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  Gillooly Pleads Guilty, Says Harding Approved Plot

By Stephen Buckley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 2, 1994; Page A1

PORTLAND, Ore., Feb. 1 — Jeff Gillooly, Tonya Harding's former husband, pleaded guilty today to one count of racketeering in connection with the Jan. 6 assault on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. Gillooly's attorney also released copies of his client's interviews with the FBI in which Gillooly said his ex-wife was deeply involved in the conspiracy to injure the skater.

At a brief hearing in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Gillooly, wearing a smart double-breasted suit, admitted his role in the plot to attack Kerrigan, who was clubbed above the right knee with a retractable baton at a practice rink in Detroit before the U.S. Olympic trials.

Gillooly, 26, agreed to a sentence of two years and a fine of $100,000 in return for his guilty plea. Under the deal, Gillooly will be exempt from any other charges, including those that may grow out of a federal investigation. He will be formally sentenced on April 1.

Shortly before Gillooly's hearing, Norman Frink, deputy chief district attorney for Multnomah County, requested that the grand jury dealing with the Kerrigan case be given more time to examine evidence and interview people about the assault.

Frink said that he was requesting the extension because of the possibility that more people will be arrested in connection with the crime.

Before Gillooly had even appeared in court, Harding issued a statement denying involvement in planning the attack and said Gillooly's accusations "are a continued practice of abusive conduct."

Harding was officially put on the roster of the Olympic figure skating team Monday, and that status remained unchanged today. The five-member panel appointed by the U.S. Figure Skating Association to investigate Harding's role in the attack met and reached no conclusions in determining if Harding should face a disciplinary hearing. It announced it will report its findings as early as Saturday.

In the accounts of Gillooly's interview with the FBI, he told agents that on Dec. 28 Harding approved a final plan to assault Kerrigan.

Harding picked him up after a meeting with Shawn Eckardt, Harding's bodyguard, and Derrick Smith. As they drove away from the meeting, in a truck, Gillooly later told FBI agents that he left the final decision up to Harding.

After Harding pressed Gillooly to make a decision, he said, "I think we should go for it," according to the FBI documents.

"Okay, let's do it," Harding allegedly replied.

Gillooly then described how Harding took a series of steps to try to pin down when and where Kerrigan practiced near her home in Stoneham, Mass. According to Gillooly, Harding called a magazine writer in Pennsylvania and learned that Kerrigan practiced at the Tony Kent Arena in South Dennis and then called the skating rink there and found when Kerrigan practiced.

Gillooly said that Harding later provided Eckardt with a magazine photo of Kerrigan, so that Shane Stant, who had been hired to execute the assault, would know whom to attack.

Gillooly alleged that after plans to assault Kerrigan in Boston fell through, Harding complained that no one appeared able "to do this thing for me."

The plan moved to the figure skating championships in Detroit, and called for Stant, a nephew of Smith's, to attack Kerrigan in her hotel room. The attacker would leave a note at the scene "so it would look like a psychotic was after the skaters."

Instead, Kerrigan was attacked as she walked off the rink after a practice session. Gillooly said that shortly afterward he received a call from Harding.

"It happened," Harding is quoted as saying.

"What happened," Gillooly said he asked.

"Nancy," Harding allegedly said.

A few moments later, Gillooly is quoted as asking, "Did they get away?"

"I don't know," Harding said, according to Gillooly.

Stant ran from the arena, smashing his way through a plexiglas door; Smith drove the getaway car. Along with Gillooly, Eckardt, Smith and Stant all have confessed to taking part in the attack.

Gillooly did not appear at a news conference held shortly after the hearing by his attorney, Ronald H. Hoevet.

During the 40-minute session, Hoevet provided a chronology of Gillooly's version of events, communicated a message to Harding from Gillooly and generally provided the media with a wide-ranging account of his three-week association with Gillooly.

He described Gillooly's initial reluctance to implicate Harding, and how he changed his mind only after seeing a 46-page account of Harding's interviews with the FBI, in which she said he had masterminded the attack on Kerrigan.

Hoevet said that after Harding's interrogation by FBI agents on Jan. 18, she insisted that she had protected Gillooly.

After seeing copies of her interview with the FBI, "Jeff finally realized she had been lying to him," Hoevet said.

Hoevet said Gillooly had also implicated her because he did not want her to go the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, later this month. The Games begin Feb. 12, but the roster can be changed as late as Feb. 21.

"He wants to make sure the truth comes out so that the USOC [U.S. Olympic Committee] ... can see these facts," Hoevet said.

He later added, "It would be unconscionable if Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan were on the same Olympic team in Lillehammer, Norway."

At a brief afternoon news conference, Robert Weaver, Harding's attorney, chastised Hoevet for demanding that Harding be removed from the Olympic team.

Weaver implored the USOC to "keep an open mind. ... All Tonya is asking for is a measure of fairness and jurisprudence that is represented by" the United States's criminal justice system.

Gillooly and Harding were married for 3½ years. They had resumed their relationship, but have again separated within the past two weeks.

Last week, Harding said that she learned of Gillooly's involvement only after returning to Portland after the U.S. Olympic trials in Detroit, which she won.

At his news conference, Hoevet said that authorities began to suspect Gillooly and Harding after the FBI received an anonymous tip on Jan. 6.

Hoevet said that after Harding and his client returned to Portland from Detroit, they were followed by FBI agents, who watched as the skater, Gillooly and Eckardt met "to create a cover story."

The lawyer said that agents also watched as Harding and Gillooly repeatedly drove by Eckardt's house as he was being questioned by the FBI.

An FBI spokesman declined to confirm whether agents ever followed Harding and Gillooly.

In pleading guilty to a charge of racketeering, Gillooly was admitting his part in seven criminal acts connected with the plot to injure Kerrigan.

They include destruction of evidence, unlawfully tape recording phone calls, and making false statements to law enforcement officials.

Hoevet said that Gillooly and Eckardt had burned the magazine photo of Kerrigan, as well as faxes that they had sent to each other regarding the plan to injure the skater.

Hoevet also said that Gillooly lied to law enforcement officials on Jan. 7 when he denied that he had information about the incident in Detroit.

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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