July 25: a day for remembrance
Today, July 25, was supposed to be beginning of the sentencing hearing for James Arthur "Death" Ray, who was convicted June 22 on three counts of negligent homicide for the fake-sweat-lodge deaths of James Shore, Kirby Brown, and Liz Neuman in October 2009. However, due to numerous stall tactics from the defense, hearings won't resume until August 16. The defense has been clamoring for a new trial, hysterically claiming egregious misconduct by the prosecution. However, the State says there is no merit to these claims.
July 25 would have been a fitting day to see Death Ray back in court, because it was exactly two years ago on this date that yet another of his victims, Colleen Conaway, lost her life during a Ray event in San Diego. Supposedly Colleen leaped to her death from a third-story balcony in a San Diego mall. When Ray found out about it, he and his minions apparently took great pains to cover it up, and the event, as well as the post-event parties, went on as usual. While the legal system has yet to demand or deliver justice for Colleen, there are many who will not let her name be forgotten. Salty Droid in particular has done a fine job documenting Colleen's story and trying to fill in the pieces of a puzzle that may never be completely solved.
July 25 is a sad day for another reason too: It was the day in 2005 that Houstonian Michael Scinto's father and sister found him dead, "rotting in his apartment from a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head," according to an October 2007 article in the Houston Press. Michael was apparently another New-Wage/LGAT (Large Group Awareness Training) victim, having been bullied, harassed, and just generally traumatized at a New Warrior Training Adventure event sponsored by the ManKind Project, aka MKP. Though MKP isn't as big or rich an operation as some in the New-Wage/McSpirituality industry, it is arguably one of those most responsible for the aggressive appropriation of Native American rituals by privileged white folks. MKP was holding wilderness weekends featuring phony sweat lodges, talking sticks, and other Indian-inspired stuff back in the mid-1980s, when Death Ray was still a two-bit telemarketer.
Michael Scinto's family filed suit against MKP and settled out of court in 2008. Apparently his death -- or rather, the hell his family raised -- did prompt MKP to change some of their practices, and they've also devoted a lot of space on their Web site to neutralizing the horrible publicity. Here, in case you haven't read it yet, is a link to my very long blog post about MKP.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if there will be justice for James Shore, Kirby Brown, and Liz Neuman. I guess we'll just have to wait until August to find out.