Sep 21, 2011

James Ray: I'm Sorry, Now Give Me Probation!

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

James Ray must be getting very, very nervous. Know how I know that? He's all apologies and remorse all of a sudden.

A self-help author convicted of negligent homicide expressed extreme remorse for the deaths of three people following an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony he led and vowed never to conduct another one, a probation officer wrote in a presentence report obtained by The Associated Press.

. . .

Ray told the probation officer that he was responsible for the sweat lodge but that he is not a threat to society. He said he wanted to apologize to the victims' families but he hasn't been allowed to contact them, nor did he think it was appropriate to do so at an earlier time.

I guess it was also inappropriate for him to contact the families of the dead and dying when they were rushed to area hospitals after his 2009 sweat lodge. And it would have been positively crass to hand over their identification and paperwork to medical personnel so that they could be admitted as something other than Jane and John Does. And Ray would never have been so forward as to call 911 just because people had stopped breathing. If James Ray knows anything, it's how to respect other people's boundaries when they're in a life and death crisis.

Here I was thinking it was self-absorption and a complete lack of consideration for the health and safety for people who'd forked over thousands of dollars for his expertise and care. In fact, it was just a tremendous sense of propriety. Apparently, it's just good manners to let people die alone without your meddling. Who knew?

Ray also knew better than to bum everyone out during the evening soiree hours after Colleen Conaway plunged to her death. The last thing anyone wants to hear when they're sipping champagne at a black-tie affair is that someone they know is lying on slab. I mean, what a downer. Ray knew that and he put the comfort of the other attendees ahead of his own selfish desire to blurt out the horrible truth that someone who'd paid him thousands of dollars had spent the day as a Jane Doe in the county morgue. And he certainly wasn't going to interfere by contacting her family. Ray has really just been a gentleman to the last.

The family members of the deceased disagree, of course:

"He abandoned his followers when they needed him the most," said Neuman's son, Bryan. "He has shown absolutely no remorse, no compassion and no humanity. I didn't know monsters like Mr. Ray even really existed until after this tragedy."

In letters that prosecutors want considered at sentencing, friends and family of the victims described Ray as a sociopath who blatantly disregarded repeated concerns. Brown's brother said he cannot move past the images of his sister gasping for breath and, like others, struggles to explain the deaths to his small children.

Eh, sociopath, gentleman, potato, potahhto...

But, hey, he's sorry and he won't hold any more dangerous activities. Of course, dangerous activities are his metier. The man could turn a game of cards into a bloodsport. What he'll do without the firewalks, the rebar bending, the cement block karate chopping, and the blindfolded mountain hikes, that are the tools of his trade I can't imagine.

Oh, here we go: James Ray TV:

Over the last few months I’ve really tried to concentrate on how I could offer more to my loyal followers. Each day I find myself answering questions from friends wanting to know how to get more out of life, or how to get through a trying time. James Ray TV will be my way of saying Thank You for your support. It will allow you to ask those questions and have me myself answer them through video feed. I look forward to interacting with you and hope that you would check back for this added feature.

Yes, he himself will answer all those questions you've been dying to ask him when he wouldn't give you the time of day. Access, baby, access. And you won't even have to show off your cleavage and wait for a dream teamer to tap you on the shoulder and let you know you're his dinner date for the evening.

Yes, just in time for his mitigation hearing and sentencing, Ray has completely retooled his website. I just looked at it yesterday and it didn't look like this. (Please, use restraint when viewing. The last thing you want to do is give him page views and income.) I am a little curious about permissions when it comes to the use of Oprah and Larry King voice-overs taken from their shows. Why do I think that they might not want to have their proprietary material used to promote a convicted felon? Hmmm... We'll have to take a wait and see posture on that one but I'm not sure that's kosher.

But, look, Ray is putting his best foot forward as he faces Judge Darrow and attempts to prove that he should be given probation and returned to his life of, um, "teaching." Not to worry, Your Honor. No more cooking people to death or breaking their limbs. He'll just be interacting with them through the magic of streaming video on his snazzy new site. Safe. Contained. And contrite.

Meanwhile, his defense team is moving forward with their attempt to stop everything in its tracks. Their motion for continuance hasn't been uploaded yet, but Judge Darrow's order for the prosecution to promptly respond has. One gets the feeling he'd like to move this along. As per Mark Duncan, he did not seem to take kindly to the defense's oral argument for continuance in yesterday's hearing.

After an attorney's health emergency shattered the scheduling of James Arthur Ray's presentence hearings, Judge Warren Darrow decided to get the proceedings back on track beginning next week, despite a defense request for a longer delay.

Tom Kelly, Ray's local counsel, was treated over the weekend and on Monday for a heart condition. And even though his co-counsel, Luis Li, argued that Kelly's presence in the courtroom for the presentence hearings was critical, Darrow recalled that, during the four months of Ray's trial that ended in a conviction on three counts of negligent homicide, at least three other highly qualified attorneys were in court.

"To say that Tom Kelly has to make all the decisions," Darrow said during a telephonic scheduling hearing Tuesday, "is just too much."

Jeannika also asks some hard questions as to why this needed to be continued at all, as her research did not find the necessity of having an Arizona attorney in the courtroom for this proceeding.

According the rules of the Arizona Supreme Court ::: nonresident attorneys who want to to appear as counsel (pro hac vice) simply need to comply with Rule 38(a).

This basically means any out of state lawyer with the proper credentials and fees (Translation: ALL of James Arthur Ray's MTO folks) simply completes a pro hac vice form and sends it ::: along with the fees ::: to the State Bar of Arizona. They don't need an Arizona Lawyer on their team ::: don't need nada beyond a client that is ::: all they need to do is show up for trial.

Camille Kimball explains that it may not be that simple and that Kelly may be a little nervous about those fancy-schmancy LA lawyers operate under his imprimatur while he's convalescing.

First there is the slightly sticky wicket that Tom Kelly, as Arizona counsel, would have taken on the burden to be answerable to Arizona authorities for the actions of the California contingent, whether he was present to keep an eye on them or not:

. . .

Even if lead counsel objects to going forward without Tom Kelly’s presence, the Court has the discretion to require him to proceed. If it is brought to the Court’s attention that Tom Kelly was prepared to handle a particular aspect of the mitigation (and Lead Counsel was unprepared to do so) it might be a good reason to ask for a continuance.

I think that last sentence that is the one I would put my money on. If Luis Li, Truc Do and the rest of the crew were not the ones who'd been studying up on these witnesses and this particular procedure, Darrow could reasonably conclude it would be an insult to justice to leave a defendant at the mercy of lawyers making it up on the fly through no fault of their own.

No lawyer, me. I'm just a concerned citizen who would have liked to see this fiasco brought to a close in time for my birthday. But, at this point, I will gladly settle for seeing James Ray sentenced before the second anniversary of his sweat lodge from hell on October 8.


  1. Another great post LaVaughn.

    I'm getting really sick and tired of hearing the word remorse. Remorse was a common theme in the letters that are to be presented by the defense for the mitigation hearing. Now he is expressing remorse for the "sweat lodge". Remorse, remorse, remorse. Remorse, all of a sudden, before he is to be sentenced? If I had even a teensy weensy doubt (because I try to give people the benefit of the doubt) about James Ray being a con-man, I no longer do. A con-man to the hilt. A con-man who tries to deliver a Hail Mary with 1 second left in the game. What poor coaching he has received by his do-head lawyers.

    I'm getting really sick of the hypocrisy as well. James Ray promoted the idea of action ad nauseum. Getting off one's butt, so to speak. Remorse expressed to his friends and to his probation officer, is not remorse. Bring on the violins. Hell, bring on the whole frickin symphony.

    Actions that show remorse, do not include his desire to apologize to the families before the judge delivers the boom. (Interesting. I wonder who leaked that tidbit of information? I thought probation officers were suppose to keep client information confidential).

    Now, he would like to apologize to the families? Is he for real? He sat in that bloody courtroom with the victims families, letting his lawyers rant on about rats and ants and wood and tarps and the boogie man. Was he sorry then? Or did he have a change of heart after he heard all of the victim impact statements?

    Well, Mr. James Ray, actions speak louder than words. And your sorry's don't mean shit. Fire your lawyers, stand before the judge and explain how your egomaniacal attitude killed these people, then just maybe, your sorry's might mean something to the people you say you want to direct them to. Then again, maybe not.

    The deepest remorse that James Ray has, is not for those that perished, but for his own self-inflicted predicament.

  2. I want to make it clear that part of my post that is quoted above are actually the words of a top-tier Arizona defense attorney (not involved in the Ray trial). Atty Michael Kimerer's interview about the Tom Kelly situation can be found in full at

    Thank you. ;)

    p.s. you can find me on Twitter, too, @camillekimball

  3. Hi Camille,
    I don't know what's going on with your hypertext link, there. It's not working for some reason. But a link to the post in question can be found above in the graph preceding the blockquote. And here's a link to your blog home for good measure.

  4. James has "vowed" to never hold another sweat lodge. Is James someone that we can trust? Has James ever gone back on this word? Has he ever promised something to prospective customers & then changed the deal after he got their money? (Connie Joy, want to weigh in here?) Has he ever promised safety at an event & been wrong? Should we trust his vow?

  5. Wonderful, LaVaughn. You covered everything that's incensed me in your astute observations of JAR's motives & character. He is evidently still assuming the rest of us are complete morons to believe his remorse bullshit, when from the very second he realised he was deep in the doo-doo that Oct 9, instead of calling 911 he called his lawyers who told him to skidaddle. Even leaving all the Secrets to his Age Reversal Appearance behind (well, SOME of them,the surgeon's tools are still in LA, of course)

    He's obviously expecting just the ankle bracelet rather than Time, so he can continue spewing out videos from his LA mansion... only this time, 'interactive' ones as a 'Thank You' to his loyal Kool Aiders.... unfortunately, it seems there are still many gushing on his FB pages, wanting to be the next dolly on a stick for him.

    And don't you think it's an "inneresting" choice of photos on his revamped, work-in-progress amateur website? If I recall, those pics were part of a slew of self mugshots he posted on Flickr at least 4 years ago when he still looked older than 50. As opposed to the new crafted college boy persona he was attempting prior to this long taxing trial... Also "inneresting" that he's pulled over 2000 pics from his Flickr pages, we're down to a mere 200 photos now, mostly of Peru... restricting Salty's access, no doubt!

  6. I'm trying to figure out why this story has riled me up so much and has captured my attention, and far too much of my time.

    Of course, the devastation to the family is beyond comprehension - unthinkable. Prayers in order here.

    I have wondered why I know every detail of this story and continue to read your blog and Salty's blog on this tragic tale.

    The answer for myself is found in the combination of 2 blogs: one you wrote awhile ago about finding the JAR in ourselves, and the recent blog Salty wrote about mind raping.

    Many people don't want to believe that their minds can be manipulated by anything or anyone. I am one of those people. I think that is one reason why I feel anger when I read about this story and why I continue to be interested in it.

    Unfortunately, I am probably more easily manipulated than I think I am, as are others. I'd like to think I would be completely immune to any huckster who came my way, even those dressed in sheep's clothing. Perhaps not.

    I really enjoy reading your blog and Salty's blog because they are funny. They both disarm the indecency of hucksters with humour. Humour does not put up resistance like anger does. Humour allows for the clarity of truth, without the powerless feelings that anger generates.

    Thanks La Vaughn.

  7. @KG,

    I echo all of that.

    Anyone who thinks they can't be manipulated should try, for example, going to Bombay and getting a taxi without getting stung. It's all too easy to write off the victims as brainwashed cult members and claim "I would have just walked out of that lodge". (Droid answered one such person in his inimitable manner: "I congratulate you on your hypothetical strength of character.")(Someone will make a Salty Droid Phrasebook one day.)

    Moreover, more than fifty people stayed in the lodge. That doesn't mean that they were all especially gullible. Rather, it shows they were human beings with the same faults in the psychological program that we all have. It's not a result of their gullibility, rather it's a result of the ruthlessness of people in Ray's profession, using highly evolved techniques to exploit those cracks in the system.

    In fact, I would argue that only person who was really brain washed in the death lodge was Ray himself. He seems to have really believed in his godlike freedom to inflict torture on people without ever having to face any consequences. He was certainly one of the last to wake up to the reality of the situation that night.

    It's no wonder that no one else realized what kind of a reality that monster was living in.

    ...Also let me say thanks LaVaughn for your tireless and dedicated --and excellent-- work here. There is going to be so much damage control and re-writing of history after the sentence comes down, it's a relief to know the record of what really happened is here.

    - Yakaru

  8. @Yakaru

    You write: "In fact, I would argue that only person who was really brain washed in the death lodge was Ray himself".

    I too believe Ray was brainwashed regarding his godlike persona. That's why I find it difficult to believe that these cult leaders are consciously using well thought-out exploitative mind manipulation techniques on others (did you see the Australian jesus?).

    There are those that believe that cult leaders know exactly what they're doing: using exploitative mind manipulation techniques, putting themselves in a strategic position as to assume a position of power separate from their "flock", and being fully aware of what they are doing to achieve their own end.

    I know La Vaughn has written in her writings about Ray consciously segregating lines of communication of the participants during workshops, to a vertical only transmission, as opposed to both vertical and horizontal communication. This is one example, among others that she gives, for conscious exploitative manipulation.

    But for me, to think Ray was a master-manipulator and knew exactly how he was orchestrating the subservience of his "flock" to himself and to his own beliefs, gives Ray's intelligence far too much credit.

    Like you, I believe he was brainwashed into thinking he was god.

    While I do believe there was a lot of brainwashing of the participants going on during the Spiritual Warrior event, the person brainwashed the most was Ray. I don't think he had one iota of a clue what he was doing, and like you, I believe he was the "last to wake up to the reality of the situation that night".

    This by no means excuses his reckless and unsympathetic behaviour, or his feigned remorseful declarations. I just don't think Ray is that smart.

  9. @spiritualityisnoexuse

    I reread what I wrote above, and a person could erroneously draw the wrong conclusion from it, so I'll be more clear.

    I believe that many of the participants of Spiritual Warrior 2009 were brainwashed (mind manipulated). Ray was even more so.

    Being mind manipulated, in no way suggests that people are less than intelligent. The difference between the brainwashing of Ray and the brainwashing of his students, lie in the difference between one who is a sociopath, and people who care for other people.

    My point was, it seems to me, that it would take great cunning and great cleverness for one to be fully aware of strategically exercising his power over other people. Ray doesn't strike me as clever.

    That's what I was trying to say.

  10. Wow. What an interesting discussion.

    @KG, the question of whether or not Ray is consciously manipulating people or not is an interesting one and I've gone round and round on it. One of the things that came up in Zimbardo's research -- the Stanford Prison Experiment that he had to abort -- is that leaders get drawn into the dynamics, too. He found himself getting too fond of his own power in that situation and behaving in aberrant ways. I've definitely seen that in group dynamics. There are people who start out with the best of intentions and become seduced by the way people hand them their power on a plate. It's something every leader has to guard against and be aware of. Power corrupts. We're pulled into roles at every level of the hierarchy and we seem to subconsciously arrange ourselves into very familiar patterns kind of like dogs arranging themselves alpha to omega in a pack hierarchy. It's seems to be part of our wiring.

    The things at the end of the day that make me more inclined to think that Ray was consciously abusing power are things like telling his employees to deliberately exhaust people and wait 'til they're really tired before they start really selling the upcoming events and products. He couches it in some new age doublespeak that makes it sound like he's doing people a favor by bypassing the rational mind and letting their inner knowing take over or some such crap. I can't remember the exact wording. Could he really believe that? Maybe. But I very sincerely doubt it. I think he wants to sell people when they're suggestible. Not the most original idea. If you haven't read Connie Joy's book, you should. She swears he was using stage hypnosis and NLP techniques to very deliberately manipulate people. She also recounts an instance where he started pitching WWS membership DURING a guided meditation. That's the kind of shit that makes think he knows full well what he's doing.

    There's a also a possibility that he's sociopath, in which case, he wouldn't even have normal emotions. Sociopaths (aka psychopaths) only observe and mimic emotion but can be quite skilled at manipulating emotional and psychological states in other people.

    It's the cumulative evidence of these manipulations that makes me think it's deliberate. It's too much and some of it is just too naked. Where I have my larger questions is whether he started out that malevolent or if he started as a genuine seeker with good intentions who got twisted by power dynamics. I just don't know enough about his early years to say and what I have learned still leaves me ambivalent.

    So much more I'd love to respond to here but I'm mentally baked. I've been rushed off my feet the past couple of weeks and it's catching up with me. I think I'm gonna curl with my tea and a book and listen to the rain for a while. My circuits need clearing.

  11. @La Vaughn

    Enjoy your well-deserved tea and book, on what sounds like a lovely indoor day.

  12. He was "not allowed" to apologize? Really? Thats a dern shame. at least he was able to clear that item up at a pre sentencing plea. Just in time.


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