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US senator's former top aide, facing child porn charges, hangs himself

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A former aide to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander hanged himself in his parents' basement in Maryland as he awaited trial on child pornography charges, officials said Friday.

Ryan Loskarn, 35, was pronounced dead in Sykesville, Maryland, just after noon Thursday, said Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesman for the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore. He said the death was ruled a suicide.

Family members called police after finding Loskarn unresponsive in the basement, where he had been living, the Carroll County Sheriff's Office said in a statement posted on its website.

Maj. Phillip Kasten said the sheriff's office may not release additional details until the investigation is finished. He said that could take several weeks

A federal judge had allowed Loskarn to live with his parents while awaiting trial on charges of possession and attempted distribution of child pornography. He was required to be electronically monitored.

Loskarn had been chief of staff for Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, for two years before his arrest. Loskarn was fired immediately after his arrest.

"For everyone involved, this is a sad and tragic story from beginning to end," Alexander said in a statement.

David Schertler, a Washington lawyer whose firm represented Loskarn, said the firm did not have an immediate comment on Loskarn's death.

A federal prosecutor warned more than a month ago that Loskarn might be at risk of self-harm. At his detention hearing Dec. 16, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mi Yung Park said Loskarn had said after his arrest that his life was over. She said the comments suggested Loskarn might harm himself. For that reason, she asked Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola to keep Loskarn in custody.

But defence attorney Pamela Satterfield said there was nothing to suggest Loskarn would kill himself, and Facciola ordered him released. Satterfield did not respond Friday to messages from The Associated Press.

U.S. Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment on Loskarn's death.

Loskarn was arrested Dec. 11. Prosecutors had been given until Feb.10 to return an indictment. Loskarn's lawyer said in a court filing last month that the two sides planned to try to resolve the case.

According to court documents, law enforcement officials believe that between November 2010 and March 2011, Loskarn made several purchases from a website that was offering child pornography DVDs. Loskarn also was accused of offering child pornography files for download from his home computer.

Court documents say that when law enforcement officials arrived to search his Washington home, one official watched as Loskarn appeared to place an object outside a window. Officials later found a portable hard drive in that location, and a prosecutor said the drive contained at least 200 videos of child pornography.

If convicted, Loskarn had faced up to 10 years on the possession charge and a minimum of five and maximum of 20 years on the distribution charge.

According to Loskarn's biography on his LinkedIn account and in previous communications for Alexander's office, he graduated from Tulane University in 2000 and went to work for retired Republican U.S. Rep. Wally Herger of California as a legal assistant. He later was the communications director for U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, and eventually became staff director for the Senate Republican Conference.

Loskarn was well versed in Senate procedure and was considered a sharp prognosticator of how debates and standoffs would play out. He was known to share colorful anecdotes and keen observations about body language and mood in the Senate.

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Associated Press writers Erik Schelzig in Nashville, Tennessee, and Eric Tucker and Jessica Gresko in Washington contributed to this report.

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