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James Ray Guilty of Negligent Homicide in Ariz. Sweat Lodge Case

Yavapai County Sheriff's Office(SEDONA, Ariz.) -- Self-help author James Arthur Ray was convicted Wednesday after he was accused in the deaths of three people during a Sedona, Ariz., sweat lodge ceremony in 2009 and of ignoring cries for help as people passed out and vomited.

Ray, 53, was found not guilty of three counts of manslaughter, but was found guilty of the lesser charge of negligent homicide for all three victims.

The case will continue on June 28, when the jury will convene to make a decision regarding aggravating circumstances in the case.

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk claimed Ray's recklessness while presiding over the "Spiritual Warrior" ceremony killed three of his followers -- Liz Neuman, 49, of Prior Lake, Minn.; James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee; and Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y. Prosecutors also said Ray conditioned participants through breathing exercises, sleep deprivation, a 36-hour fast and lectures to ignore their bodies' signs of danger.

Ray's attorneys told jurors that the state didn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ray is culpable. They also accused authorities of botching the investigation and failing to consider that anything other than Ray's actions caused the deaths.

In October 2009, about 60 of Ray's followers crammed into a 415-square-foot hut heated with red-hot rocks. Ray, a charismatic guru, told his followers it would be a "rebirthing," but it instead turned into a fatal experience for three people.

Ray, who has made millions of dollars telling people how to improve their lives, maintained that he did not know the people who died in the sweat lodge in 2009 were so sick. His lawyers insisted that 911 was called as soon as the emergency became apparent. Ray, they say, had been encouraging people to hydrate and had a retired nurse on site.

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