September 4, 2020 | 5:01pm
The trial for an accused Sarah Lawrence College sex-cult leader was pushed back by four months during a hearing Friday in Manhattan federal court, with his lawyers claiming a potential defense — his alleged victims once plotted to poison him.
US District Judge Lewis Liman said the date for accused svengali Lawrence Ray’s sex-trafficking trial, slated for Jan. 19, was no longer realistic because the coronavirus pandemic had shut down courts for months. He set a new date of May 10.
Prosecutor Danielle Sassoon noted that in-person legal visits at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where Ray is being held without bail, are expected to resume Sept. 21, allowing the defense to better prepare for trial.
During the hearing by telephone, in which Ray, 60, participated from the Lower Manhattan jail, his lawyer, Marnie Lenox, said she may use as part of a defense some of his accusers’ own alleged admissions that they tried to harm him.
“Those confessions are exemplars of the individuals, the alleged victims in this case, confessing to harming, poisoning Mr. Ray, to causing him physical harm, to causing damage to his physical property,” Lenox told the judge. “These individuals have said they’ve been plotting against Mr. Ray with other individuals for a number of years.”
The disclosure that Ray’s camp may try to use the “confessions” is surprising, given how prosecutors have described the supposed admittances.
Prosecutors have said Ray accused one young woman of poisoning him and then made her confess on video so he could blackmail her. He then allegedly forced her into prostitution, raking in $500,000 from trafficking her.
Prosecutors claimed that he frequently videotaped his victims making supposed “confessions” or engaging in humiliating acts so that he could use the footage against them.
Officials charge that Ray created a Nxivm-like sex cult to prey on his daughter’s classmates at Sarah Lawrence — using psychological torture and physical violence to keep his victims in line.
Most recently, prosecutors accused Ray of using his father to contact two of his alleged victims from jail to stop them from cooperating — a claim his lawyers have denied.