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  Rival's Bodyguard, One Other Arrested in Assault

By Christine Brennan and Edward Walsh
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 14, 1994; Page A1




 Shawn Eric Eckardt
 Shawn Eric Eckardt, Tonya Harding's bodyguard, was arrested in Portland for the alleged plot on Nancy Kerrigan. (AP File Photo)
Figure skater Tonya Harding's bodyguard and a Phoenix man were arrested yesterday and charged with conspiracy in last week's attack on Harding's Olympic teammate, Nancy Kerrigan.

Shawn Eric Eckardt, the bodyguard, and Derrick B. Smith were arrested in Portland, Ore., by Multnomah County sheriff's deputies. Eckardt was brought to the County Justice Center in downtown Portland at about 7:30 p.m. PST; Smith was brought in a half-hour later. Neither answered questions shouted by reporters gathered at the facility.

Both were charged with conspiracy to commit assault. Bail was set at $20,000 for each. They will be arraigned today, according to Lt. James Turney of the Multnomah County sheriff's department, who also said there would be no further arrests last night. Authorities would not say if more arrests were expected today.

The FBI had taken Smith, 29, a former Portland resident, into custody at the Portland airport, where he arrived on a flight from Phoenix.

The two men allegedly were part of a plot to injure Kerrigan and increase
 derrick b. smith
 After arriving from Phoenix, Derrick B. Smith was arrested in Portland and charged with conspiracy to commit assault. (AP File Photo)
Harding's chances for one of two spots on the U.S. Olympic team. Yesterday, the Oregonian newspaper, citing unidentified law enforcement sources, reported that Eckardt, 26, had confessed to arranging the attack at the request of Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly. The plot allegedly involved Gillooly, Eckardt, an Eckardt acquaintance in Phoenix and a Portland man who clubbed Kerrigan for $100,000, according to the Oregonian.

Kerrigan was hit above the knee with what Detroit police said was a retractable metal baton in the Jan. 6 attack at Detroit's Cobo Arena, forcing her to withdraw from last week's U.S. Olympic trials. Harding won the competition; Kerrigan was given the second berth on the team that will compete in next month's Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

Detroit Deputy Police Chief Benny Napoleon said the police and FBI had turned over information uncovered in their investigation to prosecutors in Portland, Harding's home town. Neither Harding nor Gillooly was available for comment yesterday.

Napoleon said that, to his knowledge, Harding was not a suspect, and a spokesman for the Multnomah County District Attorney's office confirmed that a warrant has not been issued for Harding.

U.S. Olympic and figure skating officials refused yesterday to comment on the case.

"There is no documentation of information for either [the U.S. Figure Skating Association or the U.S. Olympic Committee] to take action with regard to any particular athlete," said USOC Executive Director Harvey Schiller. "My expectation is that all of us will know more in the next few days."

"As the investigation into the incident continues, the USFSA will adhere to its policy of refusing to speculate," USFSA spokeswoman Kristin Matta said in a release. "We are not in the speculating business, and we will continue to deal only with the facts. Speculation where it involves the careers of young athletes is pointless."

The investigation into the attack was set in motion by a telephone call that awakened Napoleon at his home Saturday morning. The call came from an anonymous woman who claimed to have heard a tape-recorded conversation in which "about four people" plotted to kill or maim Kerrigan before the trials, Napoleon said.

According to Napoleon, the woman said she heard the tape recording "months ago," a short time after the conversation took place. The woman said she listened to the tape in the presence of a friend who had taken part in the conversation. Napoleon said he immediately relayed the caller's information to the FBI in Detroit.

"I did not from the beginning believe that [the assault] was random," Napoleon said. "I never believed that. So as she was talking to me, I did not take it as something that would be farfetched. I placed, obviously, a lot of credence in it."

Napoleon said he had not heard the tape and did not know where it was, but it apparently is not in the possession of police. An FBI spokesman said he believed a piece of evidence had been destroyed, although he declined to comment on what it was.

The plot was first discussed at a meeting in Portland, according to sources of NBC News. The alleged hit man then flew to Boston; Kerrigan lives and trains in nearby Stoneham, Mass. It is believed that he planned to attack Kerrigan there, but bad weather somehow fouled the attempt, NBC said.

Napoleon said a Detroit resident discovered what is believed to be the assault weapon Monday near Cobo Arena. He described the weapon as a collapsible night stick and said it was being examined by the FBI crime lab for evidence. According to the Detroit Free Press, the alleged weapon measures 7½ inches and opens to a length of 21 inches.

In another development yesterday, it was confirmed, according to court records in Oregon, that Harding and Gillooly were officially divorced last summer. However, as recently as last week, Harding referred to him as her husband.

Harding explained the confusion at a news conference at the Skate America competition in Dallas last October.

She said she and Gillooly did file for divorce, but then reconciled. But they forgot to notify their attorneys, so the paperwork was finalized.

"We didn't mean for [the papers] to go through," Harding told reporters. "We're trying to get the divorce annulled." She added: "I'm definitely married."

Whatever happens to Harding, there is expected to be much discussion about her berth on the U.S. Olympic team. She was named a member of the team last Saturday. Until Jan. 31, it is the USFSA's call whether to take her off the team.

On Jan. 31, the USFSA must submit the names of its Olympians to the USOC. At that time, the USOC will certify and send the names to the Lillehammer Olympic Organizing Committee. Or, it could remove anyone it did not deem fit to be an Olympian.

When a U.S. athlete qualifies for the Olympics, he or she signs a code of conduct, which reads, in part, " ... I will be representing my country in international competition, which is an honor and privilege that I will be proud of for my entire life. The United States has a history of fielding teams the entire nation and much of the world salutes. I will respect this lofty position."

The code goes on to say, "Should a disciplinary problem arise [i.e. misconduct, breaking of the law], it will be dealt with" by a board composed of USOC officers and other officials. Harding signed this code Sunday.

There are few, if any, precedents for USOC officials to follow in the situation involving Harding and Kerrigan. Under different circumstances in 1988, the USOC dealt with criminal charges involving one of its athletes. Diver Bruce Kimball was arrested for driving while intoxicated and charged with manslaughter when his car struck and killed two teenagers in Florida prior to the U.S. Olympic diving trials. He subsequently competed at the trials and did not make the Olympic team that went to Seoul.

Had he qualified for the Olympics, then-USOC president Robert Helmick was prepared to remove Kimball from the team, even though he had not yet been convicted of any crime. (He later was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in jail.)

"I was ready to announce in this case, unfortunate as it was, that someone under indictment for such a crime, with alcohol involved, should not be representing the youth of the nation," Helmick said yesterday. "With great respect for the possibility of his being not guilty, it was not a matter of law, it was a matter of representation and appearances."

Kerrigan, who is continuing to rehabilitate her injured right knee, has shown "significant improvement" after two days of physical therapy, Dewey Blanton of ProServ, the Arlington-based company that represents Kerrigan, said in a statement.

Dr. Mahlon Bradley of the USFSA reported that her range of motion had increased from 75 degrees on Monday to 137 degrees yesterday evening. (Straightening the leg is 180 degrees.)

"She is progressing very well," Bradley said in a release. "She still needs to strengthen the quadriceps muscle before getting on the ice, but we are very pleased with her improvement."

Kerrigan could return to skating as early as Monday or Tuesday. Meanwhile, CBS Sports announced yesterday it has bought the exclusive rights to televise Kerrigan's return to the ice the week before the Olympic Games.

CBS executives said they made a deal with ProServ to do an hour-long prime-time special, tentatively titled "Nancy & Her Friends," to be telecast from a skating rink in Boston.

Staff writer William Hamilton contributed to this report from Portland. Brennan reported from Washington, Walsh from Detroit.

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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