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Motivator guilty in sweat lodge deaths

CAMP VERDE, Ariz., June 23 (UPI) -- A motivational author and speaker was convicted Wednesday of negligent homicide for the deaths of three of his clients in an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony.

A jury acquitted James Arthur Ray of manslaughter, The Arizona Republic reported. He could be sentenced to probation or as much as 11 years in prison on the less serious negligent homicide charge.

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The victims were participating in a "Spiritual Warrior" retreat in October 2009 at Angel Valley, a resort near Sedona, Ariz. Ray, 53, charged as much as $10,000 for the five-day retreat.

Ray is the author of "Harmonic Wealth," a self-help book that made The New York Times bestseller list.

The trial began March 1 in Yavapai County Superior Court. Prosecutors argued that Kirby Brown, 38, James Shore, 40, and Liz Neuman, 49, died of heat prostration, and that Ray, who controlled the conditions of the sweat lodge ceremony, was responsible.

The defense suggested toxic chemicals used in fertilizers might have been a factor.

Jurors will return next week to hear evidence on aggravating factors. Their findings will help determine the sentence.

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