James Arthur Ray tries a little warmth; lawyer puts foot down
James Arthur Ray, the spiritual guru now at the center of a homicide investigation after three of his clients died during and after a sweat lodge ceremony last year in Arizona, has emerged from hiding and spoken to New York Magazine in an effort to try and repair his image.
That image could use some help.
Ray told his "spiritual warrior" clients that they might feel like they were going to die in an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony on Oct. 8, according to court documents made public in December, and republished by the New York Times. The pictured that emerged from various witnesses at the scene was that he sat outside the sweat lodge, in a shaded chair, as two of them -- James Shore of Milwaukee, and Kirby Brown of Westtown, N.Y. -- died inside. A third, Liz Neuman, of Prior Lake, died nine days later in a Flagstaff hospital.
One witness told police was heard to say,"It's a good day to die."
In the interview, Ray offers a different point of view.
"I did everything I could to help," he told the magazine. "There was a medical doctor there, and I was having her make sure that everything was being run appropriately. I held people's hands, I stroked their hair, I talked to them, I held IV for the paramedics. I was there the entire time doing whatever I could do to help until I was detained by the detectives."
True? Who knows? It sounds good. But then a lawyer steps in and manages to undo whatever good will Ray is trying to foster:
Why didn't you speak to the Spiritual Warrior Retreat participants before you left?
I asked on several occasions, when I was being detained, if I could possibly go speak to them, and that just wasn't possible. The detectives were doing their jobs.
Did James Ray "the citizen" create a crime in Sedona? And did James Ray "the man" do something wrong, however you choose to define that--irresponsible, amoral, unethical, or careless?
[Lawyer interjects] Lawyer: I think you have to rely on the "White Paper" for that. [The White Paper asserts that Ray "did not commit criminally negligent conduct."]
Is there anything at all, either on that day or since, that you wish you had done differently?
Lawyer: This is another one of those things that I think the "White Paper" is just going to have to speak for itself.
That "White Paper" can be viewed by clicking here. It says, in part:
Although some outside observers have accused Mr. Ray of leaving the scene and returning to California, it is not true. The evidence shows that Mr. Ray comforted the victims and assisted in whatever way he could. At one point during the night, he went to his room to change out of his sweat-soaked clothes. With that exception, the evidence shows that he was at the site, speaking to his team and to participants, until he was separated from everyone and detained by Yavapai County Sheriff's Detectives. Witnesses recall hearing that he made numerous requests to be allowed to meet with the participants and talk to them about what happened. Given his detention by Sheriff's officials, Mr. Ray asked Greg Hartle to speak to the participants on his behalf. Mr. Hartle met with the participants in the dining hall and provided updates on what was happening as the information became available. He also told them that Mr. Ray wanted to be there with them but could not because the deputies had detained him.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.