The Yavapai County Superior Court judge overseeing the manslaughter trial of snake-oil salesman James Arthur Ray ruled today that some important pieces of evidence may not be used by prosecutors during trial -- most notably, information about Ray's financial situation.
Ray's probably lovin' Judge Warren Darrow's ruling -- you know, considering he was charging people up to $9,000 to "change their lives" by sweatin' it out in a make-shift tent. Three people ultimately died from injuries sustained in Ray's sweat lodge event, and he's since been charged with three counts of manslaughter.
Part of Ray's whole gimmick as a "motivational speaker" is bragging about his money and success, which he does quite often in media interviews and on his website. He even told Fortune Magazine in April 2008 that his annual financial goal is $21 million.
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However, after three people died at a October 2009 "Spiritual Warrior" event in Sedona, and Ray's bail was set at $5 million, the "self-help guru" claimed he was broke.
"Despite misconceptions perpetrated in the media, Mr. Ray is not a man of significant assets and certainly not the millions reported in the press," Ray's lawyer wrote in court documents obtained by the Associated Press in February of 2010. Those documents are now officially sealed.
Darrow's ruling went further to say that evidence of Ray's refund policy for "spiritual warrior" events like the tragedy in Sedona would be allowed if it affected one of the victim's participation in the ceremony. Those victims include 49-year-old Liz Neuman, of Prior Lake, Minnesota, who died of multiple-organ failure. The other two victims, 38-year-old Kirby Brown of Westtown, New York, and 40-year-old James Shore of Wisconsin, each fell victim to heat stroke after being in the sweat tent.
Ray's trial is scheduled to begin on February 16.