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. ChristianMom

    According to New Age theories, he must of envisioned these deaths afterall they believe we control our universe through our thoughts and "we can create anything we want with our minds." I guess it was sweat yourself into holiness? (for a few thousand dollars, of course)

    The "Secret" is twisted Christian thought. It's not us – it's God.

    I think this guy was on Oprah too! Ugh!

    November 18, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Annatala

      Since when does "The Secret" have anything to do with Christianity? Just because something isn't Christianity doesn't make it "twisted Christianity". I doubt the Bible was the sourcebook for the book's authors (but admittedly I haven't bothered to read it).

      November 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • wovoka

      All fairy stories are the same, whether you call it new age, Judeo-Christian-Islamo-whatever, or ancient mythology. The stories and ideas have value, but any time a person takes it too seriously or believes that hocus-pocus is reality there is a serious opportunity for trouble.

      November 18, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tricia

    As for why the participants couldn't leave... some tried. You have to understand the big picture. They just got back from 24 fasting retreat in the wilderness.- a piece of the brainwashing. The other piece is NLP. NeuroLinguisticProgramming that Ray uses. Unless you've been around someone who is using it? It is powerful and messes with your perception. It was invented to help people get past fears, get ahead, change their perception of personal limits. Some though, like Ray, use it as power and control. Let's put it this way, with NLP you would act in a way not normal than without NLP.... and later, you would think "why did I do that? I really didn't want to, I shouldn't have". This is what the participants were up against, along with effects of extreme heat, to save themselves.

    November 18, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • brick

      Funny I feel that way when I play 3 card monte. Why hasn't someone been prosecuted for that??!!! Brainwashing...please. This is not a military installation. These people where there on their own free will. Also, if you think a person can give you the secret to having an enriched life you are already crazy. Last time i checked no one can tell you how to get the most out of life becasue we all are confused about why we are even living. Why would I ever ask somebody how to live MY life? I can pick up some pointers but they could never be an expert on MY life because they are too buzy living their own. The fact is that these people were already prime to be exploited because they were already sheep! From the 1st day they decided to follow this man and make him their God. I think its even more criminal to put him in jail becasue he promised nothing to these people. Who could promise that? You have to be able to control that something to be able to promise it to someone. Who controls the "Secret to Life?"....This man is a Fraud that's it. Not a murderer. The deaths were more like suicide rather than murder.

      November 18, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jimbo

    He should not have recieved any time, the blame is on the people who went in the sweat lodge with him and paid him. What's the difference between this guy and a guide who takes people to climb Mt. Everest were 1 and 10 people die trying? This is ridiculous.

    November 18, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vinny

      THE PROGRAM THAT RAY INSTILLED KIILED THEM. Which is why he ((( IS ))) going to jail.

      November 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jimbo

      Vinny, thanks for NOT answering my question.

      November 18, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vinny

      Do you have a brain??

      With Everest, conditions are UNPREDICTABLE. Everybody signing up knows that. But they agree to the risks anyway. And many die along the way.

      With James Ray Sweat Lodge deal, conditions are FULLY CONTROLLED. There are no snowstorms to worry about.

      The PROGRAM ITSELF is what was dangerous. 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.

      Get it yet JImbo?

      Or should I spell it out for you in kindergarden terms?


      November 18, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jimbo

      I like how you aren't competent enough to right a new sentence into your arguments when placing a rebutal and copy and paste from your previous posts, kinda something a kindergarten student would do =)

      November 18, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vinny

      Man, you cannot even spell write correctly. It's not right, it's write. And you skipped over my TROUNCING your sorry argument. I bet we know why ...

      Poor Jimbo.

      November 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vinny

      What happened to Jimbo?

      Jimbo got his a$$ kicked.


      What a hoot.

      November 18, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Annatala

      They trusted that the event was safe, so no, it's not like climbing Mt. Everest. Nobody expected there was a possibility of death. And even if they knew it could be deadly, it's still criminal, because he conducted the ceremony in a very unsafe manner, ignored warning signs, ignored pleas for help, and contributed to the environment that caused their deaths...all so he could get more money by overcrowding the tent.

      November 18, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vinny

      I agree. He was responsible to a significant degree for causing their deaths.

      November 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • brick

      @Vinny and Annatala: So if the conditions in the dessert are fully controlled, then why did those people die? Who controls the dessert by the way? Can you give me the name of the agency or company? Cause I remember in school the the opposite to Cold is Hot. So the opposite of a place like say MT. Everest would be like hmmm....Sedona Arizona. One of the dryest, hottest places on the planet! Also, why would you trust an event called a "sweat lodge" would be safe? The name alone tells me all I need to know. So these had the resources to pay up to 10,000's for this but not enough to just google the phrase before they went? So when does trust become stupidity really. I mean if I trusted the word of someone who told me to go sky diving and I died during the fall, should we arrest them? Or if I go to church and the pastor says jump off the balcony down here and God will catch you and I jump I guess he needs to go to jail too. Or if I say, "kill yourself!," For making such an idiotic comment as to blame a man for someone else's personal health choice and you did it, I guess I need to be arrested too. (Please don't kill yourselves, because by the way you talk you may do it)

      Imma have to side with Jimbo cause thinking any other way of thinking would be foolish to say the least.

      November 18, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • brick

      Wrote that while on break so definitely gonna be typo's. It is what it is.

      November 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. r-hope

    Only TWO YEARS? Seriously????????

    November 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jimbo

      So let's say you convinced a group to swim across 35 degree lake to the other shore, you made it but the others didn't. Should you be charged with murder? These people made their own decisions to do this.

      November 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vinny

      Poor Jimbo. I think he loves James Ray. In your swim story, if you tell those 35 folks that swimming across is good for ya, when in fact swimming in 35 degree water can be DEADLY, then you can very well have to pay the consequences.

      Especially if you are a professed 'self-help guru' and charging people money to send them swimming across the 35 degree lake that you say is good for you.

      Man, you need to use something that's supposed to exist between both ears.

      November 18, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vinny

      where did jimbo go???

      Oh Jimbo, where art thou?


      November 18, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. TheDrkstr

    " The "Secret" is twisted Christian thought. It's not us – it's God. "

    Now that is just hilarious.... The man should have gotten at least a dozen years. This must have been a white collar crime.

    November 18, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Scones

    Gee, a bunch of people walk into an extremely hot, humid, and claustrophobic environment don't come out OK. Who could have seen that coming?

    November 18, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. A NET

    This guys is a monster. He should have been put away for life. He left those people in the tent to die. Those people trusted in him. He didn't even check up on them after he knew they were sick. He says he cares, however, he was only in for the money. Each of those people gave my thousands of dollars thinking he had the key to happiness, and in return, he sent them to their death.

    November 18, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • brick

      Lemme see, so I am running an event. I have no medical training what so ever. I invite all adults. The adults know i am not a physician...They show up at the event....It's hot...just like I said it was gonna be...It gets too hot for the adults and instead of leaving they stay and die. And its my fault? I thought the term was...If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Not to be insensitive but I think people have started to rely way too much on other people to take care of them. I'm only 29 and I know as a man you do not ever trust somebody to take better care of you than yourself. (especially someone who is not a medical professional) If you are not a person who is used to being in extreme heat...why would you go of all places to a sweat lodge in the dessert? Im sorry but that is just stupid! If this was one of my family members that died I would be way more angry at them then this guy. I mean when did American's become cattle? I thought we all were taught to think for ourselves. Be your own man is what my dad used to tell me.

      November 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. brick

    This has got to be the most idiotic story and trial I have ever seen. If you can get 2 years for that then these drug company CEO's and Board Members should be getting crazy time for all these drugs that come out and cause all kinds of Cancer, disorders, etc. Where is those people's justice? Isn't it more criminal to develop a drug that causes Cancer, improperly test it and sell it to the public than selling tickets to a sweat lodge (Native American prayer lodges) event to adults and not have medical staff there? I mean the motives are the same (Make money) and the results are the same (killing/harming people) At least the adults at the sweat lodge knew what they were getting into. If you are taking a heart medication, chances are you will not know what's in it and all of the side effects.

    November 18, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. txkboy

    What a freakin joke. Two years for killing three people. What's wrong in our justice system?

    November 18, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. banasy©

    Brick, even Kevorkian was prosecuted for assisting suicides...

    November 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • brick

      I know which is terrible. I am a Christian and i am saying this. I think its a terrible solution to the problem but should not be illegal. We are to save souls, not neccessarily lives. Everybody will die. No way around that. Some people choose earlier than others. We need to focus on the people's whose choice was taken away from them and in this situation that did not happen. These people choose their death's. Rather they immediately knew it or not. They knew or should have known they were putting their lives at risk when they went there. A certainly when they walked into the acutal sweat lodge. I know it sounds harsh but when was life not harsh?

      November 18, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. brick

    can a brother take a grammar lesson...lol Prof. Dixon would be soooo angry at my writing.

    November 18, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. banasy©

    Stop that, you're making waaaaay too much sense for a CNN blog.
    You will be severely reprimanded.
    I am, of course, kidding.
    I agree with you, mostly.

    November 18, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "The Lunatic Fringe"

    James Ray – Sentenced to two years in prison. And by his standards? More like sentenced to two years of vacation. This man should of been shot...execution style. Now for the next two years he will be a burden to the taxpayers, showing no mercy or remorse for what he has done. There you go folks...handed down....two years....no sweat !

    November 18, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. banasy©

    Send him to the sheriff with the tent jail in the desert.
    He'll be remorseful very quickly.

    November 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. banasy©

    Was this guy in the sweat lodge with them?
    If not, I wonder why?
    Being the fearless leader and all.

    November 18, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
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