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12:49 AM Thu, July 19th

James Ray withdraws indigency claim

Motivational speaker and author James Arthur Ray has withdrawn his request for help from the Yavapai County Public Defenders Office in his appeal process.

Ray, 54, is currently in Arizona State Prison Lewis, south of Buckeye, serving a two-year sentence for his June 2011 negligent homicide conviction that resulted from the October 2009 deaths of three people after a sweat lodge ceremony he led at a spiritual retreat center near Sedona.

In December, Ray petitioned Judge Warren Darrow for indigent status, claiming he was more than $11 million in debt, with very few assets on the plus side of the ledger. Nearly half of that claimed debt, however, was for civil settlements paid by his insurers. The financial statement he filed in December, which he also withdrew this week, stated he owed his attorneys $5.6 million.

During an early January hearing, Ray's local attorney, Tom Kelly, said that Ray only wanted the public defender's office to pay for the cost of transcripts that are required for the appeal. Those transcripts, from a four-month criminal trial, will cost around $40,000, and the current motion indicates that other arrangements have been made for payment. Most of the transcripts are already on file with the court of appeals, but an appeal brief has not yet been submitted.

The motion was filed by Ray's trial lawyers, Munger Tolles & Olson of Los Angeles, and indicated they will continue to represent him.

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk raised stern objections to Ray's indigency request in January, asking Darrow to have Ray, who once boasted he would become the world's first self-help billionaire, testify under oath he was unable to pay on his own and that his assets were depleted. Darrow was willing to make arrangements for Ray to testify by video or telephone from prison, but this week's motion voided that necessity.