The Plot According To Jeff Gillooly -- Statements To FBI Allege Conspiracy Involving Harding
Seattle Times News Services
PORTLAND - One idea was to make life-threatening phone calls. Another was to kill Nancy Kerrigan with a sniper rifle. Or cut her Achilles' tendon. Or run her off the road.
That's part of Jeff Gillooly's 61-page testimony to the FBI, released after he pleaded guilty to racketeering yesterday and struck a deal with prosecutors to testify that his ex-wife, figure skater Tonya Harding, "gave the OK for the assault on Nancy Kerrigan."
Under the deal, Gillooly will be exempt from any other charges, including those that may grow from a federal investigation. He agreed to serve 24 months in prison and pay a $100,000 fine.
Gillooly's lawyer, Ron Hoevet, said his client hoped Harding would also admit having a role in the plot.
"Jeff has a message for Tonya - he hopes that she will now do what he has done and move quickly to resolve the charges that will surely be brought against her," Hoevet said.
But Harding, who is training for the Winter Olympics that will begin next week in Norway, issued a statement through her lawyer yesterday again denying "all media speculation and rumors that suggest that she was involved in the Kerrigan assault."
Her attorney, Robert Weaver, said: "It is my hope that charges will not be leveled against Tonya Harding, but bear in mind that there has been no formal accusation at this point."
Harding admitted last week that she failed to come forward immediately when she learned that people she knew were responsible for the Kerrigan attack, but she insisted that she had broken no law and pleaded for a chance to compete in the Olympics.
THE PLOT ACCORDING TO GILLOOLY
Gillooly's statement from his 17 1/2-hour grilling by the FBI answered the question of "Why me?" that Kerrigan cried out over and over while gripping her bruised right leg on the floor of an ice skating rink in Detroit on Jan. 6.
Gillooly told the FBI that he and Harding agreed on the Kerrigan attack because they felt Harding had been given unfairly low scores, resulting in a fourth-place finish, at a recent skating competition in Japan.
"She believed it was politics, not her skating ability, that resulted in that finish in Japan," Hoevet said. "In addition, it was clear to both Jeff and Tonya that Nancy Kerrigan was being featured by the promotions leading up to the United States women's figure skating championships - featured as the inevitable winner.
Gillooly's statement said that he discussed the plot with Harding on Dec. 28, and that Harding then agreed to the assault.
On Jan. 6, after Kerrigan finished practicing for the national championships in Detroit, which would determine the two U.S. female figure skaters to go to the Olympics, someone clubbed the skater on the right knee, forcing her to withdraw. Harding won, but Kerrigan was also named to the team anyway.
Gillooly told the FBI that, on the day of the attack, Harding called him in Portland from Detroit.
"It happened," Gillooly quoted Harding as saying.
"What happened?" he answered.
"Nancy. They did it."
Hoevet said Gillooly and Harding initially agreed to adopt a common cover story and to deny all involvement in the attack. Gillooly began cooperating with authorities last week only after FBI agents showed him a transcript of their interview with Harding in which she tried to implicate him.
When Gillooly informed Harding on Jan. 20 that he had seen that accusatory transcript, he told FBI agents, she was upset.
"That's cheating," he says she responded.
According to the FBI transcripts released yesterday, Harding had changed her story well into a long interview with authorities nearly two weeks after the attack. After hours of denying any involvement in trying to cover up the plot, an FBI agent finally "told Harding that he knew she had lied to him . . . that he would tell her exactly how she had lied to him."
At that point, she adjourned for a conference with her lawyer and changed her story to say she had become aware of Gillooly's involvement and had not told the truth to a number of questions.
She apologized to the FBI at the end of her interrogation and said, "I hope everyone understands. I'm telling on someone I really care about."
Several other people have been implicated in the plot: Shane Stant, who told the FBI that he attacked Kerrigan; his uncle, Derrick Smith, who said he drove the getaway car; and bodyguard Shawn Eckardt, who admitted he helped concoct the plot.
The documents and statements released yesterday show that the crime was even more bumbling than it initially appeared.
Gillooly, for example, alleged that Eckardt reacted in a grandiose way on the day Kerrigan was attacked.
"Eckardt said he had changed world history or he had altered world history," Gillooly said.
The bodyguard asked his mother to tape TV news shows about the assault, which she played for him over and over. As he watched Kerrigan cry in pain, "Eckardt was excited and elated," Gillooly told investigators.
Gillooly quoted Eckardt's mother as telling Eckardt: "You're sick, Shawn."
Earlier in Gillooly's narrative, he recalled that Eckardt had demanded more money to finance the attack.
"What?" Gillooly recalled telling him. "Do I have "stupid" written across my forehead?"
GILLOOLY'S PORTRAIT OF HARDING
The records and interviews also paint a chilling picture of Harding - one she disputes.
She is portrayed as helping to stalk Kerrigan by providing photographs, finding her whereabouts, and then relaying the information to Gillooly.
As Gillooly described it, Harding began by contacting Vera Marano, a free-lance writer for American Skating World magazine.
Marano told the FBI that Harding called her around Christmas asking where Kerrigan trained and whether she owned property on Cape Cod. Harding said she needed the information to settle a bet.
Marano called back later to say that Kerrigan trained at the Tony Kent arena in Massachusetts. Gillooly and Harding learned Kerrigan's skating hours from the arena and also passed along her practice times and room number in Detroit to Stant and Smith.
Gillooly said Harding also provided photographs of Kerrigan for Stant and Smith.
Gillooly told the FBI that Harding wanted Kerrigan attacked in a bar on New Year's Eve, Gillooly said, "because it would make Kerrigan look bad. . . . It would would make it look like Kerrigan was with the wrong crowd or people and in the wrong situation or place."
On New Year's day, Gillooly told the FBI, Harding took a break from her own practice to gripe that Kerrigan hadn't been attacked yet.
Court records show the FBI received an anonymous call implicating Harding, Gillooly, Eckardt and Smith while the skater was still in Detroit, and Hoevet said the FBI arranged airline flights so Harding and Gillooly could fly home together, making it easier to tail them.
When Harding and Gillooly returned to Portland, agents watched as they met with Eckardt, called Smith from public telephones and repeatedly drove by Eckardt's house in an attempt to monitor his interview with the FBI, the documents said.
---------------------- GILLOOLY'S GUILTY PLEA ----------------------
Jeff Gillooly admitted these crimes in pleading guilty to racketeering:
-- Gillooly, Tonya Harding, Shawn Eckardt, Derrick Smith and Shane Stant agreed on or about Dec. 28 to attack Nancy Kerrigan.
-- Several members of the group recorded the conversation in which they discussed the attack on Kerrigan, without telling everyone else.
-- Members of the group agreed to enter a "dwelling" in Detroit intending to commit assault. (Gillooly's lawyer, Ron Hoevet, said the dwelling was Kerrigan's hotel room, where the attack was first set to happen.)
-- A group member struck Kerrigan on the leg in Detroit with a dangerous weapon.
-- Members of the group agreed in Portland's Multnomah County to commit perjury by lying in sworn statements about what they knew about the attack.
-- Group members agreed in neighboring Clackamas County to commit perjury.
-- Group members destroyed incriminating evidence.
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