Larry Ray Suggested 'Gangbangs,' Stranger Sex: Claudia Drury
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Stranger Sex, Sadism, and a ‘Gangbang’: Key Witness Against Accused Sarah Lawrence Cult Leader Testifies in Racketeering Trial

 
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.

For the past three days on the witness stand, the key witness behind the sex-trafficking count against accused Sarah Lawrence College cult leader Larry Ray has testified that she made roughly $2.5 million on prostitution for him. She delved into the sordid prelude to that work on Tuesday.

In one incident, witness Claudia Drury testified, a sex club manager ran a knife several inches long all over her body, leaving her with scars for years. In an introduction to the world of “impact play,” she said, a man put his genitals in her mouth while another painfully struck her twice with an object. One person told her that the object was a 2-by-4, but it felt like a pipe, she said.

Drury had been at an emotional moment of her testimony when proceedings abruptly ended, and Ray was wheeled out of the courthouse in a stretcher to an ambulance—for the second time since trial began.

“Sex Is Like a Sport”

Before proceedings prematurely concluded, Drury told a federal jury that she began her work at the club at the suggestion of Ray, who is standing trial on a 17-count indictment for racketeering, sex trafficking, forced labor, money laundering extortion and other charges. His victims, prosecutors say, were a group of Sarah Lawrence College student whom he met through his daughter Talia Ray, then a student at the college.

Their harrowing stories have formed the basis of a memoir by one alleged victim Daniel Barban Levin titled “Slonim Woods 9,” the name of the communal dormitory where they allegedly fell under Ray’s spell, and multiple upcoming documentaries. In press interviews and courtroom testimony, many of these students tell similar tales about how Ray would order them to have sex with each other. They also have accused Ray of coercing them into false written or recorded confessions, which he would allegedly use to extract hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars from them.

Among these students’ accounts, Drury’s stands alone as the sole basis of Ray’s sex trafficking count. She previously testified that she would be on call seven days a week—and service up to five men a day—in order to make those millions for Ray.

Before that time, Drury testified, Ray glamorized that work as a pathway to sexual liberation.

“He also said that gangbangs or having sex with multiple partners was freeing and I should try it,” Drury said, adding that he showed her a video of his accused co-conspirator Isabella Pollok engaging in a “gangbang” with strangers she picked up in “low-income housing.”

Isabella Pollok

Larry Ray’s accused “lieutenant” Isabella Pollok was charged separately and will be tried later this year. (Photo via DOJ)

As recounted by Drury, Ray philosophized: “Sex is like a sport,” which she says he compared to tennis. Ray would say that one could play tennis with a loved one or a stranger, but the game was competitive, according to Drury.

Ray allegedly would recommend that Drury take a cab ride and provide a sex act in lieu of payment. Drury says that she did just that, and that she also took Ray up on another suggestion to have sex with a stranger in Central Park.

“It Felt Kind of Cathartic”

Before the alleged sex trafficking, Drury said, Ray had instilled her with a profound sense of self-loathing and doom by forcing her into falsely confessing that she poisoned him and his family. Prosecutors entered a video into evidence.

 

In the video, Drury said, she had a mark on her forehead from Ray hitting her there with a crop. He allegedly coerced her into saying she made the statement with her own free will. Armed with such confessions, Ray would go to extreme lengths to threaten her with the prospect of jail time, Drury testified.

“He’d tell me very graphic things about what people who do to me in prison,” Drury said.

Ray had firsthand experience with incarceration.

“He described the size of a prison cell, told me to walk the size of a prison cell,” Drury said, adding he forced her to read the first page of Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago” to envision what incarceration would feel like.

In the late 1990s, Ray was prosecuted in connection with a mafia-linked securities fraud scheme. He reportedly acted as an informant against former New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik, and his federal indictment in that case included former Donald Trump associate Felix Sater as an unindicted co-conspirator. Following his acrimonious divorce, Ray went to jail for contempt of court for flouting orders after losing custody of his daughter to his ex-wife.

“He told me how I would feel with the handcuffs on my hands for the first time,” the witness testified, adding that Ray would tell her that a larger woman would make Drury her “bitch.”

Echoing the accounts of other students, Drury testified that Ray would accuse him of colluding with Kerik. She said that Ray made her feel that going to jail was inevitable.

When she started working at a sex club, Drury said, her introduction into BDSM—short for bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism—felt like a release.

“I had been building up a lot of self-hate that I had no outlet for,” Drury said. “This was 100% a way to release it and it felt kind of cathartic.”

“Immense Pressure”

The first time Ray floated the idea of sex work, Drury testified, he made it sound like another step in her sexual education.

“I should try it,” she said, recounting what she said Ray told her. “It’s fun. It’s a sort of sexual rush.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Danielle Sassoon asked her whether her conception of sex work was similarly happy-go-lucky.

“Did you want to be a prostitute?” the prosecutor asked.

“No,” Drury replied.

Though Ray allegedly framed prostitution as a step toward her liberation, Drury said entered into it for one reason: for money to pay him.

“I wanted to repair what I believed I had done to Larry,” Drury said, adding that she felt “immense pressure” to pay him what she believed she owed him. She said that she started with a prostitution agency and ran advertisements on Backpage, the now-shuttered website that advertised “adult services” before being shut down by the U.S. government.

Drury said that Ray would give feedback on the language and the wording, criticizing a photo of her in a tank-top as “trashy” and “bad.” She said that Ray would also have a role in determining the prices, always urging her to set them higher.

“He always said that they were too low, and why were they so cheap?” she testified.

In order to justify higher prices, Drury said, Ray would recommend that she become thinner and look into breast augmentation surgery. The former suggestion especially took a toll on her mental health, she said.

“I developed a horrific binge, bulimia eating disorder,” she said.

When Drury told Ray about it, she said, he became “scornful, if not angry.” She said that he told her she was trying to “sabotage” her business. Drury said that Ray would threaten her with releasing sensitive information about her on a now-defunct website under her name. The website disclosed her false poisoning confessions, her work as an escort and her journal entries. Drury said that he had threatened to disclose her client list.

As reported by the Daily Mail, that client list was inadvertently released by the Justice Department on Tuesday, before the U.S. Attorney’s office urged reporters to delete it. The paper reported that the clients included 121 names, including that of a Metropolitan Transit Authority executive, an account executive at Amazon, and a former New York State Supreme Court judge.

(Photos via DOJ)

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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.