|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Friday, 07 October 2011 10:00|
Sentencing has been delayed for a third time for self-help author and motivational speaker James Arthur Ray.
Ray, 53, was convicted in June for three counts of negligent homicide in the October 2009 deaths of Lizbeth Neuman, 49, of Minnesota, Kirby Brown, 38, of New York and James Shore, 40, of Wisconsin, who died after participating in a sweat lodge ceremony held a large tentlike structure that was heated to high temperatures with water poured on hot rocks.
The ceremony came at the end of a weeklong Spiritual Warrior event, a $10,000-a-head seminar hosted by Ray’s company, James Ray International at the Angel Valley Retreat Center near Sedona.
Ray faces up to nine years in prison. The sentencing phase of the trial was originally scheduled to begin last week, but Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow granted a defense request to delay proceedings after one of Ray’s defense attorneys, Prescott-based Thomas Kelly, had to deal with a medical issue.
Yavapai County Attorney Shiela Polk argued that Ray has hired plenty of other attorneys who could fill in for Kelly, but Ray’s defense team said that Kelly’s presence was critical.
While Darrow didn’t necessarily agree, he did find that Ray has a constitutional right to legal representation of his choice.
“In addition, the defense attorneys have avowed to this Court that even if Mr. Kelly were to become physically capable of conducting the hearing next week, problems with regard to preparation for the hearing and with regard to witness availability would remain,” Darrow wrote.
Normally, sentencing is required to take place within 60 days of a conviction, but Darrow ruled that an exception was prudent in this case, given the circumstances.
Darrow also granted an emergency request from the defense to seal dozens of letters written on Ray’s behalf to be considered at his eventual sentencing.
The letters, written by friends, family and people who said they have benefited from Ray’s work, were available online for about a week.
Ray’s trial lasted for months in Camp Verde. Court proceedings have since been moved to Prescott following Darrow’s reassignment to that courthouse.
This week marks the second anniversary since the sweat lodge incident.
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