Indictment Says Harding Involved in Kerrigan Plot
Tonya Harding, who escaped a jail sentence in a plea bargain last week, was in on the plot to attack rival figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, a Portland grand jury concluded after more than two months of investigation.
An indictment issued Monday named Harding along with the four men who have admitted their roles in the crime.
Harding was not charged in the indictment only because of her plea agreement, prosecutor Norm Frink said.
Three men who have admitted carrying out the attack--Shawn Eckardt, Shane Stant and Derrick Smith--were indicted. They pleaded innocent Monday to racketeering, conspiracy to commit assault, assault and unlawfully obtaining communications.
The indictment said the three agreed with each other, Harding and her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, “to unlawfully, intentionally and knowingly cause physical injury to Nancy Kerrigan by means of a dangerous weapon.”
Grand jury foreman David Holt said he believed there was enough evidence to indict Harding for participation in the assault plot.
“Like Mr. Frink said, there was a great deal of evidence pointing toward the fact that she was involved from the beginning or very close to the beginning,” Holt said. “I think she would have been indicted on all counts.”
He said he couldn’t talk about any specific evidence but that virtually all the material the grand jury had was made public.
“I believe she was so close to a lot of things that were going on that there’s no way she could not have known,” Holt said.
Harding has admitted helping to cover up the plot but denies having knowledge of the attack.
She pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to hinder prosecution. In another plea bargain, Gillooly pleaded guilty Feb. 1 to one count of racketeering and is free pending sentencing.
Eckardt also was indicted on charges of conspiracy to hinder prosecution and hindering prosecution. Smith also was charged with conspiracy to hinder prosecution.
The communications charge stems from a secretly taped meeting involving those who participated in the conspiracy.
Attorneys for Smith and Stant met with prosecutors and Circuit Judge Phillip Abraham on Monday afternoon. Smith’s attorney Clayton Lance said he was optimistic his client would reach a plea agreement.
Eckardt and Smith were arrested Jan. 13. Stant surrendered to authorities in Arizona the next day. All three remain free on bail.
Eckardt, 26, is Harding’s 310-pound would-be bodyguard and a friend of Gillooly’s since childhood. He has admitted helping to plan the attack and contacting Smith to carry it out.
His attorney, Mark McKnight, said he expected the case to go to trial. He said Eckardt admits to conspiring to assault Kerrigan but is not guilty of racketeering.
“It is interesting that the person for whom all this was done received no jail and an enormous amount of money from a variety of sources,” McKnight said.
Meanwhile, Eckardt “is now facing more jail time than any of the other players,” McKnight said.
Asked if his client is being set up as the fall guy, McKnight said, “It’s shaping up that way.”
Stant, 22, is Smith’s nephew and shares his uncle’s interest in paramilitary activity. Stant went to Massachusetts to carry out the attack, but when that plan fell through he followed her to Detroit, where she was preparing for the U.S. championships.
On Jan. 6, Stant struck Kerrigan above the right knee with a metal police baton, then escaped Cobo Arena by breaking through a plexiglass window of a locked door. With Kerrigan out of the competition because of injury, Harding won the U.S. title.
Smith, 29, was the intermediary who funneled money from Gillooly and Eckardt to Stant and drove the getaway car.
“Prior to and certainly a short time after the attack I was numb,” Smith said. “I felt remorse, just, ‘What have I done?’ I wish I could go back and live a few hours over, even to the point of something catastrophic happening to myself.”
As part of Gillooly’s plea agreement, prosecutors are recommending a two-year prison sentence and $100,000 fine. Under Oregon sentencing guidelines, Gillooly, who is free pending sentencing, would serve 19 months in prison.
Harding spent the weekend in central Oregon on a ski trip. Despite her reported financial troubles because of her plea agreement and what must be huge attorneys’ fees, she was shopping for ski equipment on Sunday.
Stant and Smith have established a telephone “900" number that a person can call and hear them talk about the case. Smith said the information would be about Harding’s involvement.