PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) — Attorneys for a self-help author convicted in the deaths of three people following an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony are making their case for probation.
James Arthur Ray’s defense team will call the first of 21 witnesses Tuesday as they argue against any time in prison for the man who led dozens of people in the October 2009 ceremony near Sedona. Three of the participants died, and a jury convicted Ray on three counts of negligent homicide earlier this year.
Ray is set to be sentenced Friday. He faces up to nine years in prison.
Ray’s attorneys have outlined 17 reasons they believe he shouldn’t be locked behind bars, including his lack of prior criminal history, good character, expression of remorse for the deaths he has maintained were a tragic accident and the need to care for a mother with thyroid cancer and a father with dementia.
“Mr. Ray had indicated to both his family and friends that his goal is to learn from this tragic experience, and by doing so, to contribute to the good of society,” Ray’s attorneys wrote in court documents.
Prosecutors presented several witnesses last week in an effort to show that Ray’s events progressively became more dangerous over the years, his ego was overblown and he was fixated only on earning money. The families of the victims — James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee; Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y; and Liz Neuman, 48, of Prior Lake, Minn. — have said Ray did nothing following the ceremony to make them believe he was concerned.
Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow will weigh the testimony from both sides before deciding on Ray’s sentence. If Darrow gives Ray prison time, the defense has asked that the sentences be served concurrently and not start until after the appeals process.
Ray’s attorneys contend the four-month trial was tainted by prosecution errors and say there’s a significant possibility he’ll prevail on appeal. Darrow rejected at least nine defense requests for a mistrial or new trial in the case.
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