Sweat Lodge Guru Indicted for Manslaughter

Arizona has indicted and arrested motivational speaker James Arthur Ray, the spiritual guru who led a retreat in October at which 3 people died and more got sick during a ceremony inside a sweat lodge. His bond is set at $5 million.

The indictment is here. There are three counts, each alleging he recklessly caused the death of the victim. Manslaughter in Arizona is a class 2 felony which carries a penalty of up to five years. His attorneys released this statement, saying he had been cooperating in the probe.

"This was a terrible accident – but it was an accident, not a criminal act. James Ray cooperated at every step of the way, providing information and witnesses to the authorities showing that no one could have foreseen this accident," the statement read. "We will now present this evidence in a court of law, and we are confident that Mr. Ray will be exonerated."

Ray was arrested at his lawyer's office. I guess they couldn't pass up the opportunity for a perp walk. The $5 million bond seems completely excessive.

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    From what I read, he should be (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by observed on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 08:50:39 PM EST
    charged with something. Not only was the sweat lodge unsafe and over capacity, people were complaining and saying they were afraid they were going to die, and he didn't listen.

    I'd be curious to hear what (none / 0) (#2)
    by Inspector Gadget on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 09:48:00 PM EST
    Oprah, and the others who market "The Secret" have to say about this. It really flies in the face of what they claim.

    These people are not motivational speakers, they are the snake oil salesmen of big dreams and promises of wealth. My brother talked me into going to one of James Arthur Rays sales meetings. I found him offensive with his hard sell tactics, and lacking seriously in credibility.

    Perhaps authorities found evidence he was a flight risk (passport, tickets, cash, or other travel indicators) to indicate a need to set bail so high. Don't they have to have a reason for doing that?

    Yes. said to be a flight risk (none / 0) (#3)
    by Cream City on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 10:29:26 PM EST
    and he made a lot of money from people including a friend of a friend of mine:

    Shore, James S. Thursday, October 8, 2009, in Sedona, AZ, at the age of 40 years. He will always be remembered and loved by his beloved wife Alyssa Anne Gillespie; proud and cherished children, Inaya, Amrita and Darshan Shore. He will further be remembered by his loving mother Jane (Tom) Shore Gripp, his sister Virginia (Tom Hardart) Shore and Christopher Shore; Alyssa's family, James and Judy Gillespie, Heidi, James Jr. Benjamin, Jerry and Amber, and other relatives and friends. . . .  James felt most at home in the American Southwest surrounded by its culture and customs. He was a drummer in a band that captured Native music. . . .  In lieu of flowers, a fund has been set up for the children.

    So if $5 mil seems excessive, fine; skip the bond and just send out that amount among all of the children and others in families with far different futures now.


    Fine. You free him (3.50 / 2) (#9)
    by Cream City on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 12:29:17 AM EST
    and let more die.  Pffft.

    Oprah's got a terrible track record (none / 0) (#5)
    by shoephone on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 11:02:52 PM EST
    when it comes to snake oil salesman and fraudulent authors. Remember James Frey, who tried to pass off his mediocre fiction as factual rehab memoir? Or the man who wrote a book claiming to have found his long lost, 60 years after the Holocaust ended?

    As for "The Secret," it is such silliness, I can't believe adults fall for it!


    Yes, she does (none / 0) (#6)
    by Inspector Gadget on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 11:24:37 PM EST
    but, singling out Frey doesn't do justice to the level of people Oprah has done a hooray for on embellished and fictional memoires :)

    Thinking positive and creating your own luck is hardly a new concept. Many successful people saw themselves achieving exactly what they have in life. However, anyone who is familiar with self-help and motivational speakers knows the team of folks who brought The Secret to the world are D-listers in the field. JAR was counting dollars as he stuffed in more people than the tent could handle; he clearly wasn't thinking about the risks to their well-being.

    I would assume it wasn't with malice that he ignored the cries for help, so if he were to flee the country to avoid prosecution it would be because he believes he is 100% innocent of any wrong doing.


    Ray's level of denial (none / 0) (#7)
    by shoephone on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 11:35:56 PM EST
    was on full display during a TV expose a couple of months ago (it was either on 60 Minutes or 20/20, I can't remember now).

    I'm deeply suspicious of all the New Age hucksters -- a result of my time spent in an "alternative" high school in California, during the 1970's...


    His long-term assistant (none / 0) (#13)
    by Inspector Gadget on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 04:02:00 PM EST
    Quit and has been talking, too. She was appalled by his lack of interest in helping the victims or those who were providing assistance. I know she was with him for at least 4 years, 'cause she was at the seminar I attended.

    The Native Americans in the Phoenix area have sweat lodge events all the time. They don't have people dying in them.

    He's one of those people I would describe as having "just enough knowledge to be dangerous".


    which actually makes him (none / 0) (#8)
    by cpinva on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 11:36:53 PM EST
    even more dangerous:

    I would assume it wasn't with malice that he ignored the cries for help, so if he were to flee the country to avoid prosecution it would be because he believes he is 100% innocent of any wrong doing.

    anyone that certain of their infallability is almost guaranteed to repeat the actions that got them in trouble to begin with, probably resulting in more damage.

    I agree that he should be charged (none / 0) (#10)
    by Watermark on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 04:59:33 AM EST
    but seriously, what's up with the 5 million bond?  That's like the largest bond I've seen in my life.

    The purpose of bail (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by jbindc on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 07:11:53 AM EST
    Is to ensure that the defendant will show up for trial.  If you set it too low, for a rich defendant like this, say $10,000 - he has no motivation to show up because $10K is nothing to him.

    For example - in November he put his 7234 sq foot home in Beverly Hills up for sale - listing for $5,495,000. He also charged these people $9000 eact to come sit in a sweat lodge.  He is worth millions - $5 million seems entirely appropriate.