The self-help guru responsible for three deaths at a 2009 sweat lodge ceremony in the Arizona desert was sentenced to two years in prison, today.
At his sentencing James Arthur Ray begged for forgiveness. The AP reports:
“Ray said during his sentencing hearing that he would have stopped the ceremony near Sedona had he known people were dying or in distress. He turned to the more than a dozen family members seated in the courtroom, tearfully taking full responsibility for the pain and anguish he caused them.
“‘At the end of the day, I 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 truly understand your disappointment in my actions after, I do. I’m disappointed in myself. I don’t have any excuse.’”
Ray was the organizer of a sweat lodge ceremony in the Arizona desert where the temperature of the lodge was set to a dangerously high temperature. CNN reports that Ray’s attorneys asked for probation, but the sentencing judge said “the evidence shows ‘extreme negligence on the part of Mr. Ray.’”
The lodge, made of willow trees and branches and covered with tarpaulins and blankets, was heated to a perilously high temperature, causing the participants to suffer dehydration and heatstroke, prosecutors alleged.
They also said Ray didn’t monitor the temperature inside the lodge or the well-being of participants and was indifferent to those having trouble.
Ray’s lawyers countered that the deaths were the result of a tragic accident, not a crime. They asked witnesses who were in the sweat lodge whether they signed a release form warning them of the dangers. All replied that they signed, but some said they didn’t read the form.