Harding's ex-husband turns himself in to FBI

January 20, 1994|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

The ex-husband of figure skater Tonya Harding surrendered to FBI agents in Portland, Ore., yesterday, while statements from Ms. Harding's bodyguard linked her to the alleged plot to injure rival skater Nancy Kerrigan.

Special agent Bart Gori said Jeff Gillooly, accompanied by lawyer Ron Hoevet, walked into the FBI office shortly after Mr. Gillooly learned a warrant had been issued for his arrest Tuesday at noon. Mr. Gillooly later was arraigned along with Shane Minoaka Stant, the alleged "hit man" in the attack on Ms. Kerrigan.

Mr. Gillooly, who has denied involvement in the plot, was charged with conspiracy to injure Ms. Kerrigan, the same conspiracy charge under which Ms. Harding's bodyguard and two other men have been arrested.

Mr. Gillooly and Ms. Harding divorced in August, but were living together again at the time of the attack on Ms. Kerrigan on Jan. 6. Ms. Harding announced Tuesday, when she met with authorities for 10 hours, that she was separating herself from Mr. Gillooly for the second time since they were married in 1990.

She also said she believed Mr. Gillooly was innocent.

Ms. Harding has not been charged, and has denied any involvement in the attack. However, bodyguard Shawn Eric Eckardt has told law-enforcement officials that Ms. Harding made two phone calls to find out Ms. Kerrigan's practice schedule at a rink near Boston.

"We understand that Shawn Eckardt claims Jeff Gillooly made comment to him concerning telephone calls by Tonya Harding to Nancy Kerrigan's ice rink, which suggest Tonya's participation in their schemes," said Robert C. Weaver, Ms. Harding's attorney. "Tonya categorically denies those allegations."

"We note that none of the comments are directly attributable to Tonya," he said. "We believe Mr. Eckardt's lack of credibility is already well-documented."

Ms. Harding, however, is still under investigation.

"We are continuing to investigate it," Portland assistant district attorney John Bradley said last night. "The feds will continue, and my guess is the people from Michigan will continue to investigate it."

Norm Frink, also a Portland assistant district attorney, said late yesterday that his office had no plans to meet with Ms. Harding last night, but he had been in contact with her lawyers.

According to an affidavit from Deputy Sheriff James McNelly of Multnomah County, Ore., obtained by The Associated Press yesterday, Mr. Eckardt signed a confession admitting he was involved in a conspiracy and that the attack was supposed to take place in Massachusetts, where Ms. Kerrigan lives, but could not be carried out until the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit.

Also according to the affidavit, Mr. Eckardt said Mr. Gillooly told him Ms. Harding made two phone calls to the Tony Kent Arena in Cape Cod in an attempt to determine Ms. Kerrigan's practice schedule.

Phone company records show two calls from Mr. Gillooly and Ms. Harding's home to the arena on Dec. 28 and another Jan. 3, the affidavit said.

Mr. Stant stalked Ms. Kerrigan near Boston before moving to a motel in Romulus, Mich., on Jan. 4 and carrying out the attack, Mr. Eckardt said.

Ms. Kerrigan deliberately was smashed on the right leg because it was her landing leg for jumps, Mr. Eckardt told authorities.

"Eckardt also said Gillooly told him that Harding was concerned about having made these phone calls and had stated that, in the event she was ever questioned about them, she would say she had made those calls in an effort to get Kerrigan to sign a poster for a fan of Harding's," the affidavit states.

Mr. Eckardt also told authorities bank records show he withdrew $9,000 in three separate transactions between Dec. 27 and Jan. 6, and the affidavit details wire transfers Mr. Eckardt made to Derrick Smith, the fourth man charged in the attack.

Mr. Smith has admitted driving the getaway car after being paid $2,000 by Mr. Eckardt for the job.

Mr. Gillooly was released after posting 10 percent of his $20,000 bail, and his lawyer declined to comment. Mr. Stant remained in custody in lieu of $20,000 bail.

U.S. Olympic Committee officials said Ms. Harding could be dropped from the American team for the Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, next month if she is involved in the Kerrigan attack.

"We are still in a wait-and-see position," USOC spokesman Mike Moran said yesterday.

Ms. Harding can be removed by a majority vote of the U.S. Figure Skating Association's 45-member international committee, but would have the right to appeal to the USOC and take legal action to retain her spot, said Claire F. Ferguson, president of the USFSA.

"But we're not at that point yet," Ms. Ferguson said last night from Orlando, Fla. The team must be selected by Jan. 31.

"Basically, we haven't communicated with the international committee, and we're in the process of sending them information right now. Nothing is written in stone yet."

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