Mar 17, 2011

James Arthur Ray Sweat Lodge Trial: Day 13

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Lou Caci

Well, I'm cranky. In Session is preempted today and tomorrow by something appropriately entitled "World's Dumbest..." and some sports. I hate when sporting events preempt things. I've never been much of a sports fan... except for football. I grew up in a Ohio where the world pretty much revolves around football. I was in the band. That makes me a geek and the kind of person James Arthur Ray has open contempt for... but more on that at another time.

I'm particularly annoyed because I was looking forward to seeing Lou Caci's testimony from yesterday. I missed all but the very end because of an event at my daughter's school. It was Book Fair night. Reading is fundamental -- and fun for families! But I missed most of Lou Caci's live testimony. What I heard was heartrending.

The Salty Droid did some good live blogging of that testimony on Twitter, here. So, I've been able to piece some of this together. For starters, I've learned that Lou Caci didn't want his testimony to be on camera. Ultimately, freedom of the press won out over a traumatized man's desire for privacy. I'm ambivalent a little about that but, somewhat selfishly, glad to have access to his testimony.

Lou Caci looks like a haunted man and his voice trembles with emotion as he recalls certain things; like hearing Liz Neuman's breathing. He knows what dying sounds like. He watched his own father die of cancer. Liz Neuman sounded like his father did at the end. And Lou Caci is filled with regret. What if he'd said something? Could her death have been prevented? This is the kind of regret I was referring to yesterday. It's more loaded than survivor guilt. Survivor guilt leaves people wondering at fate and what made them more deserving than someone else of living through tragedy. This is the guilt of someone who doesn't really understand why he was so powerless to take an action that could have, maybe, prevented tragedy. It's the kind of guilt that reduced Beverley Bunn to tears when Tom Kelly twisted the knife in an unhealed wound. It's the regret of someone who gave his decision making power away to James Arthur Ray and now wonders why he had no personal power left to save a life.

How ironic that James Arthur Ray lectures endlessly -- and tediously -- about personal power. Ultimately he did teach some people real, serious lessons about how to set boundaries, how to say no, and how to start taking back their power. But he taught by bad example. Trial by ordeal is a hard way to learn about how we give our power away to abusers, to tin gods, to people we invest with authority over our lives. Carlos Castaneda wrote a lot about personal power, too. And virtually every word on the subject that tumbles out of James Arthur Ray's mouth is repackaged Castaneda. Castaneda was a power thief, too. Just ask Amy Wallace.

Lou Caci is often referred to as a long-time friend of James Arthur Ray. Ray even stood up for him at his wedding. Their friendship goes all the way back to a Tony Robbins seminar. I'm not surprised to hear that Ray took in a Robbins seminar or two. He's clearly learned a lot from Robbins about how to be a self-help leader by doing things like making people break boards with their hands. (I haven't heard a lot about broken hands and hospital visits after Tony Robbins seminars. Maybe Ray didn't complete that curriculum either.) Lou Caci learned at that Tony Robbins seminar to hitch his wagon to James Arthur Ray. In retrospect that might have been a mistake but hindsight's 20/20. (Unless you're Luis Li, but more on that later.)

Caci listed numerous James Ray seminars and it sounds like he's completed the Journey of Power sequence more than once. He did Spiritual Warrior, which is the culminating event, back in 2003, but it wasn't as hot. So, maybe he didn't gather enough power and needed to try an "hellacious hot" one. He knew from Ray's description that this sweat lodge would be much hotter but he felt safe. "I trust that [Ray] knows what he's doing," said Caci.

Caci is a "team player." He enjoyed the Samurai Game and didn't enjoy getting his head shaved but did it anyway.

Caci went into the vision quest tired because like so many others, he had not gotten much sleep.

Caci roomed with James Shore and remembers him doing some business related work while he was at Spiritual Warrior. I have to say that the emerging picture of James Shore is of someone who just wasn't down with the James Ray program. We already know that he didn't want to be there and would have canceled if he could have gotten his money back.

Caci started having trouble from the very first round. He was lightheaded and at some point he urinated, which he still feels uncomfortable about. I'm wondering now if he was the person who had asked Ray about bathroom breaks and whom Ray indicated should piss on the floor. It sounded like he found the experience somewhat degrading. Probably because it is degrading.

Caci is glad that it was only his arm that went into the rocks when he collapsed. He was delirious. He may have screamed but he's missing pieces of his memory. He has a vague recollection of Melinda Martin helping him. His arm was burned in three places.

Knowing what I know now I don't know why I went back in after I was injured.

He remembers Jennifer Haley telling him not to go back in. But he wanted to go back for the last round. Caci says he didn't want to be seen as a "failure" in Ray's eyes. He wanted to "play full on" so that he could achieve his goals in life.

Caci remembers helping moving Liz Neuman off of someone's legs. As he was re-entering the sweat lodge he heard someone (possibly Laura Tucker?) say, "Please get Liz off me." And he heard the distressed breathing.

A little dark comedy from the Salty Droid:

This morning Sheila Polk resumed direct examination of Lou Caci, picking up where they'd left off; after Caci had re-entered the sweat lodge. He doesn't think he should have gone back in and admits that he probably wasn't "thinking clearly."

After Caci came back in for the last round, he noticed a woman named Linda. She was unconscious and propped up against the tent wall with her head tilted to one side. (This was clearly the same Linda that Michael Olesen had raised concerns about but been told to ignore.) Linda was a heavy-set woman and completely unconscious so someone named Randy had to help Caci move her out after the sweat lodge had ended.  He's still not quite sure how they maneuvered her out of the tent.

Caci took in the scene and thought it looked like a battleground; like something out of a movie. He saw Stephen Ray with foam coming out of his mouth and his eyes bulging. He saw Sean Ronin delirious, crawling back and forth on the ground but doesn't know how he got out of the tent. He was busy getting poor Linda out.

Ray was gone. He'd left the tent immediately.

When he got to the hospital, they made two attempts to get an IV in. They had difficulty. They told him that his oxygen level was very low.

At some point Polk asked about where he first heard the idea that it could have been poisoning, but the defense's objection was sustained. But the question struck me. I think she may be laying the groundwork for an argument that the poisoning idea may have started with Ray's own staff and that it was they who put the idea in the paramedics' heads. We shall see.

One moment sticks with Lou Caci; a bittersweet memory of his roommate James Shore as they were walking across across the camp. "Man," he'd said, "I'm so glad I quit smoking, 'cause it was killing me."

Li and Caci Talk Sports

Li starts his cross examination with some friendly, male bonding. He and Li discovered their mutual interest in football when they met over the break.

Li: During your direct examination, you had some words with Ms. Polk about playing football.

Caci: Uh huh.

Li: Did you play for high school, or uh?

Caci: Yeah, high school and junior.

Li: Like, junior college or...

Caci: No. It was, it was junior. It wasn't university level. It was junior.

Li: Okay. Alright. So it was after high school but not at the university level.

Caci: Right.

Li: What position did you play?

Caci: Quarterback.

Li: You were the quarterback! Wow!

Caci: Yeah.

Li: In, um, high school I had the chance to play cornerback, uh, and it's pretty tough playin' football.

Caci: It is. It is.

And from there a casual discussion about windsprints turns a little more serious. Sometimes football players push themselves a little too hard don't they. Sometimes you end up lying on the ground, puking and gasping. Well... Caci doesn't remember ever puking but... it's pretty tough.

Caci played soccer, too. Yeah. He's something of a jock. He knows what it means to train hard.

Li: And you look like you're in, uh, pretty good shape, if I may say so.

Caci: Thank you. Gained uh, gained a few pounds last, over the last year but...

Li: These things happen. 

Caci: Yeah.

Li: Now um... You work out?

Caci: Yeah, I do.

Li: What kinda, what kinda stuff do you do?

Caci: I just do basics. I do treadmill and just, for about half an hour, forty minutes. And then I'll do a little bit of weights.

Li: So, you lift some weights?

Caci: Yeah. But I don't, uh, I don't go heavy. I'm just about maintaining; not about trying to build bulk.

Hey! Get a room you two!

Over five minutes this went on. But Li's point -- yes, it seems he has one -- is that Caci and Ray were buds and they worked out together on occasion. Ray even showed him a few pointers.

Ray's been helping Caci for years with the stellar advice in his many seminars... which he never shoves down anyone's throat.

Here it gets even more sickening than the jock talk, as the two of them have a friendly discussion on the "pillars" and about "impeccability" and "being courageous" and... squeezing all the drops out of life... or something... 'Cause, you know, Carlos Santana is still out there, playin' his guitar even though he's old.

Caci spent about ten grand to attend Spiritual Warrior.

Here, Li get's philosophical. Does anyone have the right to tell you how to spend your money? What to think? What to read? What courses to take? That you've been brainwashed?

Ta da! We've worked our way around to the first pillar of the defense strategy. He's an adult, successful, business owner, father of adopted children... "It's not a cult is it?"

No. It's not, says Caci. Except that cult is not really a negative word. "The Catholic church is a cult."

Okay, we've gone off script again. So, Li, reminds him that that's his definition.

The point is that these are all "decent folks" who are educated, successful, and go to their churches. There are teachers, engineers, entrepreneurs... Some of them are even doctors. Caci doesn't really know if there were doctors... but okay. The point is that these are normal people. They're normal!

Li: Now, Mr. Ray. He was at your wedding wasn't he?

Caci: Yes he was.

Li: He's not your guru, is he?"

Caci: [long pause] What do you mean?

Li: Yeah, okay. He's not is he? He's not a guru?

Caci: Well, he is good at what he, I mean, you... Mr. Li when someone teaches you certain things and becomes really good at what they do, then, yes, he is a guru. Well, that's what people refer to. It's just a terminology. It means just a good teacher.

Li: But you would never refer to him as a guru. You've never referred to him as your guru have you?

Caci: No. No I haven't.

Li: Let's do this. Let's not talk about it in the abstract.

Yeah. Let's not. This discussing philosophy thing? Mr. Li, you're over-matched.

Whenever Li takes on these subjects, he sounds like that kind of naive guy who has to ask his more adventurous friend a personal question to which he's hoping the answer is no. He's scared of getting the real answer because it might open up a whole lotta weird. And when he get's the answer he doesn't want, he keeps trying to convince himself that the answer was really no, and it's all just a horrible misunderstanding. It's actually a little hard to watch. It makes me cringe.

So, then we move to the third pillar of the defense strategy: poison.

Li asks Caci numerous questions he doesn't know the answer to about hospital tests he doesn't even know he was given. But, no, he doesn't do drugs. He doesn't even think he took pain meds. He doesn't believe in them. But that doesn't stop Li from trying every conceivable, time consuming way to ask. He even lists every drug for which Caci tested negative in the tox screen he doesn't know he had.

Conspicuous by its absence, in this discussion, is whatever he did test positive for. But, you know, it might have been poison. Could've been. Some doctors speculated about it.

And does Caci know who built the sweat lodge and what about the plastic tarp -- or, as Polk points out, the as yet to be properly identified "blue fabric." Nope. Caci has no idea.

Did the state tell Lou Caci that the people who died all died of heatstroke?

At this point, Caci totally loses his patience. "Did the state tell me they died of heatstroke?!... I'm sure that's private information so no, they did NOT tell me that!"

So, did he assume it was heatstroke? "Well, yeah! Because I was in there and it was hot!... It was hot."

So, yes, the sweat lodge. You know some people left? No.

It was so hot in there. The only thing you can focus on is yourself. So I don't know who left, who came in. And do I know how many people left? No. I don't know.

Watching Li question Caci made me a feel like an accidental voyeur. I know the underlying reason Li was so being so chatty was to try to win over a witness and it was more than a little manipulative. He didn't even beat him to death over the waivers. It's a better tactic than the aggression that's been coming from the defense against all the wrong people to piss off. But Li revealed a little too much of himself, here. He was more sycophant than fake friend; just a little over-awed by the athletic, alpha male.

That said, the defense made its case better here than with other witnesses. Of course it's not that hard to do, given that Caci is quite fond of the defendant and doesn't doubt for a moment that he's made his own choices all along.

But he still doesn't quite understand why he didn't help Liz Neuman. He'd help Mr. Kelly if he had a hypothetical heart attack. It's in his nature. But Li assures him that he couldn't really have known that Liz Neuman was in trouble. No one did. And unbeknown to Caci, Liz Neuman had said she was fine and didn't want to leave. Even so, Caci breaks down, baffled by the fact that no one did anything. Li explains that "20/20 is perfect hindsight" and that Caci didn't know.

But Caci did know. He makes it clear again under redirect that he's tormented because he knew what death sounded like and Liz Neuman sounded like death. No, he explains through tears, he doesn't think it was his responsibility but when asked whose responsibility it was, the defense's objection is sustained.

The jury had a few questions for Lou Caci. They wanted to know about the mysterious blue fabric, which Caci is still pretty unclear about.

They wanted to know if Caci saw Ray after the sweat lodge and what he had observed. "I saw him standing around." He didn't see him doing anything.

But mostly they wanted to know about the injury to his arm.

Lou Caci Shows His Scars to the Jury

Lou Caci has not been excused. He may be recalled at a later time.

All information on the trial comes from news articles with provided links or live courtroom footage on TruTV's "In Session" or CNN's live feed. All quotes and paraphrased statements that are not linked to a source document are my best attempt to transcribe material from live broadcasts.


  1. Not sure if my previous comment went through or not. If not, I'll re-comment. I just wanted to say I enjoy reading your recaps and commentary. I just found them a day ago, but have been reading your past entries. I've been watching the trial as much as possible. I plan on reading your blog as the trial goes on!

    I also commented about Luis Li and how I dislike him. He has an attitude. I even saw it when he was talking to the judge. It seemed unprofessional to me. He was worse than Jose Baez during the hearing recently (and he apologized for his behavior to the judge afterward). He seems annoyed, impatient, and like he could be doing better things than be stuck in court. I really dislike how he handles witnesses, IMO it's working against him. He's rubbed me the wrong way from the get-go. I don't get the same vibe from Truc Do or the other guy. If they're smart, they'll keep Mr. Li from questioning people too much.

    I happened to record the last footage with Lou Caci, I believe. I plan on watching it today!

  2. @L'abielle, Thanks for the feedback. On Li, wow, I thought his opening argument was lame and he hasn't impressed me yet. I'm still processing and will probably have more to say about how he comes off, particularly on motions. It occurred to me, after watching that spectacle yesterday that he's just emotionally stunted. But I don't like any of them. They're transparently manipulative. I know it's kind of their job, but still. I'll probably have more to say on this as I process how much they creep me out.

  3. Thanks for this excellent summary! I've been watching most of it, but today and yesterday I wasn't able to as much. You filled in some for me. I think that the reason the defense asked where he was injured and was he injured on the palm of his hand is that Bunn testified that she remembered that the palm of his hand was raw. So the defense will use this to discredit Bunn as witness. Just another weak, desperate tactic.

  4. @ hotmud, I couldn't remember if it was Bunn or Haley who thought that. I knew it was someone. Well, we all know how clear memory is when we're traumatized. 20/20 is perfect hindsight... or something like that


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