Sep 21, 2011

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

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.

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