James Arthur Ray gets 2 years in sweat lodge deaths
James Arthur Ray was convicted of negligent homicide in the deaths of three sweat lodge ceremony participants.
November 18th, 2011
02:14 PM ET

James Arthur Ray gets 2 years in sweat lodge deaths

James Arthur Ray, a self-help expert convicted in the deaths of three people who succumbed to extreme heat of an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony in 2009, was sentenced Friday to two years in prison.

Ray had been convicted on three counts of negligent homicide for the three deaths that happened as a result of the ceremony in Sedona, Arizona. He faced up to three years in prison on each count.

Three people died and at least 15 others fell ill in October 2009 during a "Spiritual Warrior" retreat, a ceremony modeled after Native American purification rituals, that Ray held at a resort near Sedona. Prosecutors argued that the lodge, which was made of willow trees and branches and covered with tarpaulins and blankets, was heated to a perilously high temperature and that Ray was indifferent to those clearly having trouble.

Ray's lawyers countered that what happened was an accident, not a crime.

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Filed under: Arizona • Courts • Crime • Justice
soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. Tibisay

    I was watching the process, but I understood it was 2 years each count. Isn't it 6 years? I was crying as hell!!!! So, it's good, though.

    November 18, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sonoran Rain

      actual sentence was 2 yrs on each acct...but the sentences are to run concurrently...so it IS JUST 2 yrs...

      November 18, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • B=Dog

      Excuse me... but what ever happened to being responsible for yourself?? These people died because they were MORONS who spent $10,000 a piece to sweat for a week and live outdoors. You should know your own body, if you keep passing out, STOP SWEATING YOURSELF.

      November 18, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • cm

      That's what I thought too. The judge clearly read each victim's name and said 2 years – ??? I am glad he will no longer host any more sweat lodges and that the court saw that such a man had to be held accountable.

      November 18, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. NoNonsense

    How easy was it to just walk outside? There was negligence yes... but... this is stupid. I could see a large fine, but not prison time.

    November 18, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      From what I heard was they passed out and there was no staff to get them out of the heat.

      November 18, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leaf on the Wind

      Obviously you haven't read any other reports about this event. Just walking outside was apparently not an option if you were stupid enough to believe that the path to spiritual enlightenment was through sticking it out. Walk-outs were loudly criticized and had to leave the "program." James Arthur Ray was instrumental in bullying people to "sweat it out" and created a very hostile environment for those who left, which is why he was convicted.

      November 18, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jose Wan Sekiavich

      I don't understand why people would pay $10K and just follow someone blindly but that is what people do. I've seen it in churches and new age movements and politics. People don't think for themselves. They follow others blindly. I don't condone what he did but some of these people need to have their heads examined.

      November 18, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      There was intense cultural pressure to do whatever Ray said. It was like the Marine Corps with New Age painted onto it. Plus the participants had been made to fast and do other intense physical things before the sweatlodge happened, so they were already kind of delirious/broken and not in the best of judgment going into it.

      November 18, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Gabe Kaplan

    Some sweathogs died? Oh no!

    November 18, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Portland tony

    This guy should have been tried in Perry's state of Texas!!

    November 18, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. scranton

    2 years? He will be out in 6 months.

    November 18, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jean Sartre, Milwauke, WI

    Another religious fruit loop salesman – hustler – kills 3 people and gets 2 years total in prison... he'll be out is less than 18 months!

    Go America!

    November 18, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. singing bear

    please dont play with the would you dont undestand, singing bear.

    November 18, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      I don't understand you Singing Bear. And why are you talking to yourself?

      November 18, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. loriey

    People lost their lives due to the carelessness of this man, who should have provided better supervision & safety for the participants. To see someone is suffering severe impairment medically & to do nothing but to encourage the participant to "continue" shows all he cared about was the full money he was paid to provide the participants with the experience they were seeking.
    Jail time is well deserved.

    November 18, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aeromechainc

      I disagree. He already HAD their money. If he really thought there was something wrong with any of those people that they couldn't handle by themselves, he would have done something like calling it off.

      They were stupid.

      November 18, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. BOMBO

    Why didn't Kotter ever teach those kids anything during classroom time? They were always just yacking about their own mundane issues. Maybe if Barbarino had learned something, he wouldn't have turned into a scientologist.

    November 18, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Aeromechainc

    Why is this guy getting prison time because the people who died were too stupid to get the heck out of the sweat lodge when they felt queasy?

    November 18, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      You are right ....but again that's why we have lifeguards at the beach and pool!

      November 18, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Babzilicious

      Ray went over a list of physical/mental effects that participants might feel during the sweat lodge – what he didn't say was that those effects were symptoms of heat stroke or heat exhaustion. He said that they should IGNORE those symptoms, that they would be fine.

      November 18, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • cm

      You are just as ignorant about sweat lodges as Ray had running one.

      November 18, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Vinny

    Ray deserved it. The judge truly cared and considered all of the facts. You can tell he really labored over the appropriate sentence! I think he got it about right.

    November 18, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Aeromechainc

    Another case of people wanting/needing to blame someone else for the stupidity of their loved ones.


    November 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • cm

      So the next time you screw up I take it you will take no responsibility and so what you allowed happened didn't matter -in your mind since you obviously don't care.

      November 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • wilson

      You are ignorant of the facts and placing your own insecurities on the situation.

      November 18, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vinny

      The PROGRAM ITSELF is what was stupid. And guess who put that program together and then led the sheep right on into it?

      Yep, that would be James Ray who is now going to do some time. And rightfully so.

      November 18, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Leaf on the Wind

    Darn! I was going to start my own religion, 'cause there's no better way to get idiots to give you their money than starting your own religion, but after this, I'd have to pay through the nose for religious malpractice insurance. There goes my dream job . . .

    November 18, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. calton

    And meanwhile Johnny Jolly gets 6 years for being addicted to codeine. Yup, that sounds fair.

    November 18, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. zoe moire

    He was called a "Self Help Guru" – he had published a number of books, some noted as "Best selling." He has appeared on major television programs. Paying a small amount of money and doing a short amount of time in prison seem minimal if you might be related to one of the persons now dead from the incident. He set the stage, created the platform, and used his power of persuasion to get people to not only attend his program but participate in its events. People were seeking change in their lives and believed this person could help them find it. Obviously not a good scenario. Not well staffed for medical issues? That seems like a crime in itself. Around public hot tubs and steam rooms, signs are posted about safety measures. The dead and ill made errors, but the pulpit-bully speaking to the minions should be held accountable for their deaths. The financial settlements are minimal considering his book list.

    November 18, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • brick

      Ultimately, power is given not taken. Goes to show that theres' a lot of people in this world that will place their own needs and responsibilites in anybodies hands as long as that person looks rich and successful. Which is insane. (Like the rich person is any more human that you are). Secondly, as a society we will blame said person for our failure to take control of our own lives. Really, are we this weak as a people? Are we this lazy?

      November 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
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