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  Harding Denies Involvement in Kerrigan Plot

By Christine Brennan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 22, 1994; Page C1




PORTLAND, Ore., Jan. 21 — As a grand jury continued to meet to decide whether to indict her, Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding this morning publicly denied for the first time that she had anything to do with the Jan. 6 attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan.

"There's not a lot that I can say about it," Harding said after practicing on the rink at the Clackamas Town Center. "All I know is, I know I haven't done anything wrong."

Harding, whose ex-husband and bodyguard are among four men arrested in the alleged conspiracy to injure Kerrigan, continually had refused to defend herself in public, allowing her attorneys to speak for her. As recently as Thursday night, in an interview on ABC, she said she could say nothing about the attack.

But today, she said she is growing impatient with the investigation.

"This whole thing is really, really frustrating," she said to a swarm of reporters and camera crews in the shopping mall that surrounds the indoor rink. "I just hope it ends really soon. I'm tired."

However, at the request of chief deputy district attorney Norm Frink, the deadline for the grand jury report on the case was extended today to Feb. 3. The report originally was due next week.

This means the U.S. Figure Skating Association and the U.S. Olympic Committee might have to name Harding to the Olympic team before they know if she was involved in the alleged plot to harm her chief rival.

Sometime on or before Jan. 31, the USFSA must submit the names of its Olympians to the USOC. On that day, the USOC gets the final say on the matter and submits its roster to organizers of the Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, which begin Feb. 12.

However, USOC officials can make changes to the women's figure skating roster until Feb. 21 — the date of the draw to determine the skating order in the women's competition — provided they replace a skater with an alternate who is listed on the roster.

The USOC is expected to submit four names in women's figure skating. As things stand now, the United States will list Harding and Kerrigan as its Olympians, with Michelle Kwan and Nicole Bobek as alternates.

The women's competition is Feb. 23 and 25 in Hamar, Norway.

The extension of the grand jury's deadline means the USFSA and USOC might not be able to rule on Harding's status for the Olympic Games. The matter then would end up in the hands of the International Olympic Committee, the final authority on an athlete's Olympic eligibility. If the IOC were to remove Harding from the U.S. Olympic team, she might have little legal recourse in the United States.

One day after hearing testimony from Harding's father, Al Harding; her coach, Diane Rawlinson; private investigator Gary Crowe; and minister Eugene Saunders, the Multnomah County grand jury met again today. Authorities would not comment on who, if anyone, was being interviewed or on any specifics of the Harding investigation.

No indictments will be issued this week, Frink told the Associated Press.

Three of the four men arrested in the Kerrigan attack — bodyguard Shawn Eric Eckardt, alleged attacker Shane Minoaka Stant and alleged getaway car driver Derrick Smith — are negotiating with prosecutors about plea bargains in exchange for their cooperation, a source close to the investigation told AP.

Jeff Gillooly, Harding's ex-husband, is not trying to cut a deal by testifying against her, the source said.

In her interview with the media after her practice, Harding twice refused to say anything about Kerrigan, whose severely bruised right knee has healed well enough for her to begin attempting triple jumps in practice in South Dennis, Mass.

"I can't say anything right now," Harding snapped when asked about Kerrigan.

However, several minutes later, responding to another question, Harding said, "I want the best team for America and I think Nancy and I can do that."

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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