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Sweat-lodge defendant seeks new trial

CAMP VERDE, Ariz., Aug. 1 (UPI) -- An Arizona judge agreed to hear defense arguments for a new trial for James Arthur Ray, convicted of negligent homicide for three sweat-lodge deaths.

Judge Warren Darrow, during a teleconference hearing late last week, scheduled an Aug. 16 session to hear arguments for a new trial. The defense cited 10 acts by the prosecution, including prosecutorial misconduct, when requested the hearing, the Prescott, Ariz., Daily Courier reported.

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Prosecutors said even if the alleged acts occurred they were harmless and did not prejudice the jury against Ray.

Ray, a self-help expert and motivational speaker, faces up to nine years in prison. He was was convicted June 22 on three counts of negligent homicide, with an aggravating factor being that each death caused emotional harm to the family of the deceased.

If the judge rejects the motion for a new trial, the case will move into the pre-sentence phase.

The victims were among the participants of a "Spiritual Warrior" retreat in October 2009 at Angel Valley, a resort near Sedona, Ariz.

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