James Ray found guilty over Arizona sweat lodge deaths

James Arthur Ray, left, and his attorney, Thomas Kelly, right Ray, left, had argued the deaths were a tragic accident, but the jury disagreed

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A motivational speaker has been found guilty over the deaths of three people who fell ill during a meeting at an Arizona "sweat lodge".

A jury found James Ray guilty of three counts of "negligent homicide".

The deaths occurred at the Angel Valley Retreat Center, 115 miles (180km) north of Phoenix, in October 2009.

Ray's lawyers said the deaths were a tragic accident, but prosecutors said he had failed to act when people exhibited signs of distress.

Sweat lodges are typically used by American Indians to rid the body of toxins by pouring water over heated rocks in the structure.

Emergency services were called to the sweat lodge after some of the 50 people at the event reported they were having difficulty breathing.

Two people fainted during the ceremony, and died later the same evening, and a third participant died a week later, after failing to wake up from a coma.

Eighteen people were taken to hospital reportedly suffering from illnesses ranging from dehydration to kidney failure.

Prosecutors said a reasonable person would have stopped the "abomination of a sweat lodge" when participants began showing signs of distress about halfway through the ceremony.

Mr Ray, who has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Larry King Live, had rented the centre for his five-day "Spiritual Warrior" event.

Reports said some of the participants had paid up to $9,000 (£5,650) for their stay at the retreat, which also reportedly included a 36-hour fast.

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