United States v. Ray

Decision Date01 February 2022
Docket Number20-cr-110 (LJL)
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York


The Government moves to exclude the testimony of defendant's proffered expert witness, Joseph Pierre, M.D., from testifying at trial. The Government argues that Dr Pierre's testimony is irrelevant, prejudicial, and impermissible under the Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1984 that his methods are unreliable, his opinions are not based on sufficient facts or data, and defendant's notice is deficient. Dkt. No. 266.

For the following reasons, the motion to exclude is granted.


Familiarity with the Court's prior opinions setting forth the charges in this case and its procedural history is assumed. In summary, Ray has been charged in a 17-count second superseding Indictment (the “Indictment”) with Racketeering Conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) (Count One); Extortion Conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951 (Count Two), Extortion in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1951 and 2 (Count Three); Sex Trafficking in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1591 and 2 (Count Four); Conspiracy to Commit Sex Trafficking in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1594 (Count Five); Forced Labor in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1589 and 2 (Count Six); Forced Labor Trafficking in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1590 and 2 (Count Seven); Forced Labor Conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1594 (Count Eight); Use of Interstate Commerce To Promote Unlawful Activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1952(a)(3)(B) and 2 (Count Nine); Use of Interstate Commerce to Promote Unlawful Activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1952(a)(3)(B) and 2 (Count Ten); Money Laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(1)(B)(i), (ii), and 2 (Count Eleven); Tax Evasion, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7201, for the years 2015 (Count Twelve), 2016 (Count Thirteen), 2017 (Count Fourteen), 2018 (Count Fifteen), and 2019 (Count Sixteen); and Violent Crime in Aid of Racketeering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(3). Dkt. No. 292.

The Indictment that Ray and his co-defendant Isabella Pollok “were members and associates of a criminal organization (the ‘Enterprise') whose members engaged in, among other things, extortion, sex trafficking, forced labor, money laundering, and obstruction of justice.” Dkt. No. 292 at 1. It alleges that, between “in or about 2010 and in or about 2020 Ray targeted a group of college students and others for indoctrination and criminal exploitation including extortion, forced labor, and prostitution. See id. at 3. He is accused of extracting from victims false confessions that they had caused harm and damage to Ray and associates. Id. He is also alleged to have extorted money from the victims, forced some of the victims to perform unpaid manual labor and provide sexual services, and caused one of the female victims to engage in commercial sex acts for the financial benefit of the Enterprise. Id. at 3. The Indictment includes examples of Ray's alleged treatment of the victims, including: his physical abuse; his extortion of the victims to further the purposes of the Enterprise; his use of verbal and physical threats to force the victims to perform physical labor on property in North Carolina; and his inducement of one victim to act as a prostitute, which resulted in “millions of dollars in profits for the Enterprise.” Id. at 6-17. He is also alleged to have laundered the proceeds of his criminal activity, id. at 17-18, and evaded the payment of federal income taxes on income he earned from the operations of the Enterprise, id. at 18-24.

On November 15, 2021, the defense filed a notice, pursuant to Rule 12.2(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, that the defendant “intend[s] to introduce expert testimony relating to mental disease or defect or any other mental condition of Lawrence Ray bearing on the issue of guilt.” Dkt. No. 247. On November 22, 2021, the Court ordered the defense to amend its notice to reflect the specific tests that the expert administered or intended to administer to the defendant. Dkt. No. 257 at 7. The defense thereafter supplemented its notice by stating a doctor would be conducting a “psychiatric diagnostic interview” of the defendant over the course of several meetings and that he planned to “administer scales that measure and quantify delusional thinking, including the Peters Delusional Inventory and/or the Psychotic Symptom Rating Scales.” Dkt. No. 261.

The defense has since withdrawn its Rule 12.2 notice. See Dkt. No. 266-2 at 2.

On December 6, 2021, the defense provided the Government with its expert notice, disclosing that it intended to call Dr. Joseph Pierre as an expert witness. Dr. Pierre is the Chief of Mental Health Community Care Systems at the VA West Los Angeles Healthcare Center, as well as a Health Sciences Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Dkt. No. 266-1 at 3. According to the notice, Dr. Pierre “has extensive clinical experience working with individuals with psychotic disorders, substance abuse disorders, and those with ‘dual diagnoses.' Id. He has presented research findings and lectured to audiences worldwide; has served as a consulting expert in legal cases involving, among other things, delusion-like beliefs and conspiracy theories; and has testified as an expert witness in federal court. Id.

The disclosure states that Dr. Pierre is expected to testify “that Mr. Ray has longstanding persecutory beliefs that are firmly held with extreme conviction, consistent with a paranoid cognitive style”; that his “persecutory beliefs or ‘conspiracy theories' are a specific type of unusual ‘delusion-like beliefs' that have been shared by other individuals, including the alleged victims”; and that “his reported and documented Adderall consumption would exacerbate a preexisting paranoid syndrome.”[1] Id. It also states that “Dr. Pierre will rebut Dr. Hughes's noticed testimony about coercive control, ” including by testifying that “the complainants' ‘confessions' would not necessarily require ‘coercive control' or conscious manipulation, but merely suggestibility or a willingness to please in the context of dyadic relationships.” Id. Finally, Dr. Pierre is expected to respond to and rebut Dr. Pleus's expert opinion on toxicology.[2]In this regard, Dr. Pierre will testify that medical evidence of Ray's elevated mercury levels at least partially supports Ray's belief that he has been exposed to mercury. Id.

According to the disclosure, Dr. Pierre reviewed an array of materials. They include Ray's medical and psychiatric records; FBI interview reports of Ray and other individuals associated with the case; an email sent by one of the alleged victims to the dean of Sarah Lawrence College; records related to the defendant's child custody dispute in 2005; a letter from 1999 pertaining to the defendant's purported assistance during the Kosovo crisis; photographs of the defendant with military figures and world leaders; and audio recordings of conversations between alleged victims, Ray, and others. Dkt. No. 278, Ex. D. The defense also disclosed that Dr. Pierre met with Ray for four hour-long interviews by video conference and interviewed one of his relatives.

On December 10, 2021, in response to questions from the Government, the defense provided further disclosure with respect to Dr. Pierre. It disclosed two cases in which Dr. Pierre testified “as an expert on conspiracy theories/delusion-like beliefs” and noted that he testified as an expert in other cases and consulted as an expert on a number of cases. Dkt No. 266-2 at 3. The defense further stated that it did not have a final report from Dr. Pierre but would provide it pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16 [i]f and when we receive one.” Id. This supplemental disclosure repeated that Dr. Pierre had interviewed Ray for one hour on four separate occasions by video conference with the MDC and that those interviews, combined with the other information in the previously made expert disclosure, would provide the bases for Dr. Pierre's conclusions. Id. The defense reported that Dr. Pierre administered one psychological test to Ray, the Peters et al. Delusions Inventory (“PDI”), and Ray's responses to the PDI did not indicate that he met the criteria set forth in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (“DSM-5”) for a paranoid delusion syndrome, but, according to the defense, Dr. Pierre would not rule out the diagnosis if he had more information. Dkt. No. 266-2 at 3-4. It explained that:

[b]ased on the information currently available to him. Dr. Pierre concluded that he could not diagnose Mr. Ray with a mental disease or defect at this time. He concluded that Mr. Ray has persecutory believes (believes in conspiracy theories) which are a specific type of delusion-like beliefs. These firmly held beliefs are consistent with a paranoid cognitive style.

Id. at 4. The defense stated that Dr. Pierre's rebuttal testimony concerning toxicology is based on his “experience and training as a medical doctor including his degree in biology” and his review of Mr. Ray's medical records. Dkt No. 266-2 at 4. The defense refused to produced Ray's responses to the PDI test because it had withdrawn its Rule 12.2 notice, and Dr. Pierre would not be offering evidence that Ray suffered from a mental disease or defect. Id.

After receiving the Government's motion to exclude Dr Pierre's testimony and Ray's opposition to that motion, the Court ordered a Daubert hearing for Dr. Pierre. The defense produced Ray's responses to the PDI test and Dr. Pierre's notes as...

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