CAMP VERDE, Ariz. (AP) — Attorneys prosecuting a self-help guru on manslaughter charges in the deaths of three people during a sweat lodge ceremony are urging a judge to grant a gag order.
Prosecutor Sheila Polk says she wants the pretrial publicity to stop, arguing that it could taint the jury pool.
A Yavapai County judge is scheduled to hear arguments over the request on Friday.
Motivational speaker James Arthur Ray faces three counts of manslaughter, stemming from the deaths of the three people following the ceremony he led near Sedona last October.
Polk requested the gag order after Ray's attorneys appeared in television interviews the day after his arrest last week.
If granted, it would cover Ray, his Web site and blog, his attorneys and their staff, and employee's of Ray's Carlsbad, Calif.-based company, James Ray International.
Staff in the county attorney's office as well as the sheriff's office also would be included.
An attorney representing some media outlets said a gag order would be unjustified and severely limit the public's ability to monitor the proceedings.
Prosecutors contend Ray recklessly crammed more than 50 participants of his "Spiritual Warrior" event into a 415-square-foot sweat lodge and chided them for wanting to leave, even as people were vomiting, getting burned by hot rocks and lying unconscious on the ground.
Three people died at hospitals — Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee; and Liz Neuman, 49, of Prior Lake, Minn. Eighteen others were hospitalized.
Ray's attorneys have said he took all the necessary precautions and immediately tended to the ill. They have called the deaths a tragic accident and said Ray is not responsible.
He is being held at the Yavapai County jail on a $5 million bond. If convicted, Ray faces up to 12 1/2 years on each count with probation being an option.
Sweat lodges are commonly used by American Indian tribes to cleanse the body. The ceremony involves heating stones outside the lodge and then placing them in a pit inside the lodge. The door is closed, and water is poured on the stones, producing heat aimed at releasing toxins from the body.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.