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News from around Wisconsin (10:19 p.m. 2/3/10)

Motivational speaker charged in sweat lodge deaths

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Motivational speaker James Arthur Ray was arrested Wednesday afternoon on three counts of manslaughter for deaths that happened after a sweat lodge ceremony he led in northern Arizona last year.

Ray was taken into custody on an indictment at his attorney’s office in Prescott, and was to be booked into the Yavapai County jail in Camp Verde, sheriff’s officials said. His bond was set at $5 million.

Ray’s attorneys said Wednesday he surrendered to authorities but that the charges were unjust and they were confident he would be exonerated in court.

“This was a terrible accident, but it was an accident, not a criminal act,” Ray attorney Luis Li said. “James Ray cooperated at every step of the way, providing information and witnesses to the authorities showing that no one could have foreseen this accident.”

The Oct. 8 sweat lodge ceremony was intended to be the highlight of Ray’s five-day “Spiritual Warrior” event at a retreat he rented just outside Sedona. He told participants, who paid more than $9,000 each to attend, that it would be one of the most intense experiences of their lives.

About halfway through the two-hour ceremony, some began feeling ill, vomiting and collapsing inside the 415-square-foot structure. Despite that, Ray urged participants to push past their physical weaknesses and chided those who wanted to leave, authorities and participants have said.

Two people — Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., and James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee — passed out inside the sweat lodge and died that night at a hospital. Liz Neuman, 49, of Prior Lake, Minn., slipped into a coma and died a week later. Eighteen others were hospitalized.

Atty: Man accused of attacking Wis. mayor has PTSD

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A 20-year-old man accused of attacking Milwaukee’s mayor last summer was blacked out at the time and doesn’t clearly remember doing it, his attorney said Wednesday.

Anthony Peters was physically and emotionally abused and has suffered blackouts for most of his life, his attorney Anthony Cotton said.

Peters has entered an insanity plea to four charges, including first-degree reckless injury. He is due to stand trial Feb. 15, but Cotton expects the date to be pushed to May because he said he needs more time. A status hearing was scheduled for Friday.

Authorities say Peters was arguing with his daughter’s grandmother on Aug. 15 when Mayor Tom Barrett intervened. Peters allegedly hit Barrett with a metal object, leaving him with head, mouth and hand injuries.

Cotton said the mayor punched his client first, and the blow may have contributed to the blackout.

A doctor has determined Peters has post traumatic stress disorder, and Peters has been prescribed medication for various mental health issues, including depression, post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder, Cotton said.

Peters’ mother, Danita Brisk, said Peters’ father was killed by a train when he was 3 years old and he never got over it. He also was physically abused by an elementary school teacher, she said.

Wis. National Guard to help Haiti

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin National Guard has been tapped to help in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Three Army National Guard soldiers from the Wisconsin Joint Force Headquarters Detachment 52 will head to Florida on Tuesday. They’ll fly personnel and supplies between the state and Haiti beginning Feb. 11. Two more soldiers will eventually relieve two of them. Their mission is expected to last a month.

About a week after the trio departs, an airman from the Milwaukee-based 128th Air Refueling Wing of the Air National Guard will serve as a civil engineer in Haiti on a 120-day mission.

Lt. Col. Jackie Guthrie, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin National Guard, said guard members from more than 20 states are helping with Haiti’s recovery.

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