prosecutors said they wanted to ensure that lawyers for Ray do not try to elicit information that victims shared with therapists and expose the victims to questions about information that is protected by privacy laws.
Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press