Guru charged in sweat lodge deaths says he’s broke

Author of "Harmonic Wealth" says $5 million bail is "excessive"

Topics:

A man who built a multimillion-dollar empire with a motivational mantra that teaches people to create wealth contends he’s broke and cannot post bond in a criminal case that threatens the survival of his self-help business.

James Arthur Ray was charged earlier this month with three counts of manslaughter stemming from the deaths of three people following a sweat lodge ceremony he led last year in Arizona. His bond has been set at $5 million, a figure his attorneys say is “excessive and oppressive.”

“Despite misconceptions perpetrated in the media, Mr. Ray is not a man of significant assets and certainly not the millions reported in the press,” his attorneys wrote in documents obtained by The Associated Press from the court. The documents are now officially sealed.

Ray himself has touted his wealth and success in numerous media interviews and on his Web site, including an estimated $10 million in revenue in 2009 and a seven-figure advance for his book, “Harmonic Wealth” that hit the New York Times Best Sellers List in May 2008.

He told “Fortune Magazine” for an April 2008 article that his financial goal was $21 million a year and that he was sure there were limits, but “I am not aware of them.”

But the court documents paint a much different picture, showing that he is severely in debt with a net worth of negative $4.2 million. Real estate makes up about $3.1 million of Ray’s total assets of nearly $4.2 million, but he has little equity.

The properties include homes in Hawaii and Nevada, and rentals in California. Ray’s Carlsbad, Calif.-based business, James Ray International, and a Beverly Hills mansion he recently put up for sale are not listed among the assets.

Ray’s liabilities were listed at more than $8.5 million, much of which was unexplained in a statement of net worth.

In a financial statement filled out by Ray the day of his arrest, he wrote that he pays out $94,000 a month in expenses, including for rent and mortgages, utilities, insurance and vehicles. He listed his assets as $14,000 in a checking account and $220,000 in a retirement account.

Ray’s attorneys said his financial stability has been shaken by withdrawals from bank accounts in the last several months to pay creditors and legal fees, including a significant retainer deposited in a trust account at the California-based law firm representing him.



Ray’s attorneys say he has no criminal history, isn’t a threat to public safety or a flight risk and cannot afford the bail. They are set to argue Tuesday in court to have Ray released on his own recognizance coupled with the surrender of his passport or have bail set at a minimum.

It’s unclear what position the Yavapai County, Ariz., attorney’s office has taken on the defense request to reduce bail. Its response to the motion is sealed, and a spokeswoman cited fair trial rights in declining to comment.

Ray has pleaded not guilty to each of the manslaughter counts. If convicted, he faces up to 12 1/2 years on each count, with probation being an option.

Prosecutors contend Ray recklessly crammed more than 50 participants of his “Spiritual Warrior” event near Sedona into a 415-square-foot sweat lodge, a sauna-like experience that uses heated stones to cleanse the body and is commonly used by American Indian tribes. Many participants have said Ray chided them for wanting to leave, even as people were vomiting, getting burned by hot rocks and lying unconscious on the ground.

Three people died — Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee; and Liz Neuman, 49, of Prior Lake, Minn. Eighteen others were hospitalized.

Ray’s attorneys have called the deaths a tragic accident and said he took all the necessary precautions and immediately tended to the ill.

——

On the Net:

James Ray International: http://www.jamesray.com

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>