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Self-help guru guilty in 3 deaths during rite Negligence found in sweat lodge case

A self-help guru was found guilty Wednesday on three counts of negligent homicide in a case that shined a spotlight on a deadly Arizona sweat lodge ceremony that ended in chaos, with participants vomiting, shaking and being dragged outside.

The 12 jurors reached their verdict with remarkable swiftness: They took less than 10 hours to convict James Arthur Ray after a four-month trial that included hundreds of exhibits and countless hours of testimony.

The jury was given the option of convicting Ray of manslaughter but decided on the lesser charge instead. He faces a sentence ranging from probation to nearly 12 years in prison.

Ray fought back emotion as the verdict was read. His parents and brother sat behind him, while victims' friends and family members held hands and looked on from across the courtroom. Prosecutors asked that Ray be taken into custody immediately, but the judge denied their request.

More than 50 people participated in the October 2009 sweat lodge that was meant to be the highlight of Ray's five-day "Spiritual Warrior" seminar near Sedona. Three people died after the saunalike ceremony that was intended to provide spiritual cleansing. Eighteen people were hospitalized, while several others were given water to cool down at the scene.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys disagreed over whether the deaths and illnesses were caused by heat or unknown toxins. Ray's attorneys have maintained that they were a tragic accident. Prosecutors argued that Ray recklessly caused the fatalities.

Ray used the sweat lodge as a way for participants to break through whatever was holding them back in life. He warned participants in a recording of the event played during the trial that the sweat lodge would be "hellacious" and that participants were guaranteed to feel like they were dying but would do so only metaphorically.

Witnesses have described the scene after the two-hour sweat lodge ceremony as alarming and chaotic, with people vomiting and shaking violently, while others dragged "lifeless" and "barely breathing" participants outside. Volunteers performed CPR.

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