A self-help guru was found guilty of three counts of negligent homicide Wednesday in a case that shined a spotlight on a deadly Arizona sweat lodge ceremony that ended in chaos, with participants vomiting, shaking and being dragged outside.
Jurors reached their verdict with remarkable swiftness: They took less than 10 hours to convict James Arthur Ray following a four-month trial that included hundreds of exhibits and countless hours of testimony.
The eight men and four women were given the option of convicting Ray of manslaughter but decided on the lesser charge instead. He faces a sentence ranging from probation to nearly 12 years in prison.
Ray fought back emotion as the verdict was read. His parents and brother sat behind him, while victims’ friends and family members held hands and looked on from across the courtroom.
Prosecutors asked that Ray be taken into custody immediately, but the judge denied their request.
More than 50 people participated in the October 2009 sweat lodge that was meant to be the highlight of Ray’s five-day “Spiritual Warrior” seminar near Sedona.
Three people died following the sauna-like ceremony aimed at providing spiritual cleansing. Eighteen people were hospitalized, while several others were given water to cool down at the scene.