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6/30/2011 9:56:00 PM
Ray's potential prison time shrinks after aggravating factor hearing

Mark Duncan
City Editor

CAMP VERDE - James Arthur Ray's defense gained a small victory Thursday - and the possibility of a larger win to come - when the jury that convicted him last week failed to find proof of enough aggravating factors to leave him liable for the maximum prison term.

Ray remains free, at least until his July 25 sentencing, on $525,000 bond despite Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk's request that Judge Warren Darrow order him taken into custody. The self-help speaker and author now faces a possible prison term of no more than nine years after his conviction on three counts of negligent homicide. He is also eligible for probation.

Jurors deliberated for more than 10 hours on the three state-alleged aggravating factors that could have left Ray facing a sentence of as long as 11.25 years. That was half again as long as the time they needed to find him guilty in the deaths of Kirby Brown, James Shore and Liz Neuman. By mid-afternoon Thursday they had decided that the state had proven one of the factors - that the deaths had caused severe emotional harm to the victims' families - on each count, and one additional factor - that Ray had a unique position of trust - in the case of Neuman, who was a member of Ray's volunteer dream team during the October 2009 Spiritual Warrior seminar near Sedona.

The jury found that the state had not proven that Ray caused the deaths, which occurred after a sweat lodge ceremony during the seminar, as a means to achieve monetary gain.

After the reading of the aggravation decision, Darrow dismissed the jury. All declined to speak to gathered media.

Before sentencing can occur, the defense will submit mitigating factors for Ray, who has no prior criminal convictions. Darrow will weigh them against the aggravating factor before making his decision.

In addition, Darrow must rule on another motion for mistrial that came about because of an alleged procedural violation by Polk.

In her closing argument for the aggravation phase on Wednesday, Polk played an audio clip the defense maintains was never admitted into evidence. The clip features Ray speaking to seminar participants about their reasons for coming to Sedona for the event and suffering through sleeping in tents and sharing bathrooms after making a $10,000 investment, and the defense alleged at the time that they didn't believe it had ever been played at trial.

That lack would make it inadmissible in the aggravation phase, but Darrow allowed Polk to continue on Wednesday after she insisted she had used it in her March 1 opening statement and had it properly admitted into evidence.

On Thursday, though, after reviewing a video of Polk's opening, the defense resumed its objection and motion for mistrial. Darrow said he would allow Polk time to reply to the allegation, and would review the record himself, before ruling on the motion.

Darrow appeared visibly displeased with the turn of events and agreed with defense attorney Tom Kelly that the allegation, if true, would have "serious implications," especially considering that jurors had the clip, among others, available on CD while they deliberated on Ray's guilt or innocence last week.

After the hearing, three friends of Kirby Brown spoke to the assembled media about the jury's decision and their feelings about the defendant and the companion they lost to the tragedy.

"I had hoped it would come out differently," said Deborah Goldstein, "but I think (the jurors) took their job seriously."

"He (Ray) should not be exempt from freedom of choice and free will," Mika Cutler said. "It was his freedom of choice (to put people in danger), and his free will not to do anything about it."

"She was an amazing person," Billy Dahly said of Brown. "She was everything that James Ray said a person should be. It's very frustrating to see someone like (Ray) go on interacting with people. His actions don't follow his words."

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• Sweat Lodge Trial: Prosecution admits 'harmless' error in Ray proceeding

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Article comment by: As a casual observer...

I'd say some of the participants of this snake oil salesman's gathering did take responsibility for their own actions: They died! I apologize if somebody else has already pointed out this obvious.

Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Article comment by: I really dislike it when...

People refer to themselves in the third person. So very annoying, Frank.

Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Article comment by: Brian Philips

... Everyone at that event was there voluntarily. And if Mr. Ray goes to prison, then so should Mr. Hamilton and every witness who testified they KNEW these people were in trouble and did nothing.

Posted: Tuesday, July 05, 2011
Article comment by: Frank Deloran

You have to realistically see the situation from YOUR perspective. If that was a sweat lodge YOU had constructed on YOUR property it would be YOUR responsibility to make absolutely certain it was used safely. If a group had problems using YOUR sweat lodge the year before it then becomes YOUR responsibility to take extra safety precautions. If Mr Ray wanted too many hot rocks in YOUR sweat lodge it would be YOUR responsibility to say NO WAY!!! If you refuse to take extra safety precautions KNOWING that there were problems with this group the year before then YOU ARE EQUALLY GUILTY if anyone died. YOU should have taken extra safety precautions because he was using YOUR sweat lodge on YOUR property! Can't you see this simple truth? It doesn't matter what he may want to do in YOUR sweat lodge. If YOU feel it compromises the safety of the participants it is YOUR responsibility to make certain everyone is safe. Now, if Mr Ray built the sweat lodge on HIS property it would be a whole different matter. Can't you see that?

Posted: Monday, July 04, 2011
Article comment by: John Smith

Although this was a tragedy for everyone involved, was it not the choice of the participants to attend this event on their own free will?

Posted: Monday, July 04, 2011
Article comment by: Wait a Minute Frank

Who was in charge of the event (not Mr. Hamilton)? Ray is the one that crammed too many people in the lodge, that ordered more and more hot rocks into the lodge, that made the rules on where people would sit and when breaks would be taken and that discouraged participants from leaving during the sessions. Ray failed to help anyone even when it was apparent afterwards that some were having medical problems. Ray failed to have trained medical personnel available for emergencies. The sweat lodge itself did not kill these people, rather it was the negligent manner in which it was used by Ray. The personal responsible was rightly convicted.

Posted: Monday, July 04, 2011
Article comment by: Frank Deloran

If Mr Ray had the sweat lodge built on his property and rented it out to others it would be Mr Ray's responsibility to make certain the sweat lodge was used safely. Especially if the group who was using it had problems using the sweat lodge the year before. The owner of Angel Valley was fully responsible to make certain his sweat lodge built on his property was used safely, period! If Mr Ray goes to jail Mr Hamilton should be thrown in the same cell.

Posted: Sunday, July 03, 2011
Article comment by: erin smith

Janine well said. I hope he spends nine long years in a hot cell with a burly cell mate who has a thing for ex gurus.

Posted: Saturday, July 02, 2011
Article comment by: Janine Parker

He should get 9 years. Three deaths..your out! I am sure the prospect of being handcuffed again and led to a cell even for one day scares the ... out of Mr. Ray. I know a woman who drove her friend to the store and had no idea that the friend had robbed the store. She got 10 years in prison for driving the car. James Ray sat in the cool breeze of the door of the sweat lodge, he should have been in the hottest spot, maybe then he would have realized it was a death trap. Now he will sit in his permanent hot spot. He should consider writing about how he attracted a prison cell to himself.

Posted: Saturday, July 02, 2011
Article comment by: Molly Greene

No, probation does not mean that you are"free"...the meaning of probation is simply this : it literally means testing of behaviour or abilities. In a legal sense, an offender on probation is ordered to follow certain conditions set forth by the court, often under the supervision of a probation officer. Offenders are ordinarily required to refrain from subsequent possession of firearms, and may be ordered to remain employed, abide to a curfew, live at a directed place, obey the orders of the probation officer, or not leave the jurisdiction. The probationer may be ordered as well to refrain from contact with the victims (such as a former partner in a domestic violence case), with potential victims of similar crimes (such as minors, if the instant offense involves child sexual abuse), or with known criminals, particularly co-defendants. Additional restrictions can include: a ban on possession or use of alcoholic beverages, even if alcohol was not involved in the original criminal charges. Offenders on probation might be fitted with an electronic tag (or monitor), which signals their whereabouts to officials. Also, offenders have been ordered to submit to repeated alcohol/drug testing or to participate in alcohol/drug or psychological treatment, or to perform community service work.

And that is certainly not freedom.

Posted: Saturday, July 02, 2011
Article comment by: Symolic Prisoner

Maybe Ray can start a Spiritual Warrior program for those having a Symbolic Prison experience. Like the people who died a symbolic death.

Posted: Saturday, July 02, 2011
Article comment by: To SDS and Molly

SDS: I was the first poster on this thread, and let me assure you I am not MP, GF, GM, nor BG nor have i ever made their acquaintance to the best of my knowledge.
Molly: Where do "Convicted felons' get to stay free? ) Is being on probation, truly "free"?

Posted: Friday, July 01, 2011
Article comment by: Molly Greene

Hello Lee Kuan...
1) Sheila Polk did not make an error with the recording. It was admitted as evidence and the mistrial motion is most likely going to go the way all the others have: nowhere.
2) James is free on bail because probation is an option and this is pret...ty standard. Defendants who are free on bail and become Convicted felons get to stay free if they have conformed to the conditions of their bail and if prison time is not mandatory.

Posted: Friday, July 01, 2011
Article comment by: Same Defense Supporter With Fictitious Names

Why does the prolific defense supporter bother with all the phony names? Ray has been convicted justly by a jury of his peers so why not accept the decision and quit trying to repeat the same prior failed arguments. Give the jury the respect that they deserve in weighing the evidence and making their decision. It is noted that they did so in a very short amount time so the decision does not even appear to have been very close. Ray has lucked out in that only one aggravating factor was decided by the jury for all deceased victims and one additional aggravating factor for one of the victims. Assuming that the Judge allows some mitigating factors, Ray may be looking at 5-8 year sentence which appears more than reasonable given Ray's role in the tragedy. Ray will have a chance to live his life again following his sentence (which is more than the victims got). It is time to let go and move on, defense supporter, to another cause.

Posted: Friday, July 01, 2011
Article comment by: Paging Barney Fife

The Jimster will get what's coming to him, about 2 years in somebody's pokey is my guess. They won't mistrial. The goofy defense lawyers must be having a chuckle about how many mistrials they have asked for in a case that took about 20 minutes for the jury to decide. They were probably tortured by the defense lawyers who dragged the thing on for weeks with nothing to do but beat their lips together.

Posted: Friday, July 01, 2011
Article comment by: Brett Gillilan

It truly is amazing how few people will take responsibility for their own lives, and how many others will buy into their rubbish.
Think for yourself. "Free your mind." Morpheus, The Matrix

Posted: Friday, July 01, 2011
Article comment by: Genaro Matus

"She was an amazing person," Billy Dahly said of Brown. "She was everything that James Ray said a person should be."
I believe Mr Ray believes a person should take responsibility for their actions and their lives. Mr Ray believes that a person should know when they are actually dying and GET OUT OF A FRIGGIN SWEAT LODGE!!!!
What? You needed me to tell you this? You think Mr Ray believes a person should not have a clue when they are actually dying in a sweat lodge and either get the hell out or tell James Shore she needed help? Is that everything Mr Ray said a person should be? Kirby Brown led by example and took poor James Shore down with her! If she was still alive she should be charged with manslaughter!
As for Liz Neuman, I believe she had done that event FIVE TIMES. When she said she was fine and wanted to stay in the sweat lodge in order to be a person Mr Ray says people should be SHE SHOULD BE TRUSTED!

Posted: Friday, July 01, 2011
Article comment by: NO WAY


Posted: Friday, July 01, 2011
Article comment by: Mike Palmer

"Polk played an audio clip the defense maintains was never admitted into evidence." First it was withholding exculpatory evidence, a 14th Amendment Due Process (Brady) violation. Now this.
I have personally observed that this may be the norm in Mrs. Polk's bailiwick.

Posted: Friday, July 01, 2011
Article comment by: JAR CASE gains appeal

Poor Judge Darrow.
Legal eagles: does Judge Darrow have the standing in court to set aside the verdict or sentencing?

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