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.

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