Self-help expert James Arthur Ray gets 2 years in prison for 2009 sweat lodge deaths

Self-help author James Arthur Ray wipes away tears as one of his attorneys discusses the cancer diagnosis of Ray's mother and his other extenuating circumstances while he sits with attorney Thomas Kelly during a pre-sentencing hearing at Yavapai County Courthouse in Prescott, Ariz. on Nov. 8, 2011.
Pool,AP Photo/Michael Schennum
Self-help author James Arthur Ray
Pool,AP Photo/Michael Schennum

(CBS/AP) PRESCOTT, Ariz. - Self-help author James Arthur Ray will serve two  years in prison for his role in the deaths of three people in an Arizona sweat lodge in 2009.

Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow sentenced Ray on Friday to three two-year sentences, to run concurrently.  He also ordered Ray to pay more than $57,000 in restitution.

"I see and I find that the aggravating circumstance of emotional harm is so strong and such that probation is simply unwarranted in this case," he said.

At the sentencing hearing earlier Friday, the victims' families asked that Ray be sent to prison for the next nine years, in order to prevent him from harming others. Ray stood before the victim's families and pleaded for forgiveness, tearfully taking responsibility for the pain and anguish he caused them. Ray's attorneys wanted probation for the self-help expert.

Ray said during hearing that if he had known people were dying or in distress he would have stopped the ceremony inside the sweat lodge. "At the end of the day, we lost three friends, and I lost them on my watch," he said. "Whatever errors in judgment or mistakes I have made, I'm going to have to live with those for the rest of my life. I am disappointed in myself. I don't have any excuse."

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

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