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  Harding Meets With Authorities, Leaves Gillooly

By Christine Brennan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 19, 1994; Page B1




PORTLAND, Ore., Jan. 18 — Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding, undergoing questioning for the first time concerning the attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan, tonight said she separated from her ex-husband, who remains under investigation.

Harding met with the district attorney, the FBI and the sheriff's office for more than 10 hours. Eight hours into the meeting, which continued past 11 p.m. PST, Harding's attorneys issued a statement saying she has broken off relations with Jeff Gillooly, whom she had divorced last year but with whom she continued to live.

"After a lot of agonizing thought and evaluation, I have decided that it would be best for Jeff and me to separate," Harding said in the statement. "The events of the last few days have been difficult for both of us.

"I am innocent, and I continue to believe that Jeff is innocent of any wrongdoing. I wish him nothing but the best, but I believe during this crucial time of preparation for the Olympics that I must concentrate my attention on my training."

There was no word on what transpired in the meeting, because it ended after today's final edition of The Post had gone to press.

Earlier, Harding looked somber and stared at the ground as she walked into the FBI office downtown at 1 p.m. PST with two attorneys to give her version of the events surrounding the Jan. 6 assault at the U.S. Olympic figure skating trials in Detroit.

She was still meeting with law enforcement officials after 10 p.m., FBI spokesman Bart Gori said, with as many as 100 members of the media camped in the lobby downstairs. The session was so lengthy that dinner was brought in.

Federal charges against Harding are "possible at this point, but remote," Gori told reporters before the meeting. There has been no indication that any charges against Harding, here or in Detroit, are forthcoming.

Gillooly didn't take part in the meeting here in Portland, which is near where Harding lives.

Authorities, worried about jeopardizing a possible case against Gillooly, have not subpoenaed him or demanded that he come in for questioning, the Associated Press reported.

Under Oregon state law, a person can invoke his right of silence and, if compelled to give testimony in a grand jury proceeding or other investigatory proceeding, can receive immunity.

"We don't want to take that chance of him getting immunity," assistant district attorney John Bradley said.

On the way to the FBI, Harding was asked whether Gillooly was going to be arrested.

"No, he's not," she replied, according to AP.

Authorities continue to investigate whether Gillooly and/or Harding are connected to the attack on Kerrigan. Three men have been arrested in the case. A grand jury here scheduled two hours for Wednesday to review the assault conspiracy charges against Harding's bodyguard, Shawn Eric Eckardt, a longtime friend of Gillooly. Eckardt was arraigned last week and released on $20,000 bail.

Shane Minoaka Stant, who is accused of striking Kerrigan's leg with a metal police baton, was booked in Portland after appearing before a judge in Phoenix and agreeing not to fight extradition to Oregon. He refused to answer questions as he was led into the Justice Center.

On Wednesday, Stant was to be arraigned here in Multnomah County Circuit Court on one felony charge of conspiring to commit assault. Bail likely will be set.

Stant turned himself in to the FBI in Phoenix last week after learning there was a warrant for his arrest in Oregon.

Derrick Smith, Stant's uncle and also from Arizona, is the third man already arrested, and he was arraigned at the same time as Eckardt.

In Detroit, Wayne County prosecutor John O'Hair told AP that "at this point, we have no evidence here ... at all about [Harding's] culpability as far as the episode is concerned."

He said the Detroit investigation is nearly complete, but in Oregon it is still unfolding.

Asked if Detroit authorities are investigating Gillooly, O'Hair said:

"They [Oregon] are the ones investigating Gillooly at this time. ... Gillooly is still a question mark."

He said Portland authorities have far more information on Gillooly than Detroit authorities.

"We are not privy to the details" of the Portland investigation, O'Hair said. He is traveling Wednesday to Portland with assistant prosecutor Doug Baker to meet with prosecutors and coordinate the case to determine where it might be put together.

"There are some very significant loose ends that have yet to be nailed down," O'Hair said.

"If you can have one proceeding in one jurisdiction, that would be the best way to proceed. ... I think Detroit would be a proper forum. I think there should be one prosecution. It's yet to be determined if we can resolve this with one trial and one case" or whether there will be separate cases in Portland and Detroit.

Meanwhile, Dennis Rawlinson, one of Harding's attorneys and the husband of her coach, Diane, continued to say he thought Harding's future would not be hurt by the incident.

"We really believe she's going to come out of this, and there are going to be endorsements and that she and Nancy are going to come out of this with the gold and silver," he told AP. "Of course, you know what order we'd like to see that."

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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