James Ray Sentenced to Just Two Years in Prison For Sweat Lodge Deaths

Oprah-approved snake-oil salesman James Arthur Ray is going to prison.

Ray, who was found guilty of three counts of negligent homicide, was sentenced this afternoon to two years in prison for each of the three people who died during a 2009 "self-helf" sweat lodge ceremony near Sedona.

The sentences, however, will run concurrently, meaning Ray will do just two years in prison.

Additionally, Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow ordered Ray to pay $57,514.12 in restition.

Ray was found to be responsible for the deaths of the three victims -- who'd paid thousands of dollars to attend his "Spiritual Warrior" retreat -- in September.

Part of the retreat had participants crammed into a poorly ventilated, tiny sweat lodge. Dozens were injured during the sweat lodge event, and three people -- 49-year-old Liz Neuman, 38-year-old Kirby Brown, and 40-year-old James Shore -- died.

According to court documents obtained by New Times, Ray discouraged participants from leaving the sweat lodge, even as some were throwing up and passing out.

Neuman of Prior Lake, Minnesota, died of multiple-organ failure after the ceremony. The other two victims, Brown, of Westtown, New York, and Shore, of Wisconsin, each fell victim to heat stroke after being in the sweat tent.

Ray maintains that the deaths were a tragic accident, but prosecutors felt that stuffing dozens of people into a hot, poorly ventilated sweat tent -- and then discouraging them from leaving -- is more than just an accident.

See more of our coverage on Ray here.

Ray's attorney's are argued for leniency for their client, asking that he be sentenced to probation.

"At the end of the day, I lost three friends, and I lost them on my watch," Ray said during his sentencing hearing. "Whatever errors in judgment or mistakes I have made, I'm going to have to live with those for the rest of my life. I truly understand your disappointment in my actions after, I do. I'm disappointed in myself. I don't have any excuse."

Ray faced up to nine years in prison on each count.

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James King
Contact: James King