NEW YORK (AP) — A former president of the U.N. General Assembly awaiting trial in a bribery scandal died in a weightlifting accident when a barbell he was lifting from a bench dropped on his neck, an autopsy revealed Thursday.
John Ashe was declared dead late Wednesday afternoon by a paramedic who responded to his Dobbs Ferry home.
Dr. Kunjlata Ashar, Westchester County's medical examiner, said the cause of death — traumatic asphyxia — was determined during an autopsy, though she did not perform the procedure herself and did not have additional details. It was deemed an accident based on a combination of information from the autopsy and an investigation by the Dobbs Ferry Police Department, officials said.
The police department said in a statement that the death appears accidental, but provided little information otherwise.
Ashe, the former United Nations ambassador from the twin-island Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, was arrested last fall and had pleaded not guilty to tax charges related to a bribery scandal. His attorney said he was planning to go to trial.
In a statement Wednesday, current U.N. General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft described Ashe as a "hard-working and popular member of the diplomatic corps in New York and at the United Nations" before he faced the unproven allegations. He had said Ashe died of a heart attack.
Prosecutors said a billionaire Chinese businessman and others had funneled over $1 million to Ashe while he served as president of the 193-nation assembly from September 2013 to September 2014. The billionaire Chinese real estate maven, two diplomats and a humanitarian organization officer were among others charged in the case.
Ashe's attorney, Jeremy Schneider, called his client's death "a tragic loss for his family and the community."
Associated Press writers Ben Fox in Miami, Anika Kentish from St. John's Antigua, Tom McElroy in New York and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.