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  Harding's Ex-Husband Linked to Kerrigan Attack

By Tracee Hamilton and Christine Brennan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, January 16, 1994; Page D1




Tonya Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, was linked twice yesterday to the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, and Harding's spot on the U.S. Olympic team could be in jeopardy, even though Harding has not been charged in the assault.

The Detroit police department has requested four warrants in the Jan. 6 attack on Kerrigan at downtown Detroit's Cobo Arena, for Gillooly and the three men already held in the case, according to a report in today's Detroit News.

If a warrant for Gillooly is requested, it will be the first time he has been officially linked to the attack. However, Detroit Deputy Police Chief Benny Napolean denied to The Washington Post yesterday that warrants had been requested.

And Napolean told the News yesterday that no warrant is being sought for Harding at this time.

Detroit police are seeking charges of felonious assault and conspiracy to commit felonious assault, according to the News.

Gillooly was also accused by a witness in Portland, Ore., who said yesterday that Gillooly masterminded the plot to injure Kerrigan, who was forced to withdraw from the U.S. Olympic figure skating trials after being struck above the right knee with a collapsible metal baton.

Sarah Bergman, 20, told Portland private investigator Gary Crowe that she was in the room with Harding's bodyguard, Shawn Eric Eckardt, when he allegedly had a telephone conversation with Gillooly regarding the attack, according to the Associated Press.

Bergman told Crowe — who was hired by a Portland minister who said he had heard a tape recording of the same conversation — she had no reason to believe Harding was involved in the plot.

However, the U.S. Olympic Committee, in a statement released by its president, Dr. LeRoy Walker, indicated it would consider removing Harding from the team regardless of whether or not she is charged in the alleged plot, saying it was concerned with "potential disruptive elements within the U.S. delegation at the Games."

USOC executive director Harvey Schiller told The Post yesterday that the USOC would discuss the Harding situation at today's executive committee meeting in Durham, N.C., which has been scheduled since October. Schiller said the committee is expected to formulate several scenarios to deal with various possible outcomes in the Kerrigan case.

Eckardt, 26, and Derrick B. Smith, 29, have been charged in Portland with conspiracy to commit assault in the second degree. Eckardt, who was released on bail Friday evening, had earlier implicated Harding in the planning of the attack, according to reports on NBC News.

The alleged attacker, Shane Minoaka Stant, 22, turned himself in to FBI agents in Phoenix on Friday and was charged with conspiracy as well as a federal charge of being a fugitive. He remains in Phoenix pending extradition to Portland.

A source close to the investigation told the Boston Globe that Stant alleges that Harding also was involved in the plot, and that she helped stage a November death threat against herself as part of the plan.

Portland police refused to say yesterday whether more arrests were expected in the case, or whether Harding or Gillooly are suspects.

"The investigation is continuing," Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk told the Associated Press. "I can't say she's involved. I can't say she's not involved."

The Oregonian reported earlier this week that Eckardt, at Gillooly's request, allegedly hired Smith and Stant to attack Kerrigan. Stant, Smith's nephew by marriage, was allegedly to be paid $100,000.

Bergman and Eckardt were classmates in a course taught by Crowe at Pioneer Pacific College near Portland.

"Jeff was involved in the conversations from the very start," Bergman said in an interview on Portland TV station KATU. "The way I understood it, it was Jeff doing this for Tonya so he could look better in her eyes. Things were kind of rocky between Jeff and Tonya, and Jeff wanted to make it good for her."

Harding and Gillooly briefly left the home they share in Beavercreek, Ore., yesterday in a rental car, refusing to speak to reporters, according to the Associated Press. When they returned, Gillooly said: "We can't talk about the specifics, and we're just as anxious to talk to you guys as you are to us. There will be more in a few days."

Harding added, "Yeah, hopefully."

"We're very hopeful she'll be exonerated next week," Dennis P. Rawlinson, one of Harding's lawyers, told the Boston Globe yesterday. "Stick with us. There'll be some positive news."

Rawlinson, who is the husband of Harding's coach, Diane Rawlinson, said he was working on "getting criminal charges cleared" for his client, although no criminal charges have yet been filed against her.

Meanwhile, Kerrigan's agent, Jerry Solomon, said yesterday his client would return to the ice Monday for the first time since the attack forced her to pull out of the trials.

After the attack, Kerrigan was given one of two spots on the Olympic team; Harding won the other with her victory in Detroit. If Harding is unable to compete in the women's event, which begins Feb. 23, 13-year-old Michelle Kwan, the runner-up in Detroit, would take her place.

While Kerrigan continues work with physical therapist Igor Burdenko off the ice, Harding has apparently not skated since her appearance in Detroit last weekend. She has rarely been seen in public since speculation surrounding her role in the alleged plot began swirling around Portland early in the week.

U.S. Figure Skating Association President Claire Ferguson said yesterday she wondered whether Harding would be able to adequately prepare for the Olympics.

"With all of the attention of the people in Portland on her, it may be a rolling stone that rolls right over her," Ferguson said. "She's been just deluged by the people out there. She's under constant pressure. It must be very hard for her to concentrate."

Ferguson said the USFSA is prepared to act when and if it has more information about the attack.

"We want to be as cautious and as thoughtful as possible," Ferguson said. "We would need to talk to our lawyers as to what our position is. We really don't want to be involved in a lawsuit."

A statement issued yesterday by USOC president Walker indicated the USOC is concerned about Harding competing on the U.S. team regardless of whether or not she is implicated in the attack on Kerrigan.

"... While awaiting additional information from various agencies, the USOC cannot prejudge any of the issues relating to any individual, but we are concerned about issues of sportsmanship as well as the potential of disruptive elements within the U.S. delegation at the Games," Walker's statement said in part.

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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