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February 4th, 2010
12:38 PM ET

James Arthur Ray arrested

Program Note: Tune in tonight for more on the arrest of James Arthur Ray. AC360° 10 p.m. ET.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/04/art.vert.crime.james.ray.jpg
caption="James Arthur Ray was arrested on Wednesday on manslaughter charges." width=292 height=320]

Ismael Estrada
AC360° Producer

Yesterday, Gary Tuchman and I looked through hundreds of documents related to the October 2009 'Spiritual Warrior' retreat held by motivational speaker James Arthur Ray. The retreat, held in Sedona, Arizona, was where three people died after spending time in a sweat lodge. The documents related to the case were just released by the Yavapai County Sheriff's office.

We have been covering the story since last fall - interviewing many people who had been to this "sweat lodge" and many other James Arthur Ray events in the past.

We were preparing to put together another story when I was sent an email I wasn't expecting. It was from the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office stating that James Arthur Ray has been arrested.

Gary spoke with Barbara Bunn, who was in the sweat lodge that day, and she immediately started crying. She says she felt a sense of relief.

We had been trying to get a comment from Ray since the sweat lodge deaths occurred. We went to one of several seminars Ray held after the deaths in Arizona. I asked Mr. Ray why he was still out trying to earn money just weeks after people had died in a sweat lodge that was part of one of his programs. He looked at me and said "this is not a press conference" and his security escorted me out of the event.

Last night, Ray's attorneys said the motivational speaker was deeply troubled by the events last October. They say the charges are unjust and that it was a terrible accident. They add that Mr. Ray never forced people to stay inside the sweat lodge.

But Bunn and others say Ray encouraged people to stay inside and told them to try to "fight through the pain."

Ray's first court appearance is scheduled for this afternoon. We'll have more details tonight.

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. been there

    I am a trained therapist. The type of manipulation this man used against people is a psychological construct called coercive persuasion. It is used against people to keep them under the manipulators control. This man needs to be in jail so he can no longer hurt people. He is a criminal . People that defend this man have been wounded by manipulation. They are not able to see the truth of the actions of the manipulator and psychologically continue to hope for the manipulators approval which never comes. This man and his techniques need to be put on trial to educate the public.

    February 4, 2010 at 9:04 pm |
  2. Michelle Johnson, Lomita, CA

    Ray should not have been arrested or charged with anything. This is an example of a societal trend where people want to pass blame for their own foolish mistakes. The people involved-adults-acted of their own volition. They victimized themselves, so why subject viewers to mawkish coverage about it? Moral of the story–definition of "self-help": Help yourself.

    February 4, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
  3. Rabakkah

    The Lakotas are a beautiful people. I have the utmost respect for different cultures and this is one of them.

    Once again, "seek The Most High and He will come". Look to "mankind" and you will surely lose.

    February 4, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
  4. Denise Barlow

    After watching this story all I can say about Mr James Arthur Ray is.....It's about time he got arrested. Now he can't feed on people's emotional and spiritual well-being (for the worst).

    February 4, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
  5. Isabel Siaba

    This story is so surreal. It's amazing and sad that people deceive themselves this way looking for some comfort!

    February 4, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
  6. RagingBear

    Were these people under guard? They were all adults and could leave any time they wanted. This is a terrible accident, but no foul play can be found here. Please people, let`s work on getting the real murderers. This man will always have this on his conscience, but he didn`t put a gun to anyone`s head and make them stay. Give me a break here. Go out and get the real crooks, leave the accidents alone.

    February 4, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
  7. Nicole Fiddler

    I think it's important for people to know that a sweatlodge ceremony is a sacred ceremony. These ceremonies are NOT for sale and it is strictly taboo to profit from them. No one should ever pay to attend. A true spiritual leader who has an understanding and respect of the Lakota culture would have kept the ceremony small enough to ensure he could guarantee the safety of all participants. I hope that this terrible event does not lead people to believe that these ceremonies are meant to hurt people in any way.

    February 4, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
  8. Steve Cauley

    He's the "Robert Tilton" of New Age chicanery. While he's well within his rights to charge people whatever he wants for his bogus retreats, he certainly has no right to put people's lives in danger. Fortunately for him, prison cells have better ventilation than "sweat lodges."

    February 4, 2010 at 1:21 pm |