Ray Cole Jr. sentenced to 20 years for raping, imprisoning woman (An in-depth look)

 

A city man convicted of raping, drugging and imprisoning a woman in his bicycle-filled basement was sentenced Thursday in County Court to 20 years in prison and 10 years of post-release supervision.

Raymond Cole, Jr., 59, was convicted after a lengthy trial that began in March, adjourned during the COVID-19 closures, and resumed in May. The jury found him guilty of four felonies: first-degree rape, second-degree assault, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and first-degree unlawful imprisonment.

Judge Julie Campbell noted at sentencing Cole’s trial — which consumed a total of 16 days in court — was the longest in her time as a County Judge.

“The defendant continues to be a significant threat to the community,” Campbell said, citing a pre-sentencing report from the Cortland County Probation Department. “His potential for future lawful behavior is poor.”

Campbell also emphasized a previous arrest for threatening to kill a paramour’s brother, while court documents reveal he was previously charged with kidnapping, imprisoning a woman in 2004.

2019 arrest

Officers arrested Cole for rape and unlawful imprisonment on June 3, 2019 after a tipster called police and said a woman was being drugged and held against her will at Cole’s 13 Brown Ave. home, according to the city police. When officers arrived to investigate, Cole denied there were women in his home and refused to let it be searched, said Lt. Michael Strangeway in 2019. But a 34-year-old woman stumbled out of the residence’s backdoor and told waiting officers Cole held her against her will without food or water, injected her with drugs and raped her over the course of several days, according to city police reports.

Two other witnesses confirmed she was imprisoned and drugged for sex, according to court documents. One witness stated Cole was getting drugs from Syracuse, and trading it to addicts for stolen goods, including 30 stolen bicycles. That witness also testified there were lights and cameras in the basement that were used for filming pornography with drugged women, according to his signed statement.

Suffering and justice

At sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Jessica Weynant asked Campbell to consider what the woman’s suffering and justice were worth in years.

“What was every hour of her life spent in Jr.’s power worth?” Weynant asked, using Cole’s nickname. “Twenty-five years does not seem remotely enough.”

Weynant reminded Campbell that the woman was so injured by drugs, rape and ill-use that she had to be placed in a medically induced coma in a hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.

“She was non-responsive for days,” Weynant said. “(She) could have died. Thankfully, she pulled through.”

Weynany stated Cole threatened her with violence before he raped her and injected her with drugs, erasing her efforts at sobriety. Before she was attacked, the woman remained sober for 45 days with help from the Drug Treatment Court, according to her testimony at a June 2019 felony hearing.

“She cried. She lay there terrified while he raped her,” Weynant said. “She knew what it meant when he said, ‘We can do this hard way or the easy way.’”

During the hours she was imprisoned, Cole treated her as something to experiment on, to abuse and use, Weynant said.

“A thing,” she emphasized. “Not a person, a plaything.”

Weynant emphasized Cole had stolen days and hours from the woman’s life.

“She will never get back that time,” Weynant said, stating Cole stole the woman’s freedom of movement, of sobriety and of her own body. “She will never get the freedoms back that the defendant took from her.”

Even after she was taken from Cole’s residence, the woman had to endure testifying at hearings and being held in jail on a material witness warrant to ensure she would be available to testify.

“She relieved the hell the defendant put her through over and over again,” Weynant said.

Criminal history

At sentencing, Campbell referred to Cole’s extensive criminal history that includes 30 arrests dating from when he was 16 in 1977.

Sgt. Detective Dan Johnson noted in his June 3, 2019 police report filed in this case that a year before Cole’s arrest, city detectives had discovered the same woman locked in a bedroom at Cole’s previous Winter Street residence. At that time, the woman had declined to have Cole prosecuted after she was released from the locked room, Johnson wrote.

Campbell emphasized a previous case where Cole was charged with reckless endangerment for pointing a gun at a car containing his paramour and her brother and attempting to kill the brother. 

In 2004, a Cortland County Grand Jury indicted Cole for abducting a woman, imprisoning her, threatening her with a knife and beating her by throwing her to the ground, punching and kicking her, and breaking her rib and hand. In that case, Cole was convicted of felony, third-degree assault and misdemeanor, second-degree menacing. Cole was sentenced in 2005 to one year in jail, according to court documents.

Campbell noted at sentencing Cole has claimed a myriad of mental and physical health issues.

“Cole claimed to have a terminal illness,” Campbell said, “except that was in 1999 and he has obviously recovered from that.”

What Cole has been diagnosed with is an antisocial personality disorder and an addiction to cocaine, said Campbell.

Before sentencing, Cole denied having domestic violence or substance abuse issues and took no responsibility for his actions, Campbell said.

Responsibility and credibility

Defense Attorney Luke Fenchel said Cole claims he was wrongly convicted and therefore does not take responsibility for the crimes he was convicted of in May.

“Far from an individual who does not take responsibility for his actions,” Fenchel said, “I know Raymond Cole Jr. as a person who always takes responsibility for his actions.”

Cole maintained his innocence in this case, Fenchel said, “and the jury agreed with him in the vast majority of his charges.”

Cole was found guilty in four of the 23 criminal charges he was indicted and prosecuted for, according to court records. He was convicted of the most serious crime in the indictment, first-degree rape by forcible compulsion, records show.

Juries do not make determinations of innocence. They find a defendant not guilty if they rule there is reasonable doubt in the case, or they find the defendant guilty if they rule the evidence leaves no reasonable doubt.

Fenchel pointed out Cole pled guilty to a charge in all of his prior criminal cases, except the reckless endangerment case involving his paramour and her brother, he said.

Finally, Fenchel cited the victim’s absence at sentencing as a sign of her lack of credibility.

“The survivor is not here at sentencing,” Fenchel said. “I submit, your honor, that credibility was of great importance at the trial.”

Victims and their families are often allowed to speak at sentencing if they desire, but they are not required to attend and the choice is up to them. 

Cole was adamant when he spoke at his sentencing.

“I refuse to show remorse for a crime I did not commit,” Cole said at sentencing. “I am the victim here. I won’t accept responsibility for something I did not do.”

Cole filed paperwork with the court indicating he plans to appeal his conviction.