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  Phone Records Could Link Harding to Attack

By Johnette Howard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 29, 1994; Page D1




PORTLAND, Ore., Jan. 28 — One day after Tonya Harding publicly insisted she had no prior knowledge of the attack on Nancy Kerrigan and was guilty of no crime, information was reported in Detroit today that, if true, could help authorities build a case that Harding participated in the plot.

Law enforcement officials in Detroit told the Detroit Free Press today that Harding had asked a Detroit hotel employee for Kerrigan's room number and was given it. WJBK-TV-2, Detroit's CBS affiliate, also reported it had obtained phone record information showing a total of 10 phone calls to bodyguard Shawn Eckardt's home were charged on Harding's personal credit card, on Jan. 4 and again on Jan. 6, the day Kerrigan was attacked.

Detroit authorities told the Free Press that Jeff Gillooly, Harding's ex-husband, told of Harding's request for Kerrigan's room number during his marathon interviews with authorities in Portland. Detroit authorities said that would seem to help corroborate Eckardt's contention in print and TV interviews that Harding helped "procure information" about Kerrigan's practice schedule, knew about the plot beforehand, and participated in its coverup.

Gillooly will plead guilty next week to one count of racketeering and face up to two years in jail as part of a plea bargain arrangement, according to NBC News reports.

In Oregon, the testimony of co-conspirators is admissible in criminal trials but must be corroborated by other evidence. In previous days, FBI investigators have said phone records would be acceptable corroboration.

Four suspects have already been charged with the conspiracy to assault Kerrigan — Eckardt; Gillooly; alleged getaway car driver Derrick Smith; and alleged attacker Shane Stant.

Stant, Eckardt and Smith have all confessed to some involvement.

Over Wednesday and Thursday, Gillooly and his attorney, Ronald Hoevet, met with authorities for a total of almost 16 hours at Portland's FBI offices, reportedly in an attempt to strike a plea bargain in exchange for information that could implicate Harding in the case.

A spokeswoman for Harding's attorneys, Robert Weaver and Dennis Rawlinson, said the attorneys would have no comment on the reports out of Detroit, or on Harding's appearance on the "Inside Edition" TV tabloid show that aired tonight.

"If she is on that TV show, it has not been arranged by either of her attorneys," said spokesperson Janis Timlick. "They were not aware of it."

Harding admitted for the first time Thursday that she learned of the plot to disable Kerrigan several days after her Jan. 10 return to Portland. Harding also said she did not immediately go to authorities after learning of the plot.

Her first conversation with police — a 10½-hour session on Jan. 18 — came at the request of investigators, Multnomah County chief deputy district attorney Norman Frink said at the time.

Frink met again today with the FBI officials who had questioned Gillooly, and afterward said he had no comment on the case. The Multnomah County grand jury that is deciding whether to issue indictments met for the first confirmed time in four days. Among the witnesses interviewed were Stephanie Quintero, Harding's childhood friend and frequent companion since Harding separated from Gillooly 10 days ago. Quintero was accompanied by her father, David Webber, whom Harding has described as being "like a father" to her.

Quintero, asked after her testimony whether she thought Gillooly had implicated Harding in the alleged plot, said, "Yes, I do. I really do."

Both Quintero and Webber attended Harding's practice today at Clackamas Town Center. Harding skated for nearly an hour and left without speaking to reporters.

The report by the Detroit Free Press said an unnamed employee at the Westin hotel told investigators that Harding asked for Kerrigan's room number and the employee gave it to Harding, contrary to hotel policy.

A spokesperson for the Westin would not specifically confirm the content of the employee's conversation with investigators, or that the hotel had handed over Harding's phone records to federal agents, only that: "Some investigators were here yesterday [Thursday]. And the hotel is, of course, cooperating with the authorities. We have been since day one of the investigation."

The Westin was the hotel where competitors stayed during the U.S. Olympic trials in Detroit — the event at which Kerrigan was attacked.

Eckardt, in an interview aired by ABC News's "PrimeTime Live" on Jan. 20, said Gillooly initially wanted Smith and Stant to attack Kerrigan in her Westin hotel room, not at nearby Cobo Arena, the rink where she was eventually struck as she walked off the ice after a practice.

"He [Jeff] wanted them to do what they agreed to do in her hotel room and then leave her bound with duct tape or some other thing like that so she wouldn't be found for a while," Eckardt said.

While the existence of such phone records could corroborate that Harding helped participate in the plot, nothing in WJBK's report yesterday said that the calls were proven to have been made by Harding herself — just that they appeared on her personal credit card records.

The station said it obtained phone record information showing that calls charged to Harding's personal credit card were made from the Westin Hotel to the home of Eckardt on Jan. 4 and again on Jan. 6, the day that Kerrigan was attacked. Earlier reports have also said police had records of calls from the home Harding and Gillooly shared to Kerrigan's rink in Massachusetts. But there's been no indication that police know who placed those calls.

The dates of the calls on Harding's credit card are significant because they predate when Gillooly is believed to have arrived in Detroit to join Harding.

At a Jan. 5 news conference, Harding said Gillooly would not be joining her for the skating championships until Jan. 7, if at all. Gillooly was in Portland on Jan. 6; he withdrew $3,000 from a bank account there that day.

WJBK reported its information revealed calls charged to Harding's credit card were made to Eckardt's home at 5:03 p.m., 6:17 p.m. and 11:38 p.m. on Jan. 4 — the same day Stant checked in to the Super 8 motel near the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

According to the same records, the station said seven calls went to Eckardt's home on Jan. 6 — at 1:55 a.m., 2 a.m., 2:55 a.m. and 1:34 p.m.

The attack on Kerrigan happened at roughly 2:40 p.m.

Three more calls went to Eckardt's home at 3:22 p.m., 4:21 p.m. and 4:26 p.m., according to the TV station.

Meanwhile, in Colorado Springs, the five-member panel appointed by the U.S. Figure Skating Association to investigate Harding confirmed it would move up the deadline for its report to Feb. 10, two days before the Olympics begin in Lillehammer, Norway.

Staff writer Steve Buckley contributed to this report.

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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