October 21, 2021

Jury: Cortland man drugged, raped woman

Kevin Conlon/city editor

Raymond Cole Jr., left, sits Friday with his attorney, Luke Fenchel, as a jury announced they had convicted Cole of four of 18 felony counts for holding a woman against her will in May 2019, drugging her and raping her.

A 59-year-old Cortland man was convicted late Friday afternoon of four felonies for raping, drugging and imprisoning a woman in his Cortland home on May 30, 2019.

Raymond Cole Jr. was found guilty of first-degree rape, seconddegree assault, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and first-degree unlawful imprisonment. He is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 15.

The most serious charge, first-degree rape, carres a potential sentence of five to 25 years in prison.

Cole was accused of holding a 34-year-old woman captive in his 13 Brown Ave., Cortland, residence from May 30 to June 3, 2019, drugging her with a “bath salt” type drug known as Molly and raping her repeatedly.

The jury, after deliberating two days, found Cole not guilty of 14 other felonies involving the allegations concerning June 1 through 3.

The 16-day trial in Cortland County Court was complicated by a four-month adjournment because of the coronavirus pandemic. Testimony resumed last week.

Judge Julie Campbell said the trial was the longest and most complicated trial she has presided over, in large part due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This has been the most difficult trial,” Campbell said.

Juror Tami Bellardini of Virgil said outside the Cortland County Courthouse after the verdict that the jury felt confident in convicting Cole on the charges related to May 30 but it was not convinced about charges related to other days. The jurors asked for several portions of testimony to be read back after the long delay, she said.

“There were pieces of credible evidence,” Bellardini said of the May 30 incidents. “We did struggle because it was hard to convict (on the other charges) without reasonable doubt.”

She said the memories of the witnesses and the jurors were all strained by the delay.

“The jury worked very hard together,” Bellardini said. “We had no arguments. … This is a big responsibility.”

“The judicial system did its job,” Deputy Police Chief Paul Sandy said as the courthouse cleared following the verdict. “I am very pleased by what the jury did with the delay.”

“We’re very satisfied by the jury’s careful consideration of this case,” District Attorney Patrick Perfetti added. He said blurry memories and witnesses who were on drugs during the events made the case difficult to prosecute.

Cole was charged with 18 felonies: three counts of first-degree rape; six counts of second-degree assault; five counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon; and four counts of first-degree unlawful imprisonment. He also faced five misdemeanor counts of second-degree unlawful imprisonment.

Campbell said the coronavirus safety protocols developed during the trial are being used by courts across the state. “The state is getting best practices from this trial,” she told the jurors. “We could not have done this without each and every one of you.”

Staff reporter Colin Spencer contributed to this report.