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In Georgia, a Forsyth County Grand jury said four members of the right-to-die group, the Final Exit Network, operated a criminal enterprise that helped people die.

An indictment returned Tuesday charges the Final Exit Network along with co-founder Thomas “Ted” Goodwin, 64, of Kennesaw and Punta Gorda, Fla.; Claire Blehr, 77, of Atlanta; and Dr. Lawrence Egbert, 82, and Nicholas Alec Sheridan, 61, of Baltimore with violating Georgia’s RICO Act, assisting a suicide and tampering with evidence. The four are to be arraigned in Forsyth Superior Court on April 1.

The indictment – the first of its kind in Georgia – was returned more than a year after the four were arrested for allegedly helping John Celmer, 58, die by breathing helium pumped into a plastic hood secured over his head. The four also were allegedly involved in helping plan the suicide of an undercover Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent who was claiming to have pancreatic cancer,.

All four have been free on bond since the arrests on Feb. 25, 2009.

“There is a lot of information, so it took a long time for the GBI to compete its investigation even after the arrests were made and we had to … review all that,” District Attorney Penny Penn said.

She said Celmer’s death and the planned death of the agent were the basis for the racketeering charge.

A racketeering conviction could bring up to 20 years in prison, tampering with evidence has a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison, and assisting a suicide carries a five-year prison sentence.

Defense attorneys told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they are confident they will prevail.

“I think the prosecutor is misguided,” said attorney Bob Rubin, who represents Blehr.

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