Manslaughter Trial Begins for AZ Sweat Lodge Operator
Opening arguments begin today in the trial of James Arthur Ray, owner of the Sedona, AZ sweat lodge where three people died in 2009. Ray is charged with three counts of manslaughter. The prosecution alleges he was criminally reckless. Among other things:
Prosecutors maintain that Ray psychologically pressured participants to remain in the lodge even when they weren't feeling well, contributing to their deaths.
The defense claims the deaths were an accident.
"We do not seek to minimize the tragedy of the sweat lodge deaths," said a December 2009 letter to prosecutors from defense attorney Luis Li. "But these deaths were not the result of criminal conduct. Mr. Ray and his team relied on Angel Valley to provide a safe environment, warned people of the risks, did not force people to participate, did not prevent them from leaving, and did everything they could to prepare for any problems and to assist when problems arose."
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