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James Arthur Ray: Will Positive Thinking Help "Secret" Guru Beat Sweat Lodge Manslaughter Rap?

(Yavapai County Sheriff)
(AP Photo/Family of Kirby Brown)
(Family Photo)
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (CBS/AP) Motivational speaker James Arthur Ray once appeared on "The Secret" to promote the power of positive thinking, but it's not clear that the guru's mental powers will be enough to beat a triple manslaughter charge tied to the deaths of three followers who took part in a sweat lodge ceremony last year.

Photo: James Arthur Ray mug shot.

PICTURES: Sweat Lodge Deaths

Ray was arrested Wednesday night and booked into the Yavapai County jail in Camp Verde, about 100 miles north of Phoenix.

Ray has built a multimillion-dollar empire as a self-help superstar who teaches people about financial and spiritual wealth, and uses free seminars to recruit followers to more expensive events.

Photo: Kirby Brown, 38, did not survive sweat lodge.

PICTURES: Sweat Lodge Deaths

He soared in popularity after appearing in the 2006 documentary "The Secret," and he promoted it on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "Larry King Live."

The Oct. 8, 2009 sweat lodge ceremony was intended to be the highlight of Ray's five-day "Spiritual Warrior" event at a retreat he rented near Sedona. He told participants, who paid more than $9,000 each to attend, that it would be one of the most intense experiences of their lives.

Photo: Liz Neuman, 49, was a sweat lodge victim.

PICTURES: Sweat Lodge Deaths

About halfway through the two-hour ceremony, some began feeling ill, vomiting and collapsing inside the 415-square-foot structure. Despite that, Ray urged participants to push past their physical weaknesses and chided those who wanted to leave, authorities and participants have said.

Two people — Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., and James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee — passed out inside the sweat lodge and died that night at a hospital. Liz Neuman, 49, of Prior Lake, Minn., slipped into a coma and died a week later. Eighteen others were hospitalized.

Ray's attorneys said that the charges were unjust and they were confident he would be exonerated in court. "This was a terrible accident, but it was an accident, not a criminal act," Ray attorney Luis Li said.

If convicted, he faces a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 12 1/2 years on each count. His bond was set at $5 million, and his first court hearing was scheduled Thursday.

MORE ON CRIMESIDER
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October 26, 2009 - Sweat Lodge Guru James Arthur Ray: From Poor Childhood to Self-Help Millionaire
October 26, 2009 - Sweat-Lodge Deaths Won't Stop James Arthur Ray, No Mention of $9,000 Per Person Pricetag
October 23, 2009 - Sweat Lodge Hero? Victim May Have Saved Woman Before Dying, Says Participant Beverley Bunn
October 21, 2009 - Sweat Lodge Survivor Beverley Bunn Says James Arthur Ray Played God Before Deadly Ending
October 18, 2009 - Third Death from Sweat Lodge Ceremony Led by James Arthur Ray
October 16, 2009 - Self-Help Guru James Arthur Ray in Crosshairs of Angel Valley Sweat Lodge Homicide Investigation
October 15, 2009 - Desperate 911 Call: First Glimpse Into Angel Valley Sweat Lodge Deaths
October 13, 2009 - Angel Valley Sweat Lodge Deaths: Owner Didn't Have Permits
October 12, 2009 - Sweat Lodge Death Investigation Turns to Self-Help Guru James Arthur Ray
October 12, 2009 - Family Says New Yorker Kirby Brown was in Great Shape before Mysterious Sweat Lodge Death
October 9, 2009 - Angel Valley Resort: Two Dead, Many Hospitalized in Sedona Sweat Lodge Illness

  • Edecio Martinez

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