Advertisement

Bodyguard: Harding Was Involved in Plot : Conspiracy: In newspaper interview, Eckardt says skater was upset that attack on Kerrigan took so long to be carried out.

January 21, 1994|MARYANN HUDSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PORTLAND, Ore. — As investigators and prosecutors continued to sift through evidence Thursday in the Jan. 6 attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, a Multnomah County grand jury heard testimony from Tonya Harding's father and coach, adding more intrigue to the overriding question: What, if anything, did Harding know?

Meanwhile, Harding, who has not been charged, made her first public skating appearance at a rink outside Portland and later faced reporters, skirting all questions about the latest allegations implicating her in the conspiracy to keep Kerrigan from competing in the national championships. Through her attorney, Harding has denied any involvement.

The Oregonian reported Thursday that during a three-hour interview with the newspaper, Shawn Eckardt, Harding's bodyguard, said that the skater not only knew of the plot but was upset that it was taking so long to carry out.

Eckardt said that at a midnight practice session, Harding skated up to him and asked him about a back condition he was suffering from. "And then she said that she was (upset) . . . and disappointed that these guys weren't able to do what they said they were going to do," Eckardt said. "And why hasn't it happened yet?"

Eckardt, along with Derrick Smith, Shane Stant and Jeff Gillooly, Harding's former husband, have been charged with conspiracy to commit second-degree assault on Kerrigan. In the interview, Eckardt details a conspiracy that included a plan to "do" Kerrigan in her hotel room.

"Jeff wanted this guy to go to her room and do his business with her and then leave," Eckardt said. "And duct-tape her up so she wouldn't be able to call out--so they'd find her in the morning with a damaged leg of some sort, wrapped up in duct tape."

Instead, investigators say that Stant used a collapsible police baton to club Kerrigan on her right leg after a practice session, rammed his head through a plexiglass door to escape from the arena and jumped into a getaway car driven by Smith. Stant was released Thursday from Multnomah County jail after posting bond. He left the jail and stood on the curb waiting for a ride. But after a horde of reporters descended on him, he went back to the jail and asked to be let back in.

"I've worked here for seven years and he's the first one to ever ask to come back," said William Krasner, a correctional counselor.

Correction officers found a back door for Stant to leave through.

Sources have told the Associated Press that Eckardt, Stant and Smith are trying to work a plea bargain in exchange for their cooperation. However, Gillooly was not trying to cut a deal, a source said.

Prosecutors and police from Detroit met in Portland with law enforcement officials to review the investigation and determine where the case should be tried. Detroit officials returned home Thursday night and said the investigation was ongoing and the jurisdiction was still unresolved.

Wayne County prosecutor John O'Hair, when asked if anything pointed to Harding's involvement, said: "It would be terribly unfair to make any premature judgments on that."

In Colorado Springs, Colo., U.S. Figure Skating officials, who previously said they would poll members to see if Harding should stay on the Olympic team, backed off. Officials said a ballot still could be taken, but only after a formal notice and hearing with Harding has been held.

Harding, meantime, did a midmorning skate before about 100 cheering fans at a shopping mall rink.

"My skating is my life, and that's the only place I'm getting enjoyment at all," Harding said. "My life is on the ice. My life out of skating I don't think I will see it for a while."

The grand jury heard testimony from Al Harding, Tonya's father and Diane Rawlinson, her coach, and Dennis Rawlinson, Harding's attorney.

Other testimony was given by Gerry Crowe, a private investigator, and Eugene Saunders, a pastor who allegedly told of the conspiracy by Eckardt. Eckardt reportedly took a tape to Saunders that recorded the meeting in which the attack was planned.

But Saunders said Thursday that the tape was unintelligible and he relied on what Eckardt told him. Saunders took the information to Crowe, who went to the FBI. The tape was said to have been subsequently destroyed.

"I felt it was my moral obligation to pass along the information," Saunders said.

A Portland official said that if indictments are handed down, it would not be this be week.

Bart Gori, a spokesman for the FBI, said the bureau will continue to oversee the case, but it will not be prosecuted federally.

"There has been violation of federal law," Gori said. "The investigation is still going on and we're not just saying that."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|