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 Figure skating section

  Three Held in Assault on Kerrigan

By William Hamilton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 15, 1994; Page A1

 Shane Minoaka Stant surrenders at the FBI office in Phoenix.
(AP File Photo)
PORTLAND, Ore., Jan. 14 — Two men charged in the attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan were arraigned here today and a third man surrendered in Phoenix in connection with the case, but the role of skater Tonya Harding and her former husband in the assault remains a mystery.

NBC News reported tonight that, according to law enforcement sources, Harding's bodyguard, Shawn Eric Eckardt, has accused Harding of being involved in the "planning and coverup" of the attack on Kerrigan last week in Detroit, but no charges have been brought against her or her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly.

Eckardt was released on bail at 8:30 p.m. PST after his attorney posted 10 percent of his $20,000 bail.

Meanwhile, U.S. Olympic officials said today that they hope Harding withdraws from next month's Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. If Harding doesn't withdraw, sources said, Olympic officials will attempt to persuade her to back out, saying her presence would create a "logistical nightmare."

Authorities in Portland and Detroit, where the attack occurred, told the Detroit Free Press today that more arrests could be made.

Harding and Gillooly left their home today, their first public appearance since Tuesday, but refused to answer reporters' questions. Harding went to the offices of her new attorney, Robert Weaver, who said that it was "absolutely untrue" that any charges are pending against her.

Weaver said tonight that his client is a victim of a "torrent of innuendo and suspicion" and that he has been assured by the Multnomah District Attorney's office that she is not a suspect.

"She is physically exhausted by what has transpired in the last week" and plans to have a statement soon, he said.

The key figure in the case so far has been Eckardt, Harding's 350-pound bodyguard, who reportedly has confessed to hiring two men to attack Kerrigan.

"He doesn't like the role he played in this," Mark McKnight, Eckardt's attorney, said today. "He feels ugly."

Speaking outside the Multnomah County Courthouse after Eckardt's arraignment, McKnight said: "It's a rather monstrous thing to be involved with — the serious injury of a pretty young woman with a promising career. He is certainly taking responsibility for his role in this."

Under Oregon sentencing guidelines, Eckardt, 26, and Derrick B. Smith, 29, who also was arraigned today, face a maximum of 10 years in prison and/or a $200,000 fine if they are found guilty of the charges against them, conspiracy to commit assault in the second degree. The third man arrested today, Shane Stant, 22, of Chandler, Ariz., faces the same charge, in addition to a federal charge of being a fugitive. Stant surrendered today at the FBI office in Phoenix less than an hour after a warrant was issued for his arrest. A spokesman for the Multnomah County district attorney's office said Stant will be brought to Portland, but she said she did not know when. Eckardt and Smith were taken into custody Thursday.

Indictments unsealed today said Stant, Eckardt and Smith conspired in late December in Portland to "unlawfully and intentionally cause physical injury to Nancy Kerrigan by means of a dangerous weapon, by striking Nancy Kerrigan in the leg with the dangerous weapon."

Smith allegedly hired Stant, at Eckardt's direction, to hit Kerrigan in the knee with a collapsible metal baton after a practice session Jan. 6 at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit. The injury forced Kerrigan to withdraw, but U.S. Olympic officials subsequently gave her a spot on the Olympic team. Harding, her long-time rival, won the competition and an automatic berth on the Olympic squad.

Kerrigan, speaking publicly for the first time since the attack was linked to associates of Harding, said: "I can't understand any explanation of why something like this would occur. I don't think I could ever understand the answer, because I can't think that viciously."

Kerrigan, in a news conference in the driveway of her parents' Stoneham, Mass., home, was asked how she felt being on the same Olympic team as Harding.

"I have nothing to say about her," she responded.

Kerrigan, the 1992 Olympic bronze medalist, said she plans to begin skating as early as Monday in preparation for the Olympics.

Harding has said little since arriving home Monday night from Detroit. Today, when she and Gillooly left their home in rural Beavercreek, about 20 miles southeast of Portland, they led reporters on a chase that was interrupted briefly when they had to stop their four-wheel drive vehicle at a construction site. Their outing was covered live by local television stations.

Harding is used to, although not always comfortable with, the spotlight. She has had two run-ins with the law, and twice filed restraining orders against Gillooly during their marriage. Although their divorce was final last summer, Harding and Gillooly reconciled, and she refers to him as her husband.

The product of a broken home and so poor that at various points in her career she has not had the money to buy skating outfits, Harding has long been Portland's bad girl,

Writing about her today in The Oregonian, columnist Dwight Jaynes said: "There always has been a feeling that, inevitably, something really bad would happen. Tonya Harding always has been married to trouble."

Michael Rosenberg, Harding's former agent, said he would be shocked if there was a connection, if for no other reason than her fierce competitiveness toward Kerrigan and other rivals. "I think she would bend over almost backwards for her rivals not to have an excuse" for losing, he said today.

Rosenberg, who quit as Harding's agent in November because of what he said were "irreconcilable differences about her skating career," is not ready to write off her future because of the controversy — as long as she was not involved in the attack.

"If Tonya surfaces, has a press conference and ... apologizes to Nancy, I think then the American people would basically take her back," he said.

John McBride, a coach and owner of one of the three rinks in the Portland area, described Harding today "as a girl who was never taught or trained in how to deal with life."

McBride said he has not seen Harding since she abruptly stopped training at his rink in Beaverton shortly before the 1992 Olympics. "My hat's off to the people who've dealt with her" since then, he said.

Here in Portland, where Harding's up and downs with an unhappy childhood and a bad marriage and her fierce determination to win have been an ongoing saga for years, people such as McBride are still supportive despite all the trouble.

"Any bad publicity or press she's getting is coming from within," he said. "Everyone is pulling for her."

Staff writer Christine Brennan contributed to this report from Washington.

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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