June 22, 2011

Sweat lodge guru guilty of negligent homicide.

Not guilty of manslaughter.
Prosecutors argued that 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....

Event participants paid up to $10,000 to seek "new areas of consciousness" at the October 2009 Spiritual Warrior retreat in the desert... Many had attended previous James Ray International seminars.


Big Mike said...

For a change the American system of justice seems to have reached the right result. How in H*ll did that happen?

edutcher said...

OK, somebody 'splain to me:

I thought negligent homicide was a flavor of involuntary manslaughter.

Or was that one of those things that went away when the politicians decided there should be more than two degrees of murder and two types of manslaughter?

Because, if I'm not mistaken, about 40 years ago, this would have been classed as involuntary manslaughter.

Carol_Herman said...

I don't think the guru was guilty.

The Pied Piper, maybe. Because he took kids over the cliff. But adults? These should fall into the category of decisions made by adults that didn't work out well.

I don't think Wall Street should give refunds, either.

Synova said...

So manslaughter is worse than negligent homicide?

Which is the worse one?

traditionalguy said...

He needed a degree in Cult Management. He had a good thing going there...$10,000 apiece to experience a spiritual death and re-birth that would change people. Oops, he forgot to get trained in the re-birth technique. This cult could have been from the initiation ceremonies of the Eleusinian Mysteries Religion. Most of that crap was ended by the Christian faith's experience of a spiritual re-birth and baptism that actually worked to change people's lives, as long as they don't drown them during baptism. But if throw out the Christian faith, you are left taking a giant step backwards into the hands of the old pagan Cults run by amateurs.

Synova said...

I think he is guilty, Carol. Yes, people should use their own discretion and common sense, but he's at least as guilty as the people who died of it.

Compare to, oh, a gym with a sauna. Trust that they're all about making sure that no one becomes overheated and has a health issue. There will be warnings posted and checks made. But this guru guy was telling people to push beyond their limits to get to some sort of enlightenment and presenting himself as having the Answer.

I'm not saying that the idiots who fell for it aren't responsible, just that the guru fellow wasn't forced to run this scam and he's responsible for the results of it.

chr1 said...

Sometimes you just gotta sweat it out. I'm still waiting for that spaceship in Hale-Bopp's tail to beam me up.

YoungHegelian said...

People, it's just so much safer and easier to have a vestmented sodomite stick a wafer on your tongue.

The newer model isn't always better, even if it comes with shiny chrome and that new religion smell.

Big Mike said...

I agree, Synova. One of the things I recollect from the reports at the time was that people tried to leave but Ray's assistants pressured them to stay in.

People died because James Ray didn't know what he was doing, after representing himself to the participants as knowing precisely what he was doing.

Eric said...

Meh. Darwin in action. If you're dumb enough to fall for this stuff you probably shouldn't be passing on your genes.

Damn if this isn't high-grade crack bait.

Carol_Herman said...

Can't cha just buy "trip" insurance?

madAsHell said...

10,000 bucks to sit in a sweat lodge??

How does someone so gullible acquire $10,000 in dispose-able cash??

We have J Z Knight out here by Seattle. She charges people to put up tents in her backyard. Periodically, she calls them all together to hear her channel Ramtha, the warrior spirit.

Man....I gotta get a new gig!!

Pogo said...

It takes dedication, focus, and years of practice to turn deaths at the hands of a New Age goofball into a swipe at Catholics.

Two cheers, YH.

Scott said...

I would participate in a sweat lodge ceremony if it were conducted by a medicine man who was widely recognized within a Sioux community.

Moreovee, medicine men never charge a fee, although you are expected to offer an honorarium as a matter of custom.

So here is a stupid charlatan charging ten grand to other equally stupid people for an unethical sweat lodge ceremony. Was justice served when the idiot leader who accidentally kills an idiot follower ends up going to jail? I'm not so sure. To me the moral math doesn't add up. It's just social Darwinism on a small scale. Let the man go. Maybe he will favor society by taking out a few more stupid rich people before he goes.

Pogo said...

The conviction seems to me a tenuous tether to his being "the captain of the ship", the Athoriteh-in-charge, and therefore Ultimately Responsible.

More likely, he and the other morons agreed to do Something Extremely Stupid, as part of a Mutuallly Vapid Admiration Society.

Like a David Carradine circle jerk.

save_the_rustbelt said...

The real crime may be the spiritual shallowness and immaturity that led adults to pay this loon $10,000.

And little is worse than the faux Indian attempt at spiritualism. Wanna be like an Indian, don't ask a honky salesman, ask an Indian, and they will tell you not to try to fool yourself.

Fred4Pres said...

It could have been manslaughter, but I respect the decision of the jury. They heard all the evidence and sat thorugh the trial and weighed everything and we did not. Negligent homicide seems appropriate.

New Agers in Action! Come drop several thousand dollars, then drop dead in some dangerous and not well thought out sweat lodge ceremony.

Patrick said...

Well said, Pogo.

shake-and-bake said...

A bottle of quality rum has always provided all the consciousness expansion I require. I may not be in top form in the morning, but I'm alive.

mariner said...

It seems like some of those people got their money's worth: they experienced a new level of consciousness.

It just wasn't in this life.

NYTNewYorker said...

Mr. Crack Emcee, Mr. Crack Emcee to the white courtesy phone....

YoungHegelian said...


Lighten up, buddy.

Have you just not been paying attention when I've gone all mackerel-snappery on theological issues in this very forum?

I'm a hard core Roman Catholic, but I'm not blind to the daily foibles of the faith.

And, I'm serious -- The sacraments really are safer than following some asshole into a sweat lodge.

SteveR said...

The rent is very high in Sedona, its been Californicated. So $10k for "new areas of consciousness" is a small price when your house is valued at half your mortgage principal. The Sweat Lodge OTOH is pure dramatics

Lem said...

Carol_Herman said...
I don't think the guru was guilty.

The Pied Piper, maybe. Because he took kids over the cliff. But adults? These should fall into the category of decisions made by adults that didn't work out well

I hear you C_H
Event participants paid up to $10,000 to seek "new areas of consciousness"

Manifestations of dependency can take some unusual forms.. dependency meaning if I get to feel something "new" maybe I'll be happy.. trying to find that hook that it thing so we don't have to grow up and be responsible.

Lem said...

This is Crack alley btw ;)

In baseball parlance this is right 'in his wheelhouse'.. a hanger.

JAL said...

Will one of the laywers explain the difference between involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide?


Bender said...

Folks --

To avoid the scandal that otherwise would result, no true "hardcore Catholic" engages in such profane and despicable blasphemy as you have witnessed here.

Shanna said...

The Pied Piper, maybe. Because he took kids over the cliff. But adults? These should fall into the category of decisions made by adults that didn't work out well.

I think they wouldn't let them leave, or didn't take their distress seriously.

Although I think paying 10k for a sweat lodge is incredibly stupid especially since you can go to a sauna at the 10 dollar a month gym, for 10k he ought to have made sure everything was medically sound, had emts on hand, and procedures to deal with any medical issues. He didn't and three people died. It was negligent and I think this is a fair result.

Carol_Herman said...

If they'd have put Swedes on the jury, the guru would have walked.

Saunas and snow just seem to go together in Sweden.

Here? A sweat lodge? And, people paid $10,000 for this experience?

I've got no respect for the judge. This one should have been dismissed.

You know, if it wasn't for the accidental demise of a paying customer, these sweat lodges would be being built so fast, we wouldn't have an economy in the dumps.

Lem said...

..involuntary manslaughter it means a man was involuntarily killed.. not premeditated.
Whereas when a woman is killed, it is voluntarily and premeditated ;)

Carol_Herman said...

The only places, today, you can find any American indians, is on indian reservations. And, the people who go there go there to gamble.

The sweating part is thrown in free of charge. But first you lose your money.

YoungHegelian said...


Er, what exactly would that blasphemy be?

Sacramental jokes? Gay clergy jokes?

Unless you have something worthwhile to say on this matter, it's you who have committed a grievous sin of imputing sacrilege to a fellow Catholic with little to back the charge up.

Missing the Inquisition, are we?

A. Shmendrik said...

It's no way to build volume and repeat business.

traditionalguy said...

@JAL...Involuntary Manslaughter was itself a word play on Manslaughter. The intent to kill was not only "not premeditated" so as to make the crime into Murder, the intent to kill was not there at all. The actors intent was to do something else like throw a rock at a window. Then the next generation of Let's Revise the Law Code Committees got a chance to word play some more on the concept of Gross Negligence. which was defined as an action evidencing a "wanton disregard for life". They put the two names into a blender and came up with name Negligent Homicide. That was a distinction without a difference, but the Committee of lawyers, judges, uneducated laymen, community organizers and and a feminist felt very powerful for spending 6 months at resort seminars "modernizing the law". All they really did was empower the younger lawyers, who got to learn it once, over many older lawyers in other specialties whose advice went past their sell by date. So there you have it.

roesch-voltaire said...

I have taken intense sweats in lodges build over supposed special sites, and never paid for the experience perhaps because they were lead by folks more interested in the tradition than in making profit. The leaders were also careful to make sure no one pushed their limits too far which meant opening the flap, or letting some folks skip the third for fourth round. I think this money guru is guilty in his hubris and greed which caused him to overlook the dangers to those who trusted him--

Lem said...

Negligent Homicide.. thats when you run off and dont stop after you run somebody over with your automobile ;)

Hey Howard.. there is your chinaman.

The Crack Emcee said...

Hey, Guys, what's new?

Is it just me or does the air *smell better* today?

Oh well, I'ma get back to Overcoming Adversity And Reaching My Full Potential. Y'all stay up.

Call me if anything big happens,...

PETER V. BELLA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PETER V. BELLA said...

Seeking new areas of consciousness?

Are your karma and shakras in a state of confusion bunkie?

Do you need a new lease on your altered state of being?

Is your consciousness in a perpetual recession?

I have the cure. A no sweat way to sweat away your psychic toxins.

Guaranteed to put your karma on the right track and those shakras back in place.

All for $9997.97. One four hour session and your life will be changed for eternity.

Space is limited to 40 people. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

$9997.97 is the deal of death cost. Others charge much more for less.

Sign up now.

YoungHegelian said...


Does that $9997.97 include a free set of reiki crystals, too?


traditionalguy said...

Lem...That is Leaving the Scene of the Accident, and can be a serious felony worse than the DUI they are fleeing when their are injured people in the other car. The Criminal law always seeks intent to do a bad thing. But in Involuntary/Negligent Homicide the law imposes a fiction of intent when the outcome has been a death. The wisdom is that in such cases a short sentence with much of it probated will satisfy the family of the victim and discourage them from going out and killing him themselves. When the dead person has no local family that cares to get justice, the cases are often plead out to stiff fines and two or three years probation. But when the dead person is much loved, or part of a community protected group like mothers and children, then the sentences can be stiff jail time and run consecutive rather than concurrent.

Pogo said...

@ YoungHegelian

Hell then, mock away!

Intra-family ridicule is always acceptable, don'cha know.

Thought mebbe you wuz one a them there commie Unitarians r sumpin. Ya can't let jes anyone denigrate the collar; only fambly gets to do that.

The Crack Emcee said...

Negligent Homicide..that's translated as I didn't mean to kill 'em!

And I wonder how many positive affirmations, and/or "Spiritual Warrior" catch phrases, ran through James Arthur Ray's mind before bumping head-on into the full reality of a "guilty" verdict?

I'm thinking probably somewhere around the same number of wishes that The Secret got people to commit to before the economy tanked.

That's how NewAge "works."

Look at it this way: his followers are now getting a real lesson in how to "overcome adversity to reach their full potential," just as he always wanted. There's nowhere for him to go now but up, and he can do it - he's the expert.

I wouldn't be surprised if he planned it this way, seeing how our mundane world was probably so below a "master" such as himself, just to give him a challenge. All of those people in The Secret hold the keys to life, right?

All the public NewAgers, if you think about it, have brought so much into the lives of those around them. Rielle Hunter convinced John Edwards - twice a candidate for the White House - that he was most assuredly Martin Luther King, and Gandhi, but there was still something missing from his life.

You know, like a sex tape. But one that she was sure,...to,...lose. Yeah.

“You will have to get to a point to where you surrender and it’s O.K. to die,” Ray taught.

Good for him - he's ready.

Pogo said...

If you break it down, "manslaughter" turns into Man's Laughter.

An apostrophe and a space can spare you from jail time.

Fred4Pres said...

James Arthur Ray will probably find that The Secret does not cut in in the can, but maybe this or this might help.

Fred4Pres said...

Ray would have faced up to 12.5 years for each count of manslaughter. I suspect with negligent homicide he is only facing a few year in prison, but we are talking state prison here. So it is not nothing.

He killed those people. I do not know if he has any remorse, but he should.

The Crack Emcee said...


He killed those people. I do not know if he has any remorse, but he should.

He feels sorry for himself. He feels sorry he got caught. You know the type.

Good riddance.

Chip S. said...

Althousia works itself into a lather over some New Age fools while truly horrific fashion crimes, committed in front of hundreds of witnesses, go unremarked.

How can this be?

george said...

So what did these people think they were going to get out of this place for ten grand that they couldn't get by throwing a tent up around the backyard bbq?

And I don't see how it matters whether the guy was an authentic Indian or not. Native Americans didn't invent steam nor are they immune from overdoing things. Whether the brand of stupidity you prefer is New Age or Traditional doesn't matter much once you are dead. I am sure the tribes have their own stories to tell about such things. There is nothing new under the sun.

Eric said...

So what did these people think they were going to get out of this place for ten grand that they couldn't get by throwing a tent up around the backyard bbq?

If you threw a tent around a backyard bbq the CO would kill you in pretty short order. I'm pretty sure sweat lodges don't work that way. So part of what they got for their money was hot rocks.

Revenant said...

Person A suggests that Person B do something dangerous and stupid. Person B does it, and dies in the process. Person A gets charged with negligent homicide?

That seems wrong, unless B was a child.

cathy said...

My daughter went to one of the early days of the trial. I'm not into this stuff, much so I didn't support him. His case was that he had done this many times and that the retreat location had said they offered the sweat lodges. The deal was that the wood had been treated, and that rat poison had been used on the tarps. The lodge was made with the tarps and wood. So really the resort was resposible. But they went and burnt all the wood right away after the event and somehow there was evidence but I don't know how. Also, they waited awhile to investigate. The problem was still in the monitoring and in pushing people. But really, by comparison to Ray's prvious experience, they weren't in that long.

gerry said...

In my state, negligent homicide is a slightly lesser offense than manslaughter.

AllenS said...

Scientologists have a similar program to rid the body of toxins and radiation, using niacin in combination with other vitamins during an unusually hot and long sauna.

This clown wanted to use willow trees and other flora from the forest to give it a native look.

A fool and his money...

caplight said...

They should have settled fo a good colonic experience since they are all so obviously full of s***. And colonics are a gift that keeps on giving.

Mitch H. said...

So what did these people think they were going to get out of this place for ten grand that they couldn't get by throwing a tent up around the backyard bbq?

George, believe it or not, but this is a group-suicide technique in Japan common enough (in the popular imagination, at least) that I've seen at least two separate depictions of that variant in cartoons from the last five years. (Both black comedies, btw, because apparently group suicide is a screaming laugh to the Japanese.)

kwood said...

If you decide to go on a 'parachuting adventure' with 5 friends and 3 of the chutes don't open and 3 friends die, that's sure as hell negligent homicide to me.

If it then turns out that at least 2 of the friends who died had doubts about the gear they were given but were urged, loudly and obnoxiously in front of their friends to quit being a pansy and just jump already, well then all the more so.

You can call them stupid for wanting to jump out of an airplane, but that's all beside the point.

This bastard is going to jail and rightfully so.