February 05, 2010

Ray charged with manslaughter

Self-help guru in court on manslaughter charges

By Felicia FonsecaSelf-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.
How the trial may unfold: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.

"Even though they assumed risks, that doesn't necessarily take the defendant off the hook," said Roy Black, a Miami defense attorney whose clients have included Rush Limbaugh and William Kennedy Smith. "He has an obligation to people. He's the one leading the program, he has a responsibility to make sure it's run safely."

Any evidence of illnesses at prior Ray-led events, cover-up or lying about incidents and testimony that Ray ignored signs of medical distress would bode well for prosecutors, said former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
Comment:  Manslaughter sounds like the right charge to me. If Ray thought he was going to get away with a slap on the wrist, he was sorely mistaken.

Even if he beats this rap, he'll face civil lawsuits with a lower burden of proof. As I think I said before, I suspect his days as a high-flying motivational guru are over.

For more on the subject, see James Ray's Perp Walk and Ray Arrested for Sweat Lodge Deaths.

Below:  "Motivational speaker James Arthur Ray, foreground, is led into the Yavapai County jail in Camp Verde, Ariz. on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010. Ray was arrested on three counts of manslaughter for the deaths of three people at a sweat lodge ceremony he led in October 2009." (AP Photo/Matt York)

1 comment:

Dr John Curtis said...

It's easy to vilify Mr. Ray and applaud his arrest! Now, at least, he will be tried in court and made to face the consequences of his actions... but what of the REST of the self-help "industrial complex?"

I respectfully submit that we (consumers and producers of self-help) establish the “Association of Self-Help Professionals” or whatever name seems most appropriate to elevate the professional and protect the public.

All that is lacking now is the motivation and leadership. If you consider yourself a self-help expert OR if you are a consumer of self-help products, I urge you to consider working together to turn the Sedona Sweat Lodge deaths into a legacy that salutes the virtuous work of the earliest self-help experts like Napoleon Hill, Norman Vincent Peale and Dale Carneige, honors the efforts of legitimate, self-help professionals of today, and turns the deaths of those who died in the Sedona Sweat Lodge... Liz Neuman, Kirby Brown and James Shore into a legacy for the betterment of the self-help profession and society.

Any help you can provide in this regard would be greatly appreciated!

John Curtis, Ph.D.
Americans Against Self-Help Fraud

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it" - George Bernard Shaw