PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) — Supporters of a self-help author convicted in the deaths of three people after an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony will have to wait to testify in an effort to convince a judge that James Arthur Ray deserves a lenient sentence.
An attorney in the case had a medical emergency, prompting the cancellation of a weeklong hearing that was supposed to start Monday, Yavapai County Superior Court officials said.
Ray’s attorneys had lined up 19 people to testify on his behalf. They include Ray’s mother and brother, who often were in the courtroom during his four-month trial, colleagues in the self-help industry and his former financial controller.
Ray faces anything from probation to nine years in prison after a jury in June found him guilty of three counts of negligent homicide.
This week’s hearing hasn’t been rescheduled. Ray was scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 26, and it’s unclear whether that will go forward as planned.
Judge Warren Darrow would use the testimony during the mitigation and pre-sentencing hearing to determine how long Ray, who led dozens of people in the ceremony near Sedona in October 2009, could spend in prison. Ray has no prior convictions.
Of the people who became ill during the two-hour ceremony, James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee, and Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., were pronounced dead shortly after it ended. Liz Neuman, 48, of Prior Lake, Minn., never regained consciousness and died more than a week later. Eighteen others were hospitalized, but some participants reported no major problems.
Ray touted the ceremony as the highlight of his five-day “Spiritual Warrior” retreat. It was meant to be a re-birth for participants.
Prosecutors say they’ll call Brown’s mother and six other people to the stand this week to rebut the testimony of defense witnesses.
A woman who wrote a book about her life in Ray’s inner circle, the lead detective in the case, and a corporate risk management expert are on the prosecution’s list.
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