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A former CIA officer charged with drugging and sexually assaulting dozens of women while stationed abroad on official business plans to challenge his accusers’ claims as mere figments of their imaginations, making his case with the help of a psychologist who has previously testified on behalf of Harvey Weinstein, Ghislaine Maxwell, Jerry Sandusky, and Bill Cosby.
Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, PhD, an expert in the phenomenon of “false memories,” will try to convince a jury not to trust the accounts of a multitude of women who say they were assaulted by Brian Jeffrey Raymond, according to a notice of intent filed Aug. 25 by the disgraced spy’s defense team and first reported by The Daily Beast.
Loftus became famous in the 1970s for her work exploring the so-called misinformation effect, which holds that a person’s memories of past events can easily be controlled, manipulated, and altered by outside forces. She reportedly charges $600 an hour, though she claimed to have been paid only $10,000 of a promised $14,000 for assisting Weinstein’s defense. The venerable Review of General Psychology named Loftus, who teaches at UC-Irvine, the most “eminent” female psychologist of the 20th century, but her testimony for a veritable rogue’s gallery of rapists and abusers gained the famed psychologist a degree of contempt from the public at large.
In 2021, her brother told The New Yorker, “If the MeToo movement had an office, Beth’s picture would be on the ten-most-wanted list.”
The grotesque allegations against Raymond, 47, first emerged in May 2020, when a passerby reported seeing a “naked, hysterical woman desperately screaming for help” on the balcony of an apartment in Mexico City that had been leased by the U.S. government. Investigators say they subsequently found hundreds of photos and videos on Raymond’s digital devices of unconscious women in his bed. In them, according to prosecutors, Raymond could be seen holding open the women’s eyes, waving their limp arms and legs in the air, or placing his fingers in their mouths to show the camera that they were fully passed out cold.
A source with firsthand knowledge of Raymond’s personal and professional affairs previously told The Daily Beast that the CIA opened an administrative case against Raymond following his arrest, and that he resigned from the agency soon after.
“So sorry, I don’t feel free to comment at this point in time,” Loftus said in an email on Wednesday.
Raymond’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.
Raymond pleaded guilty in July 2021 to federal charges of sexual abuse and transporting obscene material, and would have been subject to prison and lifetime registration as a sex offender. But last September, he suddenly changed his plea and decided to take his chances at trial, arguing that he couldn’t have done everything prosecutors said he did, because he suffers from erectile dysfunction.
When Raymond finally goes to trial, which is scheduled for Nov. 8 in Washington, D.C. federal court, Loftus will provide testimony concerning “the workings of human memory, the effects of suggestion on memory, the mechanism of creation of false memories, the characteristics of false memories, how memory fades and weakens over time, and how memory becomes more vulnerable to contamination,” defense attorneys John Marston and A. Joseph Jay III wrote in their notice of intent. “She will describe scientific research showing that false memories can be described with confidence, detail, and emotion, just like true memories. This can occur when people come to believe in these experiences and are not deliberately lying. Dr. Loftus would identify some of the suggestive activities that occurred in the current case.”
The notice says Loftus will “inform the jury that suggestive activities can explain how it is that a person might go from having no memory of sexual abuse to later having ‘memories’ of abusive acts, even where the memories are false.” She will explain “the mechanism by which false and/or distorted memories can be created as a result of post-event information and occurrences, suggestion, influence or the like,” and will describe the “characteristics of false and/or distorted memories.”
“In particular, ‘memories’ can be described with confidence, detail and emotion, even when they are false,” the notice goes on. “She may be called upon to point out some of the suggestive activities that occurred in this case.”
The notice includes a transcript of Loftus’ testimony in Maxwell’s 2021 federal trial, and a back-and-forth between Loftus and defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim may offer a glimpse of things to come in November.
At one point, Loftus emphasized that false memories are not necessarily deliberate, and that people can “inadvertently” mislead others. In another exchange, Loftus discussed “motivated false memories,” saying that people “seem to be more willing to accept suggestions when it’s going to fit with their prior beliefs, or fit with some motives.” On a broader scale, Loftus testified, human beings “frequently remember ourselves in a better light than perhaps is accurate.”
Prosecutors, for their part, plan to introduce evidence of additional sexual assaults allegedly committed by Raymond, but not included in the indictment against him. The government has said Raymond slipped knockout drugs into snacks or beverages consumed by his victims; in its own notice, also filed Aug. 25, prosecutors said they have, among other things, photographic evidence “depicting food prepared, presented, or offered by the defendant during his dates with women,” as well as his Bumble and Tinder DMs, draft online dating profiles, email inquiries sent to online pharmacies, and “communications between the defendant and a friend regarding targeting women for sexual intercourse.”
Raymond has not commented publicly on the allegations. However, court filings have shown that he insists he never drugged anyone and that the encounters in question were consensual.
“I’m a single guy,” Raymond told a pair of federal agents shortly after he returned to the U.S. from his Mexico posting, according to one filing. “I date girls. This has never happened to me before, and I’m a very chill individual. I’m not aggressive… We did have things to drink that night, but I never got the impression that she was not of sound mind or anything like that.”
Following Raymond’s arrest, a CIA spokesperson told The Daily Beast, “[The] CIA condemns in the strongest terms the crimes committed by former Agency officer Brian Jeffrey Raymond.”