Checking in With James Arthur Ray

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  July 7, 2010 — 11 Comments

So what’s been going on with New Age guru, “Secret” booster, and two-time Oprah guest James Arthur Ray since he was arrested on 3 counts of manslaughter in connection with a sweat-lodge ceremony he led? First, his trial is scheduled for August 31st, though it’s looking likely that will be postponed due to a scheduling hold-up relating to a judge needing surgery. Secondly, a court document filed by Ray’s lawyers (now making the rounds on Twitter) seems to hint that the defense will want to suppress any mention of previous bad acts on the part of Ray during the trial.

“Other than the discovery issue there is a possibility that additional days will be requested. Defendant may be filing a motion requesting an evidentiary hearing regarding 404(b) prior bad acts and that may require more time than the two days the Court has set aside.”

What previous bad acts you may wonder? Well, his history of medical incidents at previous Ray-led events, including a shattered hand and a mysterious suicide. While the suicide is shrouded with questions, it is the shattered hand incident that might be the most damning if allowed into evidence at this new trial, showing a pattern of reckless disregard for his clients.

“In the Disney World incident, a 2005 negligence lawsuit charged a “reckless” Ray pushed seminar attendee Diane Konopka to smash the board to “overcome . . . self-esteem issues.” Repeatedly unsuccessful, the “humiliated” and “extremely exhausted” Konopka felt “she had no choice” but to do what Ray demanded, the suit says. The guru settled in 2007 for an undisclosed sum.”

Meanwhile, ABC News did a recent feature story on Ray, who says that this incident is just the “rapids” of going down the “stream” of a Law of Attraction-led life.

James Ray: So who do we have on the line, I apologize I don’t have the name…but I know you are holding?

Dan Harris: Hi James. My name is Dan Harris, I am from ABC News. And my question is, If the Law of Attraction really works — and you know how to use it, why have so many bad things happened to you and your followers?

James Ray: Well, you know Dan, um, Mickey, I think we need to flush Dan right, right on down the stream, because, um, that’s — that’s not something that we are going to talk to here. And if you had been following along, you would recognize that part of going down the stream is getting in the rapids.

The ABC feature also mentions that many followers of Ray remain true believers, something that I’ve encountered here recently, as they spout Ray’s lawyer’s talking-points in the case, and try to shift the blame for the deaths onto Angel Valley.

“It is MY OPINION that James Arthur Ray was ignorant as to just how dangerous a sweat lodge holding about 60 could be. Angel Valley must have assured Mr Ray that such a sweat lodge would be no problem to build and it would be safe or else James Arthur Ray would not have paid them to build it. Mr Ray blindly trusted Angel Valley to be experts in these matters. This is where James Arthur Ray made his big mistake. Angel Valley should have told Mr Ray that they would NEVER build such a sweat lodge because it was extremely dangerous to do so. They should have told Mr Ray that they also would not allow ANYONE to build such a dangerous sweat lodge on THEIR PROPERTY, for liability reasons. Yes, Mr Ray was indeed ignorant to blindly trust Angel Valley when they told him they could safely build a sweat lodge that can hold 60 people. It was indeed blind ignorant trust in Angel Valley that led to the tragedy in Sedona’s Angel Valley.”

To be sure, Angel Valley Retreat Center should also be held to account for their role in these deaths, there’s plenty of blame to go around, but that doesn’t erase Ray’s part in the incident. He’ll have his day in court, and we’ll see if the accusations of intimidation, recklessness, and negligence add up to manslaughter. As always, we’ll keep you posted on the latest developments.

Jason Pitzl-Waters