Self-help author James Arthur Ray to be sentenced for "Sweat Lodge Deaths"

James Arthur Ray - photo provided by James Ray International (JRI) Investigators look over a "sweat lodge" on the grounds of Angel Valley Retreat Center, near Sedona, Ariz. Two people died and 19 others were taken to hospitals after being overcome while sitting in the sauna-like sweat lodge during a Sedona spiritual retreat, authorities said Friday.
James Arthur Ray - photo provided by James Ray International (JRI)
James Arthur Ray

(CBS/AP) PRESCOTT, Ariz. - James Arthur Ray, the self-help author convicted in the deaths of three people in a sweat lodge ceremony more than two years ago, is set to be sentenced on three counts of negligent homicide today in Prescott, Ariz.

Ray's defense team says they want probation for the man whose teachings have bettered people's lives. Prosecutors and the families of the victims want the maximum of nine years in prison.

The deaths occurred in October 2009 in a sweat lodge that was intended to be the highlight of Ray's five-day "Spiritual Warrior" seminar, and was meant to provide spiritual cleansing.

During the sauna-like ceremony, three people died and eighteen were hospitalized. Prosecutors argued Ray recklessly caused the deaths, while defense attorneys maintained they were accidental.

Witnesses described the scene following the sweat lodge ceremony as "alarming" and "chaotic," with people dragging "lifeless and barely breathing" people outside, while volunteers gave CPR.

Kirby Brown, 38 and James Shore, 40, participated in the ceremony and died upon arriving at the hospital. Liz Neuman, 49, slipped into a coma and died a week later in the hospital.

Ray was convicted after a four-month trial that ended in June 2011.