Jun 30, 2011

The Jury: James Ray Caused Emotional Harm

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

The jury deliberated for the better part of two days over charges of aggravating circumstances. This afternoon found them deadlocked on a number of issues and unwilling to deliberate further. The one thing they all agreed upon: James Ray caused emotional harm to the families of all three decedents. That is to say, guilty on three counts of the aggravating factor of emotional harm.

They also agreed that Ray held a unique position of trust in the case of Liz Neuman. So one count of unique position of trust. On the rest of the aggravators, the unique position of trust for Kirby Brown and James Shore, and pecuniary gain, they were hopelessly deadlocked.

Judge Darrow has set a sentencing date of July 25th, 2011. He declined a motion from prosecutor Sheila Polk that Ray be taken into custody immediately. 

A little reminder from Cosmic Connie: July 25th will be the second anniversary of Colleen Conaway's death in a San Diego mall; or as she was known on that day, Jane Doe. How darkly fitting. 

A very special thanks to April Santiago of Dateline and Rachel Stockman of NBC Channel 12 in Arizona, for tweeting the news live from the courtroom. And my heartfelt thanks also to the rest of my James Ray trial peeps for being an excellent grapevine of information, even during the near media blackout on this trial.

James Ray Sweat Lodge Trial: Aggravating Tom Kelly

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Right up to the bitter end, James Ray's defense team is sticking with that arrogance and condescension thing that has served them so well throughout this trial. As the jury went off to deliberate over aggravating circumstances Tom Kelly took them to task in his closing argument for reaching the wrong verdict.

"I have difficulty finding there was any criminal act," he said, "so that makes it difficult ... to stand up here and talk about aggravating circumstances."

He presented his client as the hapless victim and implied that the jurors would have to live with what their finding did to him for the rest of their lives. For good measure he sought to intimidate them with the press scrutiny they would face for their decisions, telling them that the media would "assault" them as they left the court.

I think this was a miscalculation. He's insulted jurors who still have some decision making power over Ray's fate and who have already decided that he has some culpability. A lack of contrition is unappealing in a convicted criminal and, for now, Tom Kelly is the only voice James Ray has in that courtroom. If he comes off as arrogant, unapologetic, and unconcerned about the loss of life, so does Ray. If he comes off as disrespecting the jury, so does Ray.

Jun 28, 2011

James Ray Sweat Lodge Trial: Aggravating CNN

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Despite their having the James Ray "aggravation stage" on their schedule all weekend and up to 12:16 EDT today, CNN did a runner. Turns out the gouge on Connie Joy's Facebook page -- that they'd pulled their equipment and skipped town last week -- was correct. CNN's own employees who even confirmed via email were wrong. But that sort of total incompetence is par for the course when it comes to CNN's coverage of this trial.

And Megan Fredrickson whose testimony we were hotly anticipating? In the wind. Both she and her husband Josh took a powder. They are nowhere to be found. Through their attorney, the State learned that she was refusing to cooperate. She and her husband are afraid of being indicted. I expect they'll be avoiding the state of Arizona indefinitely.

Throughout the early part of the day, there were legal arguments which kept the jury in a holding pattern outside the courtroom. In an unsurprising move, the defense made another motion for mistrial. I'm starting to think that shouting "mistrial" is just some strange verbal tic that Luis Li can't really control.

Motions had already been flying back and forth with the defense moving to strike four of five aggravating factors proposed by the State. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss two: presence of an accomplice and the heinous, cruel, and depraved nature of the crime. No doubt these things would have been hard to prove without Megan Fredrickson's testimony.

The list of witnesses offered by the State was winnowed down to three; all family members of the deceased. Andrea Puckett is Liz Neuman's daughter. Ginny Brown is Kirby Brown's mother. Alyssa Gillespie is James Shore's widow.

And then the testimony began.


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"Why Shamanism Now?" with Christina Pratt

Shamanism and Recovery

Shamanism offers several tiers for engagement for anyone committed to the process of their own recovery. Shamanism is first the working relationship with spirit. At its root, shamanism offers the skills for you to create your own relationship with your helping spirits. This opens a world of healing opportunities, both individual and social, in ordinary and non-ordinary reality that support the ebb and flow that is the nature of a recovery process. Shamanism is the shaman. The shaman as healer offers both a way to get at the aspects of self who remain out of reach and a way to clear and release invasive and provocative energies that often coalesce around the addict. Shamanism is also a way of living a spirit engaged life. Shamanism offers a way for the individual to repair his or her spiritual life on his or her own terms, based on personal experiences and practical teachings that have supported the cultivation of well-being for thousands of years. Join host and shaman, Christina Pratt, as she explores the multiple levels a person in recovery can access through shamanism to restore their relationship with everyday spirit help, mend their battered and abandoned relationship with their soul, and engage in a dynamic, ever-growing relationship with life and the courage to live it with an open heart.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 11:00 AM Pacific

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Jun 27, 2011

Horoscope for June 27 - July 3

Cross-posted from Aloha Astro

Aries (March 21st - April 20th)
Taking faith-based actions or following your personal values will be an important part of your week, Aries. Your sign believes in what it can personally see or do. Connecting to something bigger than yourself by going within and then trusting your feelings to guide you may be a different method for you than acting on logic and fact. The new moon and eclipse take place in your 4th house of home, family, and psychological foundations. When you operate from your heart and gut responses, interesting things may happen. You love a new beginning of any kind - I think you will really like the excitement and emotional stimulation this week.

Taurus (April 21st - May 20th)
Although the new moon and partial eclipse occur in your 3rd house of local travel, siblings, communication, and imagination, the week begins with the moon in your 1st house of self. Therefore, you may feel as though you have begun anew before the energy of the new moon even gets here! Jupiter and Pluto may make you feel larger than life, smarter, and more sure of things than you have ever been before. That's a very good thing because you will be juggling money, chores, communications, and either pursuing what you want aggressively or expanding your boundaries very, very fast. Only a Taurus completely full of him- or herself can have enough stamina for the week.

Gemini (May 21st - June 21st)
Your nervous system is a bit high-strung lately, Gemini, thanks to a heavily-aspected Mars in your sign. You may be doing much more on the physical level than you usually do, and this week will be just as active. You can tap into extra reserves of energy and an abundant, generous source of creative ideas that can help you work smarter - not harder - if you take a day at the beginning of the week to rest, dream, journal, meditate, and connect with nature. This will also help you weather the new moon and eclipse in your 2nd house of money and personal values. When you remove yourself from distractions, you can see what is important to you and find creative ways to meet your needs.

Astrological Trends for June 27 - July 3

Cross-posted from Aloha Astro

Emotional stability and mental certainty steer the day on Monday, June 27th. The moon in the fixed, steady earth sign of Taurus is sextile Mercury in the cardinal water sign of sensitive Cancer. Moon semi-sextile Venus in the mutable air sign of Gemini enhances your sense of well-being. Venus semi-sextile Mercury boosts your ability to hold a positive mindset. The sun in the cardinal water sign of Cancer leads you into a busy summer week with aspects to almost every planet today. The sun opposes Pluto in the cardinal earth sign of Capricorn, makes a trine to Chiron in the mutable water sign of Pisces, a square to Uranus in the cardinal fire sign of Aries, and a sextile to Jupiter in the fixed earth sign of Taurus. Pluto is intensifying everything through aspects to other planets, as well. Besides the opposition to the sun, Pluto also forms a square to Uranus in the cardinal fire sign of Aries, a quincunx to Mars in the mutable air sign of Gemini, a very beneficial trine to Jupiter in the fixed earth sign of Taurus, and a sextile to Chiron in Pisces. With so much activity between planets in different elements and qualities, I like to simplify and look at the sun and Pluto as the dominant factors. They are the planets most affected and the planets most likely to affect you. At times, you will tap into the trines and sextiles and things will flow easily, but when one of the squares, or the opposition, is active, you may experience challenges. The sun represents the sense of self and Pluto is essentially power. Situations this week will make you look to yourself and connect to your own inner power. That sounds wonderful - and ultimately it is - but it won't always be easy! The cardinal T-square between the sun in Cancer, Uranus in Aries, and Pluto in Capricorn that was in place last week continues to be in effect until this Thursday. You have adjusted to this energy, and the predominance of other aspects may diminish its effect, too, but be prepared for an element of friction wherever rules and order are challenged by a need for adjustment to change and progress.

"Feisty" is the word of the day on Tuesday, June 28th. The moon in the mutable air sign of Gemini joins Mars in Gemini and, together, they form a square to Neptune and Chiron, loosely conjunct in Pisces. You may want to be perverse or difficult in an ornery way just to disturb the boring or complacent. Act out or vent your feelings now. Don't censor the silly or absurd - that's the stuff future anecdotes are made of. The moon also forms a supportive sextile to Uranus in the cardinal fire sign of Aries, increasing hyperactivity and restless emotions. At lunchtime, the moon and Mars, conjunct in Gemini, form a quincunx to Pluto in Capricorn. Present new ideas logically and calmly if you wish them to be accepted. If you attempt to do anything without getting all your ducks in a row and anticipating the "what-ifs," you are liable to be shot down or be sent back to the drawing board before you can proceed further. That moon/Mars conjunction is very impetuous and emotionally child-like. As the conjunction interacts with Pluto in Capricorn, it will poke a stick at the patriarchal, strict energy of Capricorn, which can be easily irritated by youthful zeal, so easy does it! At dinnertime, the moon and Mars in Gemini form a favorable trine to Saturn in Libra. This active aspect supports couples doing things together socially. With the sun in Cancer sextile to Jupiter in Taurus, a picnic or barbeque with family and friends is a perfect way to enjoy a summer evening.

Jun 24, 2011

James Ray: Aggravating Circumstances, Mitigating JETs -- UPDATED

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.


Next week the James Ray trial will enter the aggravation phase. I doubt highly that CNN will stream it which is unfortunate. It could prove to be some of the most explosive testimony yet. Why do I say that? Two words: Megan Fredrickson. I was a little thrown when I saw her name on the list. I thought, either she's done quite an about-face or her testimony is being compelled. I'm inclined towards the latter possibility.

As per Lynn LaMaster of eNewAZ, the aggravation phase is a necessary step in determining sentencing. She has been updating this page as new information has come in on the verdict and post-verdict phase.

According to A.R.S. § 13-701 (C), "The minimum or maximum term imposed... may be imposed only if one or more of the circumstances alleged to be in aggravation of the crime are found to be true by the trier of fact beyond a reasonable doubt or are admitted by the defendant..."

The 'trier of fact' in this case is the jury.

Many circumstances are listed in A.R.S. § 13-701, but Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, in a motion filed with the court on February 16, alleges four aggravating circumstances:

1. The presence of an accomplice (A.R.S. § 13-701 (D)( 4)).
2. The especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner in which the offense was committed (A.R.S. § 13-701(D)(5)).
3. Defendant committed the offense as consideration for the receipt, or in the expectation of the receipt, of anything of pecuniary value (A.R.S. § 13-701(D)(6)).
4. The victim or, if the victim has died as a result of the conduct of Defendant, the victim's immediate family suffered physical, emotional or financial harm (A.R.S. § 13- 701 (D)(9)).

If the jury finds the aggravating circumstances are true, James Ray could be sentenced to 3.75 years in prison for each count. If the jury does not find any of the above aggravating circumstances to be true, Ray could receive a sentence that only includes probation.

Jun 23, 2011

James Arthur Ray: Guilty Verdicts and Responsibility

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Bob Proctor, he of Secret fame, is putting his mouth front and center in the wake of James Ray's guilty verdict.

"Anybody had the right to leave there (the sweat lodge), and they didn't. Some did," Proctor said. "It was a tragic thing that happened, but I don't think (Ray) should be the one that's held responsible.

Earlier, when he was interviewed on In Session, Proctor allowed that Ray had law of attracted this for some reason. I guess the most generous reading of Proctor's logic is to say that Ray was spiritually responsible but not materially or legally responsible. He attracted this debacle, maybe because he let himself think some unhappy thoughts. Why, oh why, didn't he put on some happy music and chase the negativity from his mind?

In a 2007 interview with Dan Harris James Ray articulated his views on the issue of personal responsibility. He even put the statement on his website.

In an interview, Ray answered about personal responsibility, “I fully know, for me, that there is no blame. Every single thing is your responsibility … and nothing is your fault. Because every single thing that comes to you is gift … a lesson.”

Jun 22, 2011

James Ray Found Guilty in Sweat Lodge Deaths

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

James Arthur Ray was found guilty on all three counts at the lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide.

Self-help guru James Arthur Ray was found guilty of negligent homicide Wednesday, nearly two years after three people died in a sweltering sweat lodge for one of his exercises.

The Camp Verde, Ariz., jury, which deliberated for barely a day, chose not to convict Ray of the more serious charge of manslaughter, as the prosecution had urged.

He will remain free on bond at least until the jury addresses "aggravating circumstances" next week. It almost goes without saying that Judge Darrow rejected the most recent mistrial motion, which the defense filed earlier today.

I'm still digesting this. I'm sure I will have much more to say at a later date. For now, I'm just savoring the sweet taste of justice.

Jun 21, 2011

James Ray Trial: In the Hands of the Jury

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Sheila Polk Delivers Rebuttal

As expected, Sheila Polk's final rebuttal was brilliant. Despite the nearly four hours she had available to her, she took only a couple... and managed to cover more ground than Luis Li did in over six. This is because Polk is a good public speaker, where Li -- and I say this as a former competitive public speaker -- is terrible.

I have much to say about Polk's close but I find that even after two blog posts on the subject, Li's closing argument is still stuck in my craw. I'm actually a little amazed at how much it irritated me. And not just because it was six hours of my life I'll never get back. Upon consideration, I realize that it comes down this: Narcissists really push my buttons. That was one of the most self-indulgent speeches I've ever heard, and I'm including speeches that are intended to be autobiographical.

The Salty Droid put together a great, little video of some of the lowlights. It really underscores the hypocrisy of Li's refrain, "But this isn't about me." Of course it was all about Li and I'm realizing that that has been an observable pattern throughout this trial.


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"Why Shamanism Now?" with Christina Pratt

The Power of Joy

In a culture that can barely sort out the distinction between wants, needs, desires, addictions and obsessions, the power of Joy remains strong, but largely untouched. Joy touches us when we are accountable to our true selves, even our darkest most challenging selves. Joy touches us at the core of our well-being. "Not that we need to be well to experience joy. Serious illness, a sudden turn of fate that exposes us, or the clean cut of truth can bring us to joy," explains host and shaman, Christina Pratt. "We must be willing to be accountable to our true self, no matter what we find there." To cultivate a long-term relationship with joy we must reforge that original relationship with our soul's purpose. We must shape our character, our appetites, and our longings with the wisdom of each of the four bodies: the physical, the heart, the mind, and the spirit. In doing this we accept the energetic reality of our world: We are energy beings first. We live in the Tao. If we want joy-and not the cheap or the expensive imitations-we must choose to live in a way that tends the essence of joy. We must cultivate our energy, the expressions of our soul's purpose, and the accountability to self in all of its many manifestations. When we live in this way our joy travels in our thoughts, words and actions, cultivating heart and inspiring joy in others.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 11:00 AM Pacific

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Jun 20, 2011

James Ray Trial: As the Ending Nears the End

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

When the facts are on your side, argue the facts.
When the law is on your side, argue the law.
And when you have neither, pound the lectern.
And be sure the mic makes a really grating,
cringe-inducing noise when you do.

One of my favorite episodes of Frasier parodied the horrendously purple prose of the bestselling novel Bridges of Madison County. In "Slow Tango in South Seattle" Frasier discovers a chapter of his life has been stolen by a writer in whom he'd once confided over drinks at Cheers. Towards the end of the episode, we see Frasier sitting in his recliner reading the conclusion of the book. "Now, he was leaving, going, vanishing..." Unwilling to read the entire, florid passage, he skips ahead... three full page turns. He continues reading, "And so he was gone." That scene popped into my head on Friday as it slowly and horribly dawned on me that Luis Li might not stop talking for hours and that closing arguments would probably go into a fourth day. This has been a long trial. The ending has been endless.

That closing argument was, in a sense, a fitting conclusion to the defense's case. As they have done throughout, Li buried the jury in a torrent of words. The argument was repetitive, circular, extraneous, tangential, internally contradictory, and delivered with a tone of juvenile petulance. Dear God, that was insufferable. It took me the better part of the weekend to unscramble my thought process. As has so often been the case with both Li and Do's cross-examinations, I was left with a monster headache the next day.

I've realized that this is part and parcel of the siege mentality with which the defense has approached this trial. They have pelted the State's case with rubble for months in an attempt to wear down the prosecutors, the witnesses, the jury... even the judge. That trial by onslaught approach became glaringly apparent to me when I was watching Truc Do's eternal cross-examination of Dr. Dickson. The problem, though, was that she exposed her flank. In the end, she showed the gaping holes in her own argument because she talked too much for too long. The savvy, knowledgeable Dickson debated her points quite ably.

Horoscope for June 20-26

Cross-posted from Aloha Astro

Aries (March 21st - April 20th)
Some of the biggest advancements in your career and earning potential are possible this week, Aries. A change in your location may result or a change in your perception of yourself, the image you project, or the foundational beliefs you live by. An extremely potent power and big money aspect occurs between your 2nd house of money and your 10th house of career and recognition. It will be with you for approximately one month. If you have been waiting for the right time to change, launch something new, or push harder for something, now is the time. You also have a guardian angel whispering in your ear now - take time to quietly listen.

Taurus (April 21st - May 20th)
The more you like yourself and appreciate your own special talents, the more attention, friends, and opportunities come your way, Taurus. The Universe may test your capacity for self-love by sending you some detractors or people who are jealous of your success or feel inadequate when they stand in your light. You have the wisdom to see what motivates people - especially when they show their shadow side - and you have the compassion to reach out to them or forgive them. Living a juicy, joyful, abundant, and creative life is the best thing you can do for yourself and for others. When you are more and have more, you share more and you demonstrate right living by example.

Gemini (May 21st - June 21st)
You don't just want a job or your own business now, Gemini; you want to have an empire. Like Queen Elizabeth I or Darth Vader, you are plotting, planning, and investing in gobbling up more land and staking territorial claims. If you are in a business that needs a roof or stock, you will be looking for ways to expand one or both. If you are in business online or in the communication field, more web space, content, or cooperative marketing could be your plan. Communication is key. You may suddenly get a reputation for one unusual talent, product, or superiority of service.

Astrological Trends for June 20-26

Cross-posted from Aloha Astro

A day of mental and emotional ups and downs is possible on Monday, June 20th. On a high note, the moon in the later degrees of the fixed air sign of intellectual Aquarius joins Neptune in the mutable water sign of Pisces this morning, where it makes a happy trine to the sun in the mutable air sign of Gemini. Imagination and inventive genius combine to bring tangible results. On a low note, the moon conjunct Neptune in Pisces squares Mars in the fixed earth sign of stubborn Taurus. This square aspect is emotionally challenging because it deepens jealousies, attachments, and the tendency to believe in the negative rather than the positive. Mercury, the planet of communication and transportation, in the cardinal water sign of Cancer is trine the moon conjunct Neptune in Pisces, enhancing intuition and encouraging romantic or nostalgic thoughts. This happy, watery aspect can make a trip to the beach pleasurable. Being near water or looking at soothing pictures of water can actually help you keep your emotions under control today. Mercury may make people peevish or manipulative today because it is challenged by an opposition to potent Pluto in reserved Capricorn as well as a square to stern Saturn in the relationship-minded cardinal air sign of Libra. In general, people have a vested interest in having things go their way and may use guilt or withdrawal of attention in order to protect their own interests. Pluto in Capricorn is still being annoyed by a square from Uranus in Aries - the young, wet-behind-the-ears upstart prodding the old patriarch, energetically. News in the world will continue to be shocking and the established order will continue to heave and break apart. But Pluto, the planet of transformation, is also making a sextile to Neptune conjunct Chiron in Pisces, indicating there is healing potential and increased spirituality amidst the present upheavals, both in your personal life and in society. You are still under the grace and protection of Jupiter in Taurus sextile Neptune in Pisces, so stay positive and thankful for what you already have and you will continue to receive more. Around dinnertime, the moon leaves detached Aquarius and enters the sensitive mutable water sign of Pisces, where it joins Neptune and Chiron and deepens the emotional effect of the square between the Pisces planets and Mars, the warrior planet, in stubborn Taurus. Feeling put-upon, attacked, or being belligerent can lead to tears, but if you examine the root fear that lurks behind negative emotions, you may have a cathartic emotional release. Keep your focus on the kindness of the sun in Gemini trine Neptune in Pisces. It is like a sea breeze that helps you sail quickly through the choppy waters of today's difficult mental or emotional challenges. Be kind to others and be kind to yourself.

Jun 17, 2011

James Ray Trial: Endless Closings

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Luis Li Nears End of Closing Argument

Well. That was horrible.

That was not a closing argument. That was a Li endurance challenge. And it definitely put me in some sort of altered state. At some points, I found myself rocking in my chair and telling myself, he'll be done soon, he'll be done soon, he'll be done soon...

And then I'd hear him say, "And we're STILL not done." That was Luis Li's darkly fitting catchphrase for his closing argument. "And we're STILL not done." And he said it over, and over, and over… and over.

Everything good I said yesterday about a new, improved, less boring Luis Li? I take it back. I take it all back.

That. Was. Horrible.

Jun 16, 2011

James Ray Trial: Closing Arguments Continue

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Luis Li Makes Closing Argument for the Defense

When Mr. Li announced early today that he'd probably need five hours, rather than four, I thought, dear God, there just isn't enough coffee in the world to get me through that. Turns out I didn't need a single cup. Luis Li was producing enough adrenalin today for ten people. Twenty minutes in I wished someone had switched him to decaf. He was in rare form. This was not the dull, phoning it in Luis Li we saw in the opening argument. Nor was it the meandering, tangential, philosophical Li. This Luis Li was a fire-breathing defender of the US Constitution.

Li took the podium in a swirl of angry intensity and immediately unleashed a tirade.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I gotta tell ya. As I sat through this trial; as I sat through yesterday's argument; and as I sat through today's argument, I got pretty fired up. As the State repeatedly accused us, Mr. Kelly, myself, Ms. Do, of uh, misleading you, of feeding you baloney, of misrepresenting the facts during the trial, I had a reaction. And I wrote a lot of it down; page after page. Ms. Polk said that I misrepresented the record. Well that's not actually what happened. I wrote down what I thought. I got pages of this stuff.

But you know what I realized? And you know what I know. Is it's not about me. It's not about me. It's not about Mr. Kelly. It's not about Ms. Do. It's not about what Ms. Polk thinks; she thinks the evidence shows. It's not about whether she thinks we're misrepresenting something, we're feeding you baloney. This is about you; each and every one of you. Beginning of this case, you'll probably remember this, I told you that our Constitution and our system is a promise that our founders made to all of us and that promise was that this would be a nation of laws and that those laws would do what? They would limit the government.

Jun 15, 2011

James Ray Trial: Closing Arguments Begin

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

James Ray Listens to Himself

If James Arthur Ray is convicted for causing the deaths of James Shore, Kirby Brown, and Liz Neuman, it won't be because the prosecutors built a devastating cases against him. It won't be because his own lawyers put on a weak, circuitous, and really irritating defense. Those things are certainly factors. But, no. If James Arthur Ray goes to prison, it will be his own words that put him there.

The strongest part of Sheila Polk's closing argument, this afternoon, was when she played recordings of Ray's speech to participants before they entered the sweat lodge. She set it up brilliantly, pointing out that as investigators and first responders were scrambling to figure out what could have caused the mass injuries and deaths after the sweat lodge, they couldn't have imagined the reason. Of course they considered a variety of toxins; even, in the case of the nameless, faceless EMT recorded as background noise, organophosphates. It didn't occur to them that a sweat lodge would have been so hot as to cause such devastation. They were missing one key piece of evidence that would have explained it: James Ray's own description of what participants could expect during the ceremony.

I know I listened to major chunks of this speech during the opening arguments but I hadn't realized until today how clearly Ray had articulated key elements of the State's case. Polk was unable to play all of the sections she intended to play today and will play the rest tomorrow. But what she played should give the jury plenty to contemplate overnight.

In his opening, pre-lodge remarks, Ray told participants he was in charge and that no one was to speak unless they were spoken to.

James Ray Sweat Lodge Trial: The Final Stretch

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

The closing arguments may start as early as today and, if their published schedule is to be believed, CNN will be streaming it. So it looks like they've reversed their earlier decision not to cover closing arguments. Judge Darrow also consented to a second camera last Friday. I note in the minute entry his ruling was cc'd to counsel for KPNX Broadcasting, Tru TV, and In Session, and counsel for KTVK-TV. I'm guessing that the Phoenix channel KTVK is the new to the party? So we've gone from next to nothing to pretty decent media coverage.

Meanwhile, a lot of the fine points of the closing arguments and the jury instruction still seem to be in dispute. They were not resolved as of yesterday and trial watchers have been missing some brisk arguments. Court documents provide some insight into the minutia. The defense has proposed some rather lengthy jury instructions and followed with an amendment. They have also requested that Judge Darrow restrict prosecutors from creating reversible error, which is kind of nice actually. They've  outlined their thinking on grounds for appeal and told the State what landmines to avoid. Handy.

As I said before, the defense has been arguing that the State has been withholding evidence by not anticipating the defense's theory two years ago and saving and testing any and everything conceivable... and inconceivable, even. This contention graduated from the bloviating rhetoric stage to a request from the defense for a Willits instruction, which they reference in their proposed jury instructions. (I don't find a specific motion on the server.) The State wrote a response to that request. It makes for good reading. It also clarifies fully they did not destroy or make unavailable any of the evidence obtained; quite the contrary. It also goes a long way to debunking the defense's poisoning theory.

Based on the findings of the medical examiners, the State had no reason to believe the victims' blood needed to be tested for any toxins. Nor, apparently, did the doctors who treated the victims and the other participants who suffered injuries from Defendant's extreme heat event. While it is true that toxins were initially suspected when medical providers became aware of the mass casualty event, according to the participants medical records not a single participant was ever tested for any toxin other than carbon monoxide. 1 which was quickly eliminated as a possibility. Even the statement heard the evening in the dining hall was very tentative as to the cause of the injuries: "We're not exactly sure why, could have some carbon monoxide with maybe some organo-phosphates maybe that were mixed in somehow."

Jun 14, 2011

Does James Ray Disprove the Law of Attraction?

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Meryl Davids Landau asks if the James Ray sweat lodge trial means there is no law of attraction. In an article that is really a study in cognitive dissonance, Landau extols the virtues of the law of attraction philosophy and how it's worked in her own life. She concludes:

Ultimately, then, the James Ray trial doesn't say anything about the truth of the law of attraction. It only says something about Ray: That if he does sincerely believe in the power of this universal principle, he somehow didn't put it into practice as well as he might have.

But if the law of attraction is a universal principle as basic as gravity, everything that occurs should say something about the truth of it. We don't put universal principles into practice and we don't have to believe in them. If we fail to practice the law of gravity well, we don't go floating off into space.

One can certainly understand Landau's desire for a kinder, gentler law of attraction; one where our great results are testament but our disasters don't prove anything at all. She's surely a more compassionate person than her philosophical forebear Napoleon Hill who wrote in his famous tome Think and Grow Rich, "SUCCESS REQUIRES NO APOLOGIES, FAILURE PERMITS NO ALIBIS." (That's an exact quote, complete with the obnoxious, all caps format and bad grammar. I take no responsibility for either.)


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"Why Shamanism Now?" with Christina Pratt

Pour Your Heart Out in Prayer - The Spirits as Teachers

"The spirits want you to be a human being, in right relationship with all persons, both human and other-then-human," explains our guest, Stephan Beyer, professor, peacemaker, and author of Singing to the Plants: A Guide to Mestizo Shamanism in the Upper Amazon. "Whether ayahuasca lends solidity to imagination, or opens the door to the spirit realms, or transports the user to distant dimensions, it is still the quality of our meeting that matters, what we are willing to learn, whether we are willing to be taught by what we encounter, whether we will take our chances in the epistemic murk of a transformed world." Join host Christina Pratt and Stephan Beyer as they explore the reciprocal obligation inherent in a working relationship with spirit. There are things the spirits want from us and their messages are made clear by our willingness to deliver our honesty and heart. The spirits are not simply another resource in this exquisite world to be used, consumed, or squandered. They are not here to do our bidding, but to teach us who we are, why we are here, and what it means to be truly and fully human. The art of shamanism is the art of relationship with all things, physical and non-physical and the helping spirits are the Masters.

This week's guest:
Stephan Beyer

Professor and author, Stephan Beyer, brings us a beautiful guide to mestizo shamanism in the Upper Amazon and the use of the sacred, plant medicine ayahuasca in his new book Singing to the Plants. Stephan holds doctorates in both religious studies and psychology, was a lawyer and a litigator as well as a wilderness guide, peacemaker, community builder. He has worked with ayahuasca and other sacred plants in the Amazon, peyote in ceremonies of the Native American Church, and huachuma in Peruvian mesa rituals; undertaken numerous four-day and four-night solo vision fasts in Death Valley, the Pecos Wilderness, and the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico; and lived in a Tibetan monastery. From these experiences have come books on Buddhism, Tibetan language and religion, and now, mestizo shamanism.

Stephan has long had an interest in wilderness survival in a variety of terrains, especially jungle survival. He explains that "as I learned more and more about the ways in which indigenous people survive - indeed, flourish - in the wilderness, it became increasingly clear to me that wilderness survival included a significant spiritual component - the maintenance of right relationships both with human persons and with the other-than-human persons who fill the indigenous world. Thus I began to explore wilderness spirituality, to learn ways to live in harmony with the natural world, striving, like indigenous people, to be in right relationship with the plant and animal spirits of the wilderness." In addition to studying how indigenous peoples of North and South America survive and thrive, Stephen studies sacred plant medicine with traditional herbalists in North America and curanderos in the Upper Amazon, where Stephan has received coronaciĆ³n by banco ayahuasquero don Roberto Acho Jurama.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 11:00 AM Pacific

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Jun 13, 2011

Horoscope for June 13-19

Cross-posted from Aloha Astro

Aries (March 21st - April 20th)
A change of mind may bring a change of location or belief system, Aries. Your career and standing in the outer world is still vitally important to you, but personal values and a sense of purpose may cause you to restructure your mission statement or look for ways to add more meaning to your life and work. Some Rams may leave a family home or neighborhood - or return to one they have left in the past - to take things to another level or heal the past. You may be interested in your family history or have a need to establish your own legacy. The full moon and eclipse in the far-reaching 9th house will give you an existential view of life and make you really look at the "Why?" of things. Changing your environment through a move or a trip can change more than you may imagine.

Taurus (April 21st - May 20th)
The things you do best are those you do with others or that benefit others. You are a purpose-driven earth sign and you love to share. This week, the full moon and eclipse in your 8th house of sex, business partnerships, investments, inheritance, death, and metaphysics makes you acutely aware of your connection to other people. Now you are able to perceive energy and intent and feel what - and who - is good for you or not. Your finances and income will benefit from a renewed commitment to do more, be more, and have more. Putting your plans in writing for a five-year timespan can help you realize your dreams and avoid disappointment.

Gemini (May 21st - June 21st)
Working relationships or deciding to do the work of relating is what the full moon and eclipse in your 7th house of partnership and marriage turns your attention toward. Some Geminis who have been burned in the past or are afraid of commitment may finally decide to let their heart, rather than their mind, decide for them. Your career or purpose in life has made you express more of who you really are in the past few weeks. The work that you love is one area of life where you are not willing to make any concessions in order to fit someone into your life. A good way to know if you are going to be happy with someone for the long haul is to see if they have respect for what you do and support you in your work, even if they may not share the same passion. You have the green light to proceed if they do.

Astrological Trends for June 13-19

Cross-posted from Aloha Astro

A perplexing start to the week begins on Monday, June 13th, as the moon in the fixed water sign of mysterious Scorpio is opposing Mars in the fixed earth sign of willful Taurus. The moon is also forming an unstable quincunx to the sun conjunct Mercury in the mutable air sign of Gemini. With a full moon in the truth-seeking sign of Sagittarius approaching on Wednesday, I think Monday's lunar aspects are showing you what you must dig into or remove in order to see the truth clearly. If there is an area of your life that feels blocked or is giving you frustration, persist in seeking more information or communicating until your curiosity is satisfied or you achieve the end result you expect. As the full moon energy builds, it is time to push and bring things to a head or a completion. Venus, the planet of pleasure and affection, in flirty Gemini is still quincunx to potent Pluto in reserved Capricorn. This quincunx aspect can have dual and disconcerting effects. People who are austere and uptight by nature will lose some of their starch and may become spontaneous and carefree. People who are just in it for fun will have to assume responsibility for any thoughtless or frivolous behavior. How you experience this aspect depends a great deal on where the planets involved are transiting in your own birth chart. Venus is also square to Chiron and Neptune in Pisces, but this aspect finally loses its grip on Wednesday. As it fades, your heart will feel lighter and any confusion or unrealistic expectations in relationship will lift. A supportive sextile between friendly Venus in Gemini and Uranus in "me-first" Aries can help create healthy space and independence within your relationships. All relationships benefit from sharing ideas, exploring new places, and adding an element of adventure or competition. Two other aspect patterns carry over from last week. The blessings and grace of expansive Jupiter in material Taurus sextile fruitful Neptune in spiritual Pisces will continue to add optimism and ease to your life. If you have been manifesting things just when you need them or noticing how things just seem to work out, you are experiencing the gift of Jupiter sextile Neptune. The square between Uranus in the cardinal fire sign of Aries and Pluto in the cardinal earth sign of Capricorn will continue to cause friction between old and new in your personal life. Uranus/Pluto may also continue to bring us shocking news, unveiling of political corruption, and disturbed weather patterns. Later this evening, the moon leaves the sign of Scorpio and enters the mutable fire sign of Sagittarius. A quincunx forms between the happy-go-lucky moon and expansive Jupiter in the earth sign of Taurus. The moon also forms a problematic square to Neptune in the mutable water sign of Pisces. It will be all too easy to get caught up in the pleasures of earthly delights. The effect of alcohol or other mind-altering substances is enhanced under these energies and you may find your tolerance to be low. Please don't drink and drive. Use the laid-back, indulgent energy of the evening to appreciate pleasure at home.

Jun 11, 2011

James Ray Sweat Lodge Trial Roundup June 11

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

So, as stated, the defense suddenly and unexpectedly wrapped up their case Thursday after having called only two witnesses. But it would appear that they will be aggressively pursuing to the bitter end their real defense strategy, which is to say, getting this case thrown out before it can go to the jury. Even at this late date, they are apparently screaming about Brady violations and mistrial motions.

Yes, CNN's dogged coverage of weather maps and the empty blackness of the void deprived James Ray trial watchers of two days of courtroom drama.

Then again, maybe I should thank them for sparing us another Luis Li law lecture.

"This is the first time that the defense has been notified... of any duty personally owed by Mr. Ray," Li said. "The rules are that the defendant must know the substance of the charges against him."

Li made an oral motion for mistrial, based on a state-proposed jury instruction that stated that duty as fact. Darrow immediately denied the motion, but the argument about Ray's alleged duties, acts and omissions continued.

Jun 9, 2011

Defense Rests in James Ray Sweat Lodge Trial

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Rumors of a surprise witness today in the James Ray trial were greatly exaggerated. The surprise was... wait for it... no more witnesses!


The defense has effectively, if not officially, rested its case after calling only two witnesses. They informed the court that they are done but Judge Darrow will not let them close their case in front of the jury until next week. In the meanwhile, there will be more legal wrangling over what exhibits will be admitted into evidence.

I'm just reading the tea leaves here because of CNN's abandonment of this trial. I'm going by a handful of tweets from April Santiago and a smattering of other news coverage. But it looks like the defense had indeed intended to call a surprise witness, as they were going to call their next witness after their return from a break. But after the break, and without the jury present, they announced that they had no more witnesses to call.

Jun 8, 2011

CNN Shows Up Late to James Ray Sweat Lodge Trial

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

CNN Schedule Showing James Ray Trial

Promises, promises... So 12:15 came and went and CNN continued it's cutting edge news offerings of empty feeds and weather maps. Eventually, they revised their schedule listing a 5:00 PM arrival. Meanwhile, back in Camp Verde, Dr. Ian Paul took the stand where he was questioned by that precocious tween Truc Do. Oh, how I wish I could have heard the esteemed forensic pathologist explain how the none of the patients had heatstroke.

Thanks to some occasional tweets from April Santiago, we know that Dr. Paul found the symptoms consistent with organophosphate poisoning. He did not find that there was evidence of severe dehydration or that high body temperature of 105° F. Dr. Paul did not think the medical records support a finding of heatstroke or that organophosphate testing was done in a timely fashion.

So, thanks to April Santiago, we know that the defense's paid medical expert is testifying to the key elements of their case. But I have been waiting for weeks to hear how strongly he endorses the organophosphate theory that isn't in his official report and that, according to Truc Do, he has only said he couldn't "rule out." I was really looking forward to Do's examination of the heavily credentialed Dr. Paul and thrilled to learn that he was testifying on this one final day of CNNLive's streaming of the trial. Oh well... I guess CNN had far more important news to cover.

Or not.

Jun 7, 2011

James Arthur Ray Sweat Lodge Trial to Continue

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Judge Darrow Rules on Defense Motion

With a hundred pages of briefing and about an hour and half of argument, it would be very difficult for this court just to start in and go through a number of factors that would go into my decision on a Rule 20. Rule 20 rulings in my experience are often conclusory and that may not be, uh, satisfactory or satisfying to the parties but this ruling is going to be necessarily conclusory as well.

The first point has to do with whether or not there's a legal duty. That's a question for the court. That's not a question of whether there's substantial evidence as an element. It's a question for the court. And I conclude that the, uh, defendant Mr. Ray owed a legal duty to the decedents. That question maybe first was, uh, addressed in the admissibility of evidence about amounts paid for the event. And I'm aware of the distinction between Mr. Ray personally and JRI. The defense has argued that throughout the case. So in making this conclusion and stating this conclusion, I am aware of the distinction between entities; between a person and the corporate or business structure. But there is an element of a contractual basis for the duty and that's what's been noted. There may be others.

The State has presented substantial evidence as to voluntary acts as well as omissions and I'll state right now and Mr. Li, you've raised this. There may be real questions regarding duplicity. And, and, that's I think a separate issue. I find that it is a separate issue. [inaudible]

Ruling on the Rule 20: With regard to mens rea I conclude there is substantial evidence of the mental state of recklessness. With regard to causation I conclude there is substantial evidence going to both cause and fact or but for causation as well as proximate cause. I'll note, uh, Dr. Dickson's testimony with regard to causation.

With regard to the First Amendment I note in a prior ruling I did mention that; the importance of the context of legal duty. And I conclude that there has not been a violation of First Amendment principles in presentation of evidence. And I also conclude in this Rule 20 context that there has not been a due process violation.

In summary, it's ordered denying the motion pursuant to Rule 20.

With those words Judge Darrow dispensed with the latest attempt by Ray's defense team to abrogate this trial.

Oprah, James Ray, and the Cult of Victim Blame

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

A link to this bit of sheer insanity was posted on Connie Joy's Facebook page the other day. Someone called patharding riffed on Oprah's commentary from her sign-off as follows:

Posted on May 27, 2011 5:40 PM

I'm curious what you people think of this:

“Time and again the theme that kept showing itself in our early
years on the show was PEOPLE MAKING BAD CHOICES…and then blaming
everybody but themselves for the state of their lives…”

“Nobody but YOU is responsible for YOUR LIFE! It doesn’t matter what
your momma did. It doesn’t matter what your daddy didn’t do. YOU are
responsible for YOUR LIFE!…”

“…you are responsible for the energy that you create for yourself
and you are responsible for the energy that you bring to others.”

–Oprah Winfrey (from her final show)


Around the Web, Around the World

"Why Shamanism Now?" with Christina Pratt

Energy Velcro and the Hollow Bone

The shamanic altered state of consciousness and being a "hollow bone" are not necessarily the same thing. All over the Internet contemporary practitioners are claiming that the altered state they enter to work with Spirit is, by definition, being a "hollow bone." Becoming the Hollow Bone is an ancient practice in Zen Buddhism, shamanism, and many native peoples of North America. It takes years of dedicated and disciplined practice to create this inner state of consciousness and freedom. In contrast, entering a shamanic trance state, or journeying, is relatively simple to learn, usually allows immediate and useful access to one's helping spirits, and is basically every human being's birthright now. In our efforts to explain to a contemporary world what shamanism is and how it can help with pretty much all that ails us, let's not get carried way. To become the Hollow Bone is to dedicate oneself to the tireless discipline of clearing your inner energy Velcro. This requires first noticing that you have been hooked by something in life. Then looking within at what Velcro loop within you has just been snagged. Then to move deeper within, for the process has only just begun. Join host and shaman, Christina Pratt, as she explores the deeper truth of becoming the Hollow Bone and the freedom that arises from this ancient and worthy discipline.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 11:00 AM Pacific

Log on to Listen
Why Shamanism Now? on Co-Creator Network
Questions? Comments? Call: 1-512-772-1938

All episodes are now available in the iTunes Podcast Library.

Jun 6, 2011

Horoscope for June 6-12

Cross-posted from Aloha Astro

Aries (March 21st - April 20th)
You are willing to put your money where your mouth is this week, Aries, or use your powers of speech and persuasion to make more money. Creative ideas are your forte now, but you are action-oriented at the same time that you are thinking and expressing opinions or directing people to do things in new ways. A romantic relationship may demand attention and communication this week, or you decide it is time to make a concerted effort to meet a potential partner by being more social or letting your friends match-make for you.

Taurus (April 21st - May 20th)
The things that mean the most to you are highlighted this week, Taurus. Without the support and love of family, pets, friends, or a partner, you would feel life has no meaning. You can do almost any work happily when you feel there is a purpose behind it, such as a family who depends on you. The planets indicate an alignment with both purpose and abundance now. An upbeat, positive attitude and a sense of rightness surrounding your decisions and actions makes everything flow easily. There is a slim chance someone may be jealous about your good fortune. Take those "sour grapes" with the proverbial "grain of salt."

Astrological Trends for June 6-12

Cross-posted from Aloha Astro

Creative cooperation sets the tone the morning of Monday, June 6th, as the moon in the fixed fire sign of playful Leo makes a supportive sextile to the sun in the mutable air sign of imaginative Gemini and another sextile to constructive Saturn in the relationship-minded cardinal air sign of Libra. Wear a t-shirt that says, "Plays well with others," and a big smile and see what happens! A favorable trine between the curious, quick-witted Gemini Mercury and Saturn in Libra makes it easy to imagine, communicate, and write. Today, the quincunx between Mercury in Gemini and Pluto in restrained Capricorn fades away. If you have been feeling like a child with a parent looking over your shoulder for the past week, this will lift now. The square between Mercury and Chiron in Pisces also fades. It will be easier to let go of limiting, negative, painful, or destructive thoughts now. If you have been processing stuff from the effects of last week's new moon, you may complete your clearing and releasing today. The high energy of a creative fire moon cycle demands that you release the old and be in the present moment. The potent and unsettling square between erratic Uranus in pioneering Aries and controlling Pluto in strict Capricorn, which began to influence you last week, continues to have an effect on your life this week. As I detailed previously, this may have a greater effect on society in terms of upheaval and transformation, but a look at your own natal chart to see where you have Aries and Capricorn energy can give you an idea of what areas of your life may be changing. The benevolent, blessing energy of abundant Jupiter in the fixed earth sign of material Taurus is still sextile to inspirational Neptune in spiritual Pisces. This brings grace and flow to your life and helps you to manifest your basic needs as well as the means to achieve bigger dreams. Early Monday evening, a mildly aggravating square flares between the Leo moon and Mars in the fixed earth sign of Taurus. Ego meets stubborn and people may be attached to things going their own way. Have you ever seen children who have been playing together happily suddenly erupt in squabbles and a subsequent emotional meltdown? It seems that too much of a good thing catches up with the child's nervous system and when physical energy drops, disintegration occurs. Wise parents know when to end playtime before this happens. The planetary aspects make us like children today when it comes to work and play. Remove yourself from the sandbox before this moon/Mars square takes effect. A good meal, some rest, and watching an action movie or drama can help you project and diffuse the tension of the square harmlessly.

Jun 4, 2011

James Ray Sweat Lodge Trial Roundup June 3

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Weather Map of Northeast

The State wrapped up its case yesterday, as promised, with testimony from Dawn Gordon and Sean Ronan. Ray's lawyers will open its case with a Rule 20 motion for immediate acquittal. In other news, the weather in the Northeast was really quite lovely.

Prosecutors in a self-help author's manslaughter trial rested their case Friday after months of testimony from participants of an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony whose experiences were sometimes as different as night and day.

The trial could end early next week if the judge grants a defense motion for acquittal of James Arthur Ray, who is facing three counts of manslaughter stemming from the October 2009 ceremony he led near Sedona. Oral arguments on the motion in which the defense contends the state hasn't proven its case are scheduled Tuesday.

. . .

Gordon told jurors that she had no idea that James Shore would die after he helped dragged a woman out of an Arizona sweat lodge and was propped up on his elbow encouraging one of the victims with "sweet words."

Nor did she know that the last she'd hear out of Kirby Brown, who had planned to paint a mural in her house, would be heavy breathing and gurgling that sounded like someone with a cold.

Jun 3, 2011

James Ray Sweat Lodge Trial Roundup June 2

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

James Ray with Attorney Tom Kelly

As news out of the James Ray trial slows to a trickle, let's see what we can deduce from what is obviously so dull a story that it merits little to no coverage. Oh, here's a thing. Dawn Gordon testified that not only could no one leave when the sweat lodge when the flap was down, Ray responded to James Shore's concerns over Kirby Brown by saying, "No one is leaving at this time."

As per Mark Duncan, one of the handful of lonely reporters still covering the Yavapai County Courthouse beat, we learn that Spiritual Warrior participant Gordon had concerns over Brown's condition and labored breathing. She enlisted help from James Shore. Gordon was surprised that Shore had come back after dragging out an unconscious Sidney Spencer because he appeared to be struggling himself.

"He had his own free will to stay outside and he chose to come back in," she said.

By the time he did return, Gordon said, Brown had ceased her chant but was lying on her back, breathing loudly through what sounded like extreme congestion. Shore tried to move her onto her side to ease her airway but was unable and asked Gordon to help.

"I told him to get on the other side of her and that I would put my feet under her back and he could pull her arms," she said. "I stayed low...and as I was pushing and he was pulling we got her onto her side."

Jun 1, 2011

James Ray Sweat Lodge Trial Roundup June 1

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Connie Joy was interviewed by Dr. Carole Lieberman, the psychiatrist who did the forward for her book Tragedy in Sedona. As ever Joy is informative and insightful about the dynamics that created this disaster. She provides a lot of the back-story that jurors will not hear. (Her earlier interview with Lieberman can be found here.)

Most interesting is what Joy reveals about Ray's behavior in and around the courtroom which she's observed firsthand. Much in keeping with his horrifying "WooHooo!!" tweet immediately following the Brady violation ruling, his insensitivity to bereaved family members is stunning. She describes him "yucking it up" with his lawyers during breaks a few feet away from Ginny Brown and other family members. Joy also recounts his attempt to physically intimidate her by abruptly pushing past her, like she was invisible, to greet a reporter.

It's always disturbing to see the man behind the curtain when it turns out the hidden operator is probably a sociopath. Joy has learned a lesson I did some years ago about projecting our own values onto other people. In my own experience of dealing with sociopaths, which I have more than once,  they rely on a combination of their own ability to mimic human behavior and the tendency of people with normal emotions to rescript their red flag statements and behaviors. Seeing them for who they really are is too shocking and painful. The more compassion and empathy we have for others, the more inconceivable we find its lack. This is what con artists and their ilk count on. James Ray surrounded himself with lovely, generous, open-hearted people. Watching so many on the stand as they wrestle with the dawning realization of how really traumatized they are has been a painful reminder of how many people can be severely wounded by one man's pathology.

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