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Harding’s Hopes Shrinking : Figure skating: Her former husband is said to be near a plea bargain that would implicate her in the attack on Kerrigan.

From Associated Press

Two weeks before the Winter Games are to begin, Tonya Harding’s chances of skating for the U.S. team and avoiding criminal charges appeared bleak as investigators gathered new evidence in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan.

Harding’s former husband, Jeff Gillooly, spent about two hours in the Multnomah County Courthouse on Saturday, after reportedly working out a deal that will reduce his jail time and implicate his former wife.

And as investigators in Detroit, the site of the Jan. 6 attack that kept Kerrigan out of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, reportedly looked at phone records damaging to Harding, Olympic officials were considering an alternate skater for the Games.

Gillooly’s attorney, Ron Hoevet, would not say if Gillooly was there to testify before the grand jury investigating the case. There were indications, however, that the grand jury was in session Saturday.

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Hoevet said he and Gillooly would make a public statement on Monday or Tuesday, a strong indication that Gillooly planned to enter a plea then.

Investigators in Detroit reportedly have information that Harding asked for Kerrigan’s hotel room number before the attack and made several calls to Harding’s bodyguard, Shawn Eckardt, the day of the assault.

The evidence is being gathered in an apparent attempt to corroborate statements made by Eckardt, who publicly has implicated Harding, and Gillooly, who reportedly has said she was in on the alleged plot.

Gillooly, Eckardt, confessed hit-man Shane Stant and Derrick Smith, who is accused of driving the getaway car, all are free on bail.

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Meanwhile, the U.S. Figure Skating Assn. is strongly considering sending 13-year-old Michelle Kwan to the Lillehammer Games as an alternate, an unusual step.

“It’s not completely confirmed,” association spokeswoman Kristin Matta said. “Given the circumstances, it’s definitely a possibility.”

Kwan’s representative issued a statement Saturday saying she continues to train but has not been notified she is going to Lillehammer.

If she was in Lillehammer, Kwan would be available if Harding was removed from the team at the last minute.

The Winter Games will begin Feb. 12, but women’s figure skating doesn’t start until Feb. 23 and the roster can be changed until Feb. 21.

Harding acknowledged Thursday that she learned shortly after she returned from the national championships that those around her were involved in the attack. But she denied knowing about the attack beforehand. Harding, who has held workouts before large, supportive audiences at a suburban mall during the past week, does not practice on weekends.

Several news organizations have quoted sources as saying Gillooly has agreed to plead guilty to one count of racketeering and would get a two-year sentence, rather than the maximum penalty of three years under the current conspiracy charge against him.


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