Jun 24, 2011

James Ray: Aggravating Circumstances, Mitigating JETs -- UPDATED


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.

Item one on that list, presence of an accomplice, is where I'm guessing Fredrickson's testimony comes in to play. She was Ray's second in command and largely responsible for controlling access to Ray. She sat next to him throughout the sweat lodge and sprinkled his fevered brow with water. She served him peeled grapes and fanned him with peacock feathers... Okay, I made that last part up.

Fredrickson has been in the State's sights for a while. She was interviewed by Detectives Poling and Diskin and given immunity for the duration of that interview, provided she told the truth. She didn't. At least not all of it. The transcript is a study in obfuscation. Her husband Josh was only slightly more forthcoming. It was, to quote the Salty Droid, "a HUGE mistake."

There's a lot of tantalizing information in the form of questions and a lot of hmmming from Megan. I'm guessing the primary issue will be a message Melinda Martin received from Fredrickson about cleaning out Ray's office because the police would be conducting a search. Martin, who is also on the witness list, was just not down with the program and turned the message over to police. When confronted by detectives, Megan developed a rather severe memory problem.

Det. Diskin: … Just one last issue and I appreciate you for talking to us again for all this stuff that we're going through but did you, do you remember leaving a voice mail for Melinda Martin in the weeks after the sweat lodge incident?

Megan: Uh huh

Det. Diskin: Do you remember what that message said?

Megan: I left her several voice mail messages so I'm not sure

Det. Diskin: I'm talking about the one where, and she saved this, where you call Melinda Martin and say that Josh and Greg are going through the office looking for anything that has to do with Spiritual Warrior so that you could get rid of it before the Detectives get there and find it.

Megan: Really?

Det. Diskin: Do you remember leaving that message?

Megan: Not with that language but

Det. Poling: What was the language?

Megan: Uhm, I, God, getting rid of stuff? Really?

Det. Diskin: Because the Detectives are gonna come there and get it. Or there was concern that the Detectives would come there and get it. Which we went there and didn't find hardly anything (Inaudible) from the Spiritual Warrior which we thought was odd cause we found all kinds of stuff for all the other events but for some reason Spiritual Warrior was, hardly anything was there.

Megan: Huh. No

. . .

Det. Poling: Her voice mail. The message you left, what was that? What was said to her?

Megan: I don't remember

I'm no legal expert but that looks like obstruction of justice to me. That, at the very least, is what Fredrickson has hanging over her head. So it will be interesting to see if her memory comes back.

Aside from the picked over office detectives found at JRI, Det. Diskin also testified to finding Megan's backpack stuffed with waivers. So Fredrickson's testimony could prove interesting. It sure would be nice to hear it.

Here is the complete list of witness the prosecution intends to call:

  • Virginia Brown
  • Ross Diskin
  • Megan Fredrickson
  • Amayra Hamilton
  • Alyssa Gillespie
  • Jane Gripp-Shore
  • Michael Hamilton
  • Melinda Martin
  • Andrea Puckett

Ray's defense will also be presenting mitigating factors. It turns out they're getting a little help from a one Karen Ortiz who has been attempting to drum up support in the form of support letters. On Connie Joy's Facebook page, someone posted the email she sent out to a super-secret list.

I met you at a James A Ray Event and IF you would like to send a letter sharing how James has helped you in your life
I can give you instructions from James.

The lost of our friends was very difficult and emotional, some people are saddened by the accident… while others are not supportive of the case. Please do...n’t debate the case – the jury has acquitted James of manslaughter but has found him guilty a lesser charge. The letters will be used by his lawyer next Tuesday.

James helped myself and many others – email back if you would like to write a letter about how James has helped your life for the better.

Please disregard if you do not wish to participate,
EMAIL me if you would like instructions….

Thank You …he has always been in God’s hands
(I got your email address from and undisclosed email from JAR office years ago
….I do not use for any other subject)
Blessings, Karen Ortiz

Interesting dichotomy this message sets up between people who are saddened by "the accident" and those who aren't "supportive" of the case. Does that mean that people who aren't supportive of the case aren't sad at the loss of three lives?

Who is Karen Ortiz you may ask? Well. I asked. And I googled. It's a common name so it took a little doing but I found her footprints. She was formerly a leader of Ray's Journey Expansion Team or JET. Her name is gone from that defunct web page, but here's a capture showing old text.

As per her profile page on the marketing site ZenZuu, she is also "A KING of the Marketplace" but only on the wide web; not the world wide web, apparently.

The self described KING is currently tearing up the internet marketing world with her site Totally Set  Free. Somehow, she still finds time to pirate people's "undisclosed" email addresses -- which is a little creepy and stalkerish -- in her bid to help Ray's lawyers. But hey, when you're a JET you're a JET all the way...

Update: It turns out prosecutors are collecting emails from people who've had bad experiences with James Ray; an issue Kathy raised here in the comments. This message was posted to Connie Joy's Facebook page.

I just received this note from my cousin: just talked to Wendy Diskin -- Det Diskin's mother. He wants emails from ex-JR peeps, explaining how they've been hurt by James Ray. It does not have to specifically pertain to the 09 sweatlodge. JR's goonies are soliciting letters from people telling how much JR's helped them for the defense to use at the aggravated hearings... Team Sheila wants to have their own stack of emails to fight back.

Do you have contact with any ex-JR peeps who would be willing to send emails? They can be sent to Sheila at ycao@co.yavapai.az.us.

So if you're reading this and you feel you have been adversely affected by your experience with James Ray, it would appear that now is a good time to vent your spleen.

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