February 3rd, 2010
09:17 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Sweat Lodge Guru Arrested

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/CRIME/02/03/arizona.sweat.lodge.charges/story.james.ray.jpg caption="James Ray was arrested Wednesday after a grand jury indicted him of manslaughter." width=300 height=169]

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

We're following breaking news. Self-help guru James Arthur Ray was arrested tonight on manslaughter charges. You may remember three people died at his sweat lodge ceremony in Arizona back in October.

Tonight we'll talk with a woman who was inside the lodge when more than 20 people fell ill. We'll also talk with our legal analyst Jeffery Toobin about the case against Ray.

Ray's lawyer released a statement tonight. It reads:

"The charges are unjust and we will prove it in court. This was a terrible accident – but it was an accident, not a criminal act. James Ray cooperated at every step of the way, providing information and witnesses to the authorities showing that no one could have foreseen this accident. We will now present this evidence in a court of law, and we are confident that Mr. Ray will be exonerated."

We'll also take you to Haiti where there are explosives new allegations about the group of American missionaries charged with child trafficking. Karl Penhaul has the latest developments.

We also have the raw politics of President Obama's Q-and-A session with Democrats. He met with Republicans last Friday. Today he went face-to-face with members of his own party.

"The American people are out of patience with business as usual," Pres. Obama told them.

He told Democrats looking for a lesson on losing the Senate race in Massachusetts, "The answer is not to do nothing."

"We should do more, and we should do so without delay," he added.

Pres. Obama also lashed out at the GOP.  We'll have that and much more starting at 10 p.m. See you then!

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Pam

    I experienced a sweat lodge and also attended the seminar Ray gave in San Diego right after the incident (not knowing the details of what happened). My sweat lodge experience was very different. It was conducted by a Shaman and we were told we could leave the lodge at any time. It was an hour in total. I had no health issues with it at all. Ray was visibly upset at the seminar and explained briefly why. He also explained in his speaking how he'd lost everything in the past due bad decisions as an example of how you can turn your life around. I don't know how they. conducted the sweat lodge but it sounds to me like they didn't know what they were doing and so accountability is definitely necessary. It's unfortunate people are willing to put their lives 100 percent in someone elses hands in these weekend retreats. You do need to know the limits of these spiritual leaders and use common sense. Not blaming anyone for the sweat lodge at all. I went to a free seminar. I wouldn't pay thousands for Ray's retreat. The parameters were clear in my sweat lodge experience and I knew I could leave if I wanted to. Of course, how was I to be sure the Shaman in Mexico was safe?

    February 4, 2010 at 2:53 am |
  2. Beth

    My thoughts and prayers go out to the three families that lost their loved ones. I agree that he should pay for their deaths, but one question that I must ask is whether or not the people that went to the sweat lodge if they signed a waver. It is a tragic accident that has occurred. Medical personel should have been there for such incidents, and people should have been immediately taken from the sweat lodge the second anyone started becoming dehydrated, or fainted, etc.

    February 4, 2010 at 2:12 am |
  3. muralidharan,k

    Ray is one among so many culprits who never own their crimes. They have legal rights to do so. These criminals should be tried and convicted at the earliest.

    February 4, 2010 at 1:33 am |
  4. Diane Zimberoff

    Besides all the tragic death & distruction, there is another major tragedy that has not been addressed. The true Native Americans have been totally betrayed by James Arthur Ray. He has stolen their ancient religious rituals, basterdized them and used them for his own narcissistic and financial benefit. Lets address this aspect of this personal disaster.
    Issaquah, WA

    February 4, 2010 at 1:27 am |
  5. t.sioux

    As someone who has attended these sacred ceremonies, this is not measnt to be scary. This is why I'm suprised to see this now, when it has been known for a long time the sweat lodge has been exploited. It has been taken out of the oyate (sioux) way and used for financial or spiritual gain. They are not receiving anything "spiritual". It is know that the Lakota nation has filed a lawsuit. They might have taken our land. But not our ceremonies. Thank you and..."Mita kuye oyasin"

    February 4, 2010 at 1:19 am |
  6. Diane Zimberoff

    We have been connected with The Sweat Lodge process for many years. We have always had true Native American's present to teach and lead this process for us. The Natives in Sedona and all over the world have all come together to discuss this travistry. Their belief is that their Native customs have been stolen, basterdized and misused for financial gain.
    Issaquah, WA

    February 4, 2010 at 1:17 am |
  7. Jenn

    I'm a paramedic and I have to say that the symptoms of hyperthermia are horrible and truly intolerable. These people were adults, was anyone locked in or could you leave freely? If they were not locked in then why didn't they just walk out! I can't wrap my head around the fact that people just stayed... could you imagine being hot enough to be sick and even die without getting out of the situation?

    February 4, 2010 at 1:10 am |
  8. Susan Wolf

    It is horrible events like this that give many sincere people in the "New Age" movement a bad name. As a teacher and student myself of shamanic/Native American ways, I am appalled at the lack of responsibility of this man. I know many people think that this self-help stuff is a bunch of baloney and this kind of arrogant irresponsibility only proves their negative perception. I wholeheartedly agree with the Native American man above that these kind of events have a long, long history of being very carefully run. When well run they are powerful, safe, spiritual rituals that truly bring change and healing to people. I lead a ritual called firewalking, and I take it extremely seriously. First of all, I would never have a group as big as 60. You can't keep track of that many people and their individual states. I absolutely take responsibility for the safety of all participants. It is the responsibility of the teacher or leader to make sure that they are aware of the state of every single person. James Ray is absolutely responsible for the deaths of those people and for the grief of their poor families. It looks to me that he handled the situation horribly every step of the way. My heart truly breaks for all of the loved ones who are left behind.

    February 3, 2010 at 11:23 pm |
  9. Shawn Hendricks - Fairplay, MD

    SOS Kinderdorf (SOS Children's Village) operates in Kosovo, where I was stationed for 30 months. Its orphanage was outside Pristina, the capital. They got loads of cash because they marketed themselves very well. One evening I visited from Camp Bondsteel, which is 30 plus kilometers from Pristina and to the south. Pristina's Kinderdorf was more to the east of Pristina in a valley somewhat near a pay-per-visit park.

    As I was looking around, in drove a group with adult supervisors and children arriving in a van. There seemed to be about 3 adults per child, which I feel is a great ratio. In a poor nation, SOS Kinderdorf was supporting not only the orphans but their Kosovo 'mentors.'

    The children at SOS Kinderdorf are likely much better off 'logistically' than most children of newly-homeless families in Port Au Prince. My experience with Austrians suggest that their orphanage was probably built to a safer standard than most homes in the city.

    I only have circumstantial evidence of SOS Kinderdorf's works but my off-the-cuff visit suggests it is not an act. It stands in contrast to the efforts of this 'Church group.'

    February 3, 2010 at 11:20 pm |
  10. Mark Spencer

    Why do these people pay this guy huge amounts of money when it seems a turtle could figure out he is a fake??

    And when they were getting sick and throwing up, what was stopping them from just walking out?

    If this guy did not prevent them from leaving I really don't see how he can be charged with anything.

    It seems he is being arrested for finding stupid people willing to do whatever he says and hand him huge amounts of cash willingly.

    I don't get it.

    February 3, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
  11. KimberCheyAnne

    I really do not believe this guy should have had sweat lodges to start with. They are a sacred ceremony that belongs to our nation, not white people. A wanna be an "Indian" put this on so that enough should have been a warning. I am so tired of these non-natives having native events it makes me sick. Stick to the traditions of your own culture and stop messing with ours. You don't know what you are doing and this is proof enough that when you don't know what you are doing something fatal can happen. I am Lakota but I know just by looking at his "lodges" that this was all wrong. White men should stay at what white men are good at. Stay away from our nations culture. He did not honor this sacred space the correct way, if at all, and look what happened. I have no sympathy for him. He should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

    February 3, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
  12. charlie

    Photo ops are not the measure of a government . Most nations value quiet hard work in their leaders. Sure the Haiti governement is not too good and certainly underresourced. US and others should get behind UN efforts to build up the institutions..

    February 3, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
  13. charlie

    @ Juan and Monte: Exactly my point. Fine American indian spirituality corrupted by extremism and greed. Most religions are wonderful and provide maybe all the meaning their is in life, but so many are distorted by extremists for power or greed. (Islam, Christianity etc ......).

    February 3, 2010 at 10:32 pm |
  14. Monte Joseph

    I am a 49 Year Old Native American and have sweat for 40 years. We have rules of sweating and praying and one our most important is if you are feeling weak and tired ask for the door to be open and the leader of the lodge will ask the door man to open the lodge. I am mad about the way this sweat was run, we never challege anybody in challenging thier strength.

    February 3, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  15. Juan

    Ray seems to be innocent to me those people went in the loudge willingly. And if I was Ray iwould have had them sign a release saying that he was not lodge. Btw even I know that swet lodges were people are going in to meditate or expirience a mind trip is dangerous.

    February 3, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
  16. charlie

    This sort of mind control, praying on people's dreams and fears. is part of all examples of religious extremism whether Islamic Madras' Jesus camps or any number of cults.

    February 3, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
  17. charlie

    Until the money is really removed from US poltics the government will remain dysfucntional. The US supreme court opinion is that freedom to spend money (on political influence) is equivalent to freedon of expression. speech. My 12 year old knows that such a position is almostexactly what democracies were created to eliminate.
    I have no confidence in a non democratic government whether fascist, communist or US coporatism. The first two have been discredited in painful transitions, unfortuantely it looks like the US will have to have it's system go through a similar death spiral as those before it can change.

    February 3, 2010 at 9:58 pm |
  18. Christina Doss

    Why does it have to be so complicated.? Rep. Dem.and Indep need to come togther and do the right thing for the American people!


    February 3, 2010 at 9:53 pm |
  19. Annie Kate

    I don't see why it took so long to arrest Ray for those deaths. He hasn't seemed very cooperative from the beginning. Ray may not have meant harm to his followers but good sense should have told him along the way that what was going on was dangerous to the health of his followers. Looking forward to Toobin's interpretation.

    February 3, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
  20. David Taylor

    I think Pres. Obama is doing the best he can, more can be done however I enter a vote of not confidence in our government. Until everyone... Dem. Rep and Indep, finially decide to work togather nothing will improve. They are all a dysfunctional team!

    February 3, 2010 at 9:28 pm |