James Arthur Ray’s lawyer Luis Li released two letters to the media this week, a 22-pager dated December 1, 2009, and a six-pager dated January 4th, both originally addressed to Bill Hughes, a Supervising Deputy County Attorney in Prescott, Arizona. The letters argue 1) That contrary to negative stories in the media, Ray is not a mystic or a “spiritual guru” but the CEO of a personal transformation consultancy that “stresses a practical approach for figuring out what you want and how to get it,” adding that Ray holds a junior college degree and has also taken night and weekend college courses and is just five hours short of a degree in behavioral science; and 2) That there are no grounds for a negligent homicide prosecution.
Li contends that Ray took every possible precaution with the sweat lodge: participants were urged to hydrate, provided with fruit and water, and supervised by medically-trained staff. The truth about what happened on October 8 will probably never be known because Angel Valley, the host of the retreat, “destroyed the sweat lodge structure and coverings and buried the stones used in the ceremony. The loss of this critical environmental information may render determining the exact cause of death impossible, and the loss of this critical evidence from any crime scene would itself undermine any criminal charges against Mr. Ray.”
The letters, of course, beg the critical question: if Ray was so responsible and careful and professional, then why did people die? If he was so compassionate and concerned and “devastated” in the aftermath then why did he make himself so scarce, and why were his initial public responses so incredibly callous?
Ray may or may not be served justice in a courtroom, but I think it’s a safe bet that his shamanic public persona–and hence his entire enterprise–has been irrecoverably ruined.