Ray 'Accepts Responsibility' but That 'Doesn't Make It a Crime,' Lawyer Says

James Ray arrested and charged with three counts of manslaughter.

ByABC News via logo
October 28, 2009, 3:49 PM

Feb. 4, 2010 — -- James Ray accepts responsibility for what happened in the Sedona, Ariz., sweat lodge that led to three deaths, but that does not make it a crime, said one of his lawyers, Brad Brian.

"After this happened he immediately reached out to the families. We have been meeting with the families' lawyers. But again, that doesn't make it a crime. We think turning this into a criminal charge we think is unjust and we look forward to proving his innocence in court," Brian said on "Good Morning America" this morning.

Ray, a controversial spiritual leader, was arrested last night and charged with three counts of manslaughter for the deaths of Kirby Brown, James Shore and Liz Neuman following the Oct. 8 ceremony.

Brian said his client is "devastated" by the deaths.

"This was a tragic accident. No one, including Mr. Ray, could have possibility foreseen consequences anything like this. He has thought about nothing else every day since this incident," Brian said.

The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office announced the arrest in a statement on its Web site Wednesday night.

"With the arrest of James Ray, Sheriff [Steve] Waugh hopes the families of the three victims will now have some measure of closure to this tragedy," according to the statement.

Ray was "cooperative" with police and answered routing booking questions, officer Dwight Develyn of the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office told ABC News. Bond was set for Ray at $5 million, the sheriff's office said.

Brown, 38, and Shore, 40, both of whom paid nearly $10,000 to spend the week with Ray, died in the lodge.

Neuman, 49, spent more than a week in a coma and died Oct. 17. Eighteen others were injured.

Andrea Pucket, Neuman's daughter, was glad there was an arrest in the case.

"I think this is going to be a first step to starting to be able to move on with our lives," she told ABC News.

Survivor Beverly Bunn told "Good Morning America" that even while people were collapsing, vomiting and gasping for air, Ray, who was leading the ceremony, urged everyone to stay inside.

More than 60 people were gathered inside the tent hoping to cleanse their bodies. But within the hour people began to collapse and vomit, Bunn said.

While people were not physically forced to remain in the tent, Bunn said Ray would chide them if they wanted to leave, saying weakness could be overcome.

Brain says Ray took extreme precautions while conducting the ceremony and denies the charge that Ray prevented anyone from leaving.

"The people here who participated in these programs were intelligent, professional people who signed disclaimers, who understood this was going to be hot, understood this was going to be difficult. And yet, as I said, 20 people left during the sweat lodge. There were different rounds, the tent flaps were opened and people were allowed to leave," Brian told "GMA."