James Arthur Ray, New Age Guru, In Court To Defend Sweat Lodge Manslaughter Charges

Yavapai County Sheriff's Office photo of James Arthur Ray, after his arrest on manslaughter charges.

Yavapai County Sheriff's Office photo of James Arthur Ray, after his arrest on manslaughter charges.

Maybe we’ll finally learn what really went on inside the infamous Arizona retreat held by one of the teachers from The Secret, James Arthur Ray, now that he’s in court, although so far he’s keeping quiet. From Forbes:

CAMP VERDE, Ariz. — Self-help guru James Arthur Ray says it was all a tragic accident when his followers began collapsing one by one in a sweat lodge at his retreat, with three of them dying. As unfortunate as the ordeal was, he says the participants knew about the risks the ceremony presented.

Prosecutors say it’s a blatant case of manslaughter by a man who recklessly crammed dozens of people in a 400-square-foot sweat lodge and chided them for wanting to leave, even as people were vomiting, getting burned by hot rocks and lying lifeless on the ground.

The two sides will be on display in coming months now that prosecutors have charged Ray with manslaughter in a case that could send him to prison for more than 35 years. The 52-year-old Ray said nothing during his first court appearance Thursday, and his lawyer entered a not guilty plea.

The prospect of a conviction against Ray will depend on whether jurors view the episode as an accident or a criminal act in which he recklessly caused the deaths of the victims, the definition of manslaughter in Arizona.

Despite the shocking details that have emerged from that night in the sweat lodge, legal experts say prosecutors won’t have an easy time landing a conviction.

Ray’s strongest defense will be that the participants were made aware of the risks the ceremony presented, including extreme temperatures in a small space and the possibility of injury or death, and voluntarily went in, criminal defense attorneys said.

But that won’t necessarily put Ray in the clear…

[continues in Forbes]

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