Report: Transactions May Implicate Ex-Husband
By Johnette Howard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 18, 1994; Page E1
Figure skater Tonya Harding announced plans to meet with the Portland, Ore., district attorney and resumed practice yesterday for the Winter Olympics, but U.S. Olympic Committee officials continue to suggest that she should resign from the squad.
And last night NBC News reported that authorities have information that may link her former husband, Jeff Gillooly, to the Jan. 6 attack on Olympic teammate Nancy Kerrigan.
After Harding and one of her attorneys made network television appearances yesterday morning to again disavow that Harding had any role or knowledge of the attack, NBC News reported that authorities had found a paper trail of bank and wire transfers that may link Gillooly to the assault.
And Portland's Oregonian newspaper reported yesterday that the man who attacked Kerrigan was paid $6,500 in "hit money," not the $65,000 or $100,000 that had been reported. The newspaper, citing no sources, said the money may have come from a trust fund set up for Harding by the U.S. Figure Skating Association. (Trust funds were routinely set up for Olympic-caliber amateur athletes by their sports associations to handle donations and training support until last May, when they were discontinued and funds were spent at athlete's discretion. USFSA officials have said they've dispersed approximately $50,000 to Harding in the past year to defray training costs.)
Today's New York Times reported that over the past three years Harding received $12,000 from a USOC trust fund. And, it reported, Harding has earned about $200,000 since 1991, including $150,000 from skating tours.
Harding's return to the ice yesterday at her usual rink near Portland coincided with Kerrigan's resumption of practice at her home rink in Stoneham, Mass.
After nine days of nearly total silence, Harding and her associates also met with the media for the second straight day to insist the skater is innocent of working in concert with three men authorities have already arrested: Harding's former bodyguard, Shawn Eric Eckardt; Shane M. Standt, 22, the alleged attacker; and 29-year-old Derrick Smith, Standt's uncle, who authorities say drove the getaway car in Detroit, where Kerrigan was hit just above the right kneecap with what police believe was a retractable metal baton.
On Sunday, Harding said she was "shocked and angry" that anyone close to her might be involved in the assault on Kerrigan. On Monday, she appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" and said she was coping as best as she could with suspicions that she was involved.
"It's an obstacle to get over and I may not be the normal figure skater image that everybody wants me to be," Harding said. "I'm my own person and I may be a little rough around the edges sometimes, but overall I think I'm a good person."
While Harding appeared on ABC, one of her attorneys, Robert Weaver, appeared on NBC's "Today" show and urged U.S. Olympic officials not to leave Harding off the team. Noting that law enforcement officials in both Detroit and Portland have continued to say they have nothing to implicate Harding (though the investigation is continuing), Weaver said: "I think those people who make the selection to the Olympic team need to pause for a moment and reflect upon what they are doing.
"Is the United States a place where not withstanding the fact that there are no charges, there are no allegations, there are no accusations, that the women's U.S. figure skating champion is going to be asked to leave the team based upon what really are some careless remarks that are passed from one medium to another?" Weaver said. "Or does the United States stand for something greater than that? Is it a place where the presumption of innocence means something and accounts for something in this case? I would just ask the people who make that decision to think about that, I would ask them to take the higher ground."
Despite published reports that Eckardt implicated both Harding and Gillooly and that Eckardt had "confessed" to being involved in the attack, he and Smith pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit assault at their arraignment Friday in Portland.
Meanwhile, Stant was scheduled to fly to Portland today under guard by sheriff's deputies after waiving extradition, the Multnomah County (Ore.) Sheriff's Department told the Associated Press.
Stant turned himself in to the FBI in Phoenix last week after learning there was a warrant for his arrest in Oregon.
Multnomah County Assistant District Attorney Norm Frink said yesterday that his office had requested meetings with both Harding and Gillooly as of Thursday, and that while Harding agreed to appear, "the husband is no response."
Ronald H. Hoevet, the attorney who represents Gillooly, told the Associated Press last night that both his client and Harding were not involved in the assault: "I don't think Tonya would be meeting with the district attorney for any other reason except to clear her name," Hoevet said. He did acknowledge, however, that Gillooly "has been on pins and needles. He's tense and nervous."
Regarding reports that Gillooly was about to be arrested, Frink said: "No final decision has been made one way or another about arresting anybody."
Harding's advisers and Frink would not disclose when the skater will meet with police to answer questions just that a meeting has been scheduled.
While police proceeded with their work, a group of U.S. Olympic Committee officials met Sunday to continue to discuss what action if any they should take against Harding. Officials say they have the power, under the rules, to remove Harding from the team but Claire Ferguson, USFSA president, has said the federation does not want a lawsuit. At a news conference about the USOC meeting, USOC President LeRoy Walker said the deadline for deciding whether Harding could compete in Lillehammer, Norway, is Feb. 21, the day of the women's skating draw and two days before the competition begins.
But, Walker added, "we have to push for a decision before then. I hope that decision is within a few days."
When asked if it would be best if Harding withdrew from the team, Walker said: "I suppose that would be the easiest possible out."
Diane Rawlinson, Harding's coach since the skater was 3, gave no indication Harding is ready to resign.
"Tonya is innocent," she said. "She trained hard to be on the national team and she deserves to go. Tonya is best under pressure. ... Tonya always skates best when she's angry.
"I think she could win the Olympic gold."
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