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Monday, July 18, 2011

What's Next for "Guru" James Arthur Ray?

Historic cannon at entrance to town of Camp Verde.                               True Crime Author Camille Kimball in front of cannon.

Add: This is an extremely popular post (thanks Google!) but there are many more JAR posts, including more current ones. Please click on the tags to call up more! (like this open letter to "civil theorists." )  
ALSO: Be sure to click on my name at the top of the blog to get the latest news, including the new sentencing date just announced!

The sentencing date for James Arthur Ray, the sweat lodge "guru," was originally set at July 25. That date has now been vacated, due to filings by the defense. We'll get into that in a bit. The next time the sweat lodge trial will see court action is August 16 for a "pre-sentence hearing." First, let's talk about what's on the table as Ray's debt to society for "negligently" leading three people to their deaths.

As of June 22, James Ray stands convicted of 3 counts of Negligent Homicide, one each for the deaths of Kirby Brown, James Shore, and Liz Neuman. Because the jury did not find two aggravators (well, they did, but more on that quirk of law here), Ray won't be getting an "aggravated" sentence. He still gets a chance to put on a mitigation phase (the opposite of aggravation: character references, pics of him as a sweet little boy, etc.) so the mitigated sentence is still a possibility for him.

AZ Attorney Dan Barr, from the firm Perkins, Coie has spelled out what the possible Arizona penalties are for these convictions.
"As Class 4 felony, each charge of negligent homicide carries a maximum prison sentence of 3.75 years. The range of prison sentences for negligent homicide are as follows:

Mitigated: 1.1 years
Minimum: 1.
5 years
Presumptive: 2.5 years
Maximum: 3 years
Aggravated: 3.75 years

The jury consider[ed] evidence* on whether Ray's sentence should be reduced or increased from the presumed sentence of 2.5 years, which would be 7.5 years if the three sentences are served consecutively. The lowest possible sentence for Ray would be 1.1 years (3 sentences served concurrently) and the largest would be 11 years and 3 months (3 sentences serve consecutively)."

Since he did not collect sufficient aggravators and presuming mitigation goes well for him, James Ray could even get probation on all counts. The fact that he has no prior record will serve him well when it comes time for Judge Darrow to calculate his sentence.

This mystery won't be solved for us on July 25, though. Because the defense has filed a very aggressive motion for a whole new trial. Not satisfied that Ray escaped the more serious charge of Reckless Manslaughter, his attorneys want to start completely anew which would mean seating a whole new jury and putting all the witnesses back on again. Ray's lawyers identify quite a few instances of what they call "prosecutorial misconduct" in the trial we just went through.

One of these was the fact that Prosecutor Sheila Polk played a short audio clip of James Ray speaking to his followers at the Spiritual Warrior weekend during her address to the jury at aggravation. In the audio clip, Ray can be heard making reference to the "investment" that the people made to participate in the event, encouraging his followers (or egging them on, depending on which lawyers you listen to) to get the bang for the buck. For most of them, that was about $10,000 bucks.

Polk argued that "The Secret" motivational speaker's conduct was motivated by "pecuniary gain," a specific aggravator. She had earlier argued to the jurors that the near-death experience of passing into heat stroke was the very thing that Ray was selling for such a high price (the ten grand did not include food or lodging). The clip fit well into her theory that if the Spiritual Warriors didn't experience the delirium-like state that signals the beginning of heat stroke, they would not feel satisfied with their ten thousand dollar expenditure afterward. But he didn't tell his followers it was the "altered mental state of near-death" he was selling; Ray told them it would be a spiritual "breakthrough" that felt like impending death.

Defense attorney Tom Kelly was incensed that the clip in which Ray talks about the money had never been admitted into evidence before and therefore she should not have used it. (Interesting, Kelly and the team have also argued vigorously that Ray himself didn't make the money off the event, his company did and that he literally cannot be held responsible for gains or actions of his self-named company).

Polk has fired back that the jurors did not find for the "pecuniary gain" aggravator anyway, so the issue is moot.

What do you think? No harm no foul? Or sinister prosecutorial villainy?

*that was the aggravation phase.

Full disclosure: Dan Barr is attorney of record to certain media interests (cameras in the courtroom/release of documents/etc.) in the James Ray case.

ADD: Has James Ray ever eaten here?


  1. I've met James Ray in person, I've been him chauffeur - He is a prick, treats people like they are MUCH LOWER than himself. Self centered and very egotisical...

  2. sorry for the misspelling....

  3. Thanks very much for stopping by, anonymous. Are you saying you served as his chauffeur? You can contact me privately via Facebook or my email address is in the back of my book, WHAT SHE ALWAYS WANTED. I would love to hear more. Thank you so much for sharing here.

  4. When is the sentencing date?

  5. The short answer is September 26. But the answer is not short! See this post and this one for more context and clarity. On the second one, skip the part about Montezuma's Castle if you're in a hurry. ;)

    There's a hearing on Sept 14 and the mitigation hearing starts the 19th. Ray's lawyers have been arguing to have the mitigation hearing put off, too. A whole lot of marbles have to stay on the table for that Sep 26 hearing to hold. If even one marble drops off, that date will mean nothing.

  6. Ray is clearly not a bad guy. problem is that everyone assumes that making money, a lot of money, means you are a fraudster. This was a horrible accident and Ray does not deserve 11 years in prison for it.

  7. I think I'm going to have to point out that no one attending his seminars had anything against wealth. They did NOT think he was a bad guy, they trusted him. With their lives. It was not a good move.

  8. a friend of mine dated James Ray for years and the stories she would tell me scared me. I remember thinking he was a cult leader and desperately tried to get her away from him but she was so sucked in too all he was. She had told me stories similar to what happened in Arizona but she was so brainwashed she didn't see the danger in what he was doing. She has moved on and is married now but strange enough she still has a soft spot for him and defends him.

  9. Now that's an interesting story. How did she meet him? Was she one of the girls picked out of the audience? There's no question James Ray has a magnetism, that is why he got people to make him rich and to lie on the floor for hours. This may explain your friend's ongoing enchantment with him.

  10. I am curious, are you writing a book on James Ray and this case. I have attended several 2 and 3 day retreats with James Ray. If you want to know more please provide your email address and we can connect.

  11. Anonymous Sep 27, sorry for the delay in response, crazy busy 'round here (see new posts ) . Please let me get back to you later. Or you can look up my email address in the back of my book, WHAT SHE ALWAYS WANTED, inside the back flap.

    And the answer to your question is....hmmmmmmmm......

  12. I'm interested in this because what his book talks about is very good. Very real and very high minded. Seriously..I've never met the guy, am not a "new agey, self help" guy either.

    The stuff he teaches actually really worked. I found that it really enriched my life. There is nothing wrong with seminar leaders charging such amounts for what they do because that's what the market will bear. He isn't the only one charging that..not by a long shot.

    The reason they do is because people find value in it and will attend.

    I agree he f**ked up bigtime. I also know he could be a prick. He should own up to what he actually did and didn't do.

    But I've see a witch hunt mentality since the beginning of this case. Are people just trying to nab this guy to make an example?


  13. Anon of Sep 27, please email me at a s u d d e n s h o t (at) gmail (dot) com I would very much like to hear from you, thanks.

    Anon, Oct 13, I'll get back to you, thanks.

    I appreciate everyone coming here. My books keep me extremely busy and I can't get here as often as I wish to. But I am always working behind the scenes on something for youand appreciate your patience.

  14. "...But I've see a witch hunt mentality since the beginning of this case. Are people just trying to nab this guy to make an example?"

    perhaps, but the main factors are the real lives lost and the very preventable aspects of that crime -- hopefully the disastrous results will serve as a strong warning on following someone so greedily self-absorbed, and who fatally neglected those who trusted him with their well being.

  15. Camille,

    I too drove him for several years. And have been a part of his seminars. I do believe in and continue to study the new age quantum physics and meta physical spin on the power of the universe.

    He is confident to the point of arrogance. But I do believe that while he was well out of his depth in handling his event there was no malicious intent on his part. This was a horrible tragedy yet I can't help but feel I too could have very easily been in that tent that day.

    I have always felt very strongly about this and James really. I hope that whatever happens that the families of the lost spiritual warriors can have some peace and comfort knowing their loved ones were seaking to become the incredible people they wanted to be.

  16. I was just released from the prison that James is serving time in.He is a self centered prick who does'nt care about anyone or anything but himself. Now I do believe he was told he could NOT give his "seminars" anymore. Hehas succesfully found himself an empty room in the prison and give his speeches to the other inmates! Feel free to contact me.

    1. How? How would we contact you? My address is a s u d d e n s h o t (at) gmail (dot) com