Tonya Harding's former bodyguard dies at age 40

Tonya Harding's former bodyguard dies at age 40

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Brian Sean Griffith, the former bodyguard to Tonya Harding, has died. He was 40.

Formerly Shawn Eckardt, Griffith served 14 months for his role in the 1994 attack on Harding's Olympic rival, Nancy Kerrigan.

Griffith died Wednesday of natural causes, according to the Washington County medical examiner's office.

But the state has not received the exact reason for the death from the private physician handling the case, officials said.

Griffith, of Beaverton, was Harding's bodyguard as the Portland-born skater competed for a spot on the U.S. Olympic figure skating team in 1994. That January, a club-wielding assailant hit Kerrigan in the knee, forcing her out of the competition.

The International Committee of the U.S. Figure Skating Association granted Kerrigan a spot anyway, and she recovered in time to win a silver medal at the winter Olympics.

Only days after the attack, Griffith confessed to the FBI and detailed a plan he and Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, had hatched. The investigation also eventually netted convictions of Shane Stant, the actual attacker, and Stant's uncle, Derrick Smith, who drove the getaway car.

For her part, Harding has always said she didn't know of the plan. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hinder an investigation into the assault and was banned from U.S. Figure Skating Association competitions.

Griffith was sentenced to 18 months in prison for racketeering but was released from the Oregon State Penitentiary four months early, in September 1995.

In October 2001, he started a Gresham-based computer business, Applied Information Systems Inc. State records show it was dissolved in December 2005. He was also sentenced to three years on probation for misdemeanor assault in 2001.

Family members refused Friday to comment on Griffith's life before or since the infamous attack.

"Shawn Eckardt died a long time ago," said his brother, Mike Skinner. "There is no other person than Brian Griffith."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)