Santos Rosario Says Larry Ray Held a Knife to His Genitals
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‘He Held a Knife to My Genitals’: Ex-Sarah Lawrence Student Testifies That Accused Sex Cult Leader Abused Him and His Sister

 
Larry Ray indicted in Sarah Lawrence sex cult case

Then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman announces the indictment against Larry Ray on Feb. 11, 2020 in New York City. Ray has been charged with several crimes including sex trafficking, extortion and forced labor of college-age people.

When his girlfriend told him her father was getting out of jail in 2010, then-Sarah Lawrence College sophomore Santos Rosario believed her stories about her dad’s persecution by shadowy powers-that-be.

“She told me that her father was in jail on trumped up charges on a child custody thing, and that he was a hero,” recounted Rosario, a key government witnesses against accused sex cult leader Lawrence Ray.

Then dating Ray’s daughter Talia Ray, Rosario’s first impressions of his girlfriend’s father were positive. Larry Ray claimed his criminal prosecutions—initially for securities fraud in the late 1990s, then for contempt of court in failing to abide by child custody orders—were payback for exposing the powerful. Ray acted as a government informant for ex-New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and reportedly, claimed to have lured ex-Donald Trump associate Felix Sater back to the United States at the behest of the FBI. Talia Ray boasted that her father “exposed” Kerik, and Rosario trusted them.

“I thought he was very cool, very smart, very composed, and very inspirational,” he told a jury.

Larry Ray and Slonim 9

Released by the government, these photographs show Larry Ray and the Sarah Lawrence dorm where he found his alleged victims: Slonim Woods 9.

“He Would Hit Me, Slap Me”

Now on his second day of testimony, Santos told a jury that the relationship spiraled into a vortex of abuse. Ray now stands accused of committing 17 federal crimes, including racketeering, sex trafficking, forced labor and extortion. If convicted, the 62-year-old could be imprisoned for the rest of his life. Rosario testified that Ray hit, insulted, and threatened him.

“He would hit me, slap me, held a knife to my throat,” Rosario told a jury. “He hit me with a hammer. He held a knife to my genitals. He put me in a chokehold and put me to sleep.”

Throughout his testimony, Rosario spoke about his struggles with depression. He said that he had attempted suicide in high school, and he initially latched onto Ray as an “attentive” and “intelligent” person, whose company appeared to benefit his roommates at the Sarah Lawrence dorm of Slonim Woods 9. Rosario even introduced his sisters Felicia and Yelitza Rosario to the defendant.

“I had felt that I derived a lot of benefit from knowing Larry, and I wanted her to have the same kind of benefit,” Rosario said of his sister Felicia, who he said started “dating” Ray.

Santos and Yalitza Rosario

Santos and Yalitza Rosario (Government exhibit)

In the autumn of 2011, Rosario said, he detected a swift and severe shift in their relationship.

“It turned into an escalating pattern of verbal and physical abuse,” he said, telling a jury that Ray called him a “bitch, trash, hemorrhoid, scum.”

Rosario said that, even though he dated his daughter, Ray ordered him to have sex with Isabella Pollok, another ex-Sarah Lawrence student indicted as an accused co-conspirator. He also said he witnessed Ray abuse his friends and siblings. One horrific episode involved a common kitchen implement turned into a makeshift torture device against his friend and roommate Daniel Barban Levin, who later wrote a memoir about his time in Ray’s “cult.”

“There was a time when he took a long piece of Saran Wrap, twisted it into a string, and tied it up into a knot, and put the knot around his genitals,” Rosario recounted, saying that Ray squeezed the “contraption” to torment Levin. Rosario said that he would eventually have to take a medical leave in the second semester of his junior year, experiencing “intrusive thoughts” about his previous struggles with suicidal ideation.

Levin’s book was later optioned for millions for a Hulu documentary, Ray’s defense attorney said on Thursday.

“I Feel Like I’m About to Cry”

Rosario said that he also saw Ray hit and punch a roommate and pull his sister Felicia’s hair. Audiotapes of Ray’s conversations with Rosario show him using his sister Felicia to denigrate him.

“When she takes a shit in the morning, her shit is better than you,” Ray could be heard telling Rosario on tape, referring to his sister.

Throughout his direct examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsey Keenan backed up Rosario’s account with emails, photographs and audio recordings. The tapes largely consisted of Ray’s interrogation sessions goading him to confess to a range of infractions, from property damage to colluding with his supposed antagonists. One appeared to show Ray threatening Rosario with an object the witness identified a hammer.

“I swear that I will put this through your skull,” Ray shouted on the audiotape.

Prosecutors claim that Ray used false confessions to make the students feel indebted to him, extorting them into paying him hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

Rosario said that Ray would have him perform labor painting and sanding his apartment, then falsely accuse him of property damage. Ray then allegedly forced Rosario to keep a list of what he owed. One exhibit showed Rosario attached a file named “ListofLarrysPropertyDamageForDad.pdf” in an email to Ray. He would ask his parents, college friends and others to pay those six-figure tabs.

Larry Ray and Santos Rosario painting

Larry Ray and Santos Rosario painting (government exhibit)

Rosario’s torment about his questioning was palpable on the tape.

“I feel like I’m about to cry,” he could be heard saying on one recording. “I feel like I fucked up.”

In a disturbing video, Rosario could be seen slapping himself loudly and repeatedly in the face in front of his sister Felicia. Ray can be heard off-camera, filming them, as she screams out in anguish. Rosario said Ray was trying to get his sister to stop talking. The jury saw a photograph of Rosario’s swollen face after he hit himself for about an hour.

His testimony, though brutal, was not a unique story among his roommates. Prosecutors say Ray’s modus operandi revolved around “indoctrination and criminal exploitation” of his young victims, whom he made to feel indebted to him.

During opening statements on Monday, Keenan said that Ray took one 19-year-old girl to a midtown hotel on Oct. 18, 2018, stripping her naked and putting a plastic bag over her head until she was nearly unconscious. In a “long night of torture,” Ray also smothered her with a pillow and choked her with a leash to keep her engaged in prostitution for his benefit, Keenan said.

According to Ray’s indictment, the women went on to make him “millions.”

[Image via Stephanie Keith/Getty Images]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on MSNBC, BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks.