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Anatomy Of a Plot
E.M. Swift
February 14, 1994
Even in their version of events—which differs from Tonya Harding's—the confessed conspirators in the Nancy Kerrigan assault were at once goons and buffoons
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February 14, 1994

Anatomy Of A Plot

Even in their version of events—which differs from Tonya Harding's—the confessed conspirators in the Nancy Kerrigan assault were at once goons and buffoons

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Since moving to Phoenix, Stant had been unable to find work. He regularly worked out in a gym, then would roam the streets in his neighborhood, picking up stray dogs, which he would bring home to feed. When Smith told him about the job that Eckardt was offering, Stant asked for more specifics. A short time after that, Eckardt called Stant directly. The job, he said, was to "make an accident happen" to a skater. As Stant tells it, Eckardt suggested that an Achilles tendon be cut. Stant said he would not cut anyone, and Eckardt revised the job description. The skater, he said, would have to be injured sufficiently that she would not be able to go to the upcoming national championships in Detroit. The fee was $2,500. Eckardt sweetened the pie by mentioning a bodyguard contract of $36,000 a week for a five-man team to provide security for Harding before the Lillehammer Olympics. This was pure hogwash, of course. But Stant was in, and he visited a store called Spy Headquarters and purchased a black, 21-inch retractable ASP tactical baton, shelling out $58.56, tax included.

Shortly afterward Eckardt visited Gillooly and Harding at their home. Gillooly says Eckardt put the cost of an attack on Kerrigan at $4,500, including airplane tickets, bus fare and the purchase of a used car to drive in Boston, plus food and lodging. Gillooly said that was too expensive. Eckardt asked what Gillooly and Harding could afford. Gillooly's response: $2,000. That was too little, Eckardt said.

A few days later Eckardt and Gillooly met again; Eckardt said he had the men lined up for the Kerrigan job and that they were ready to go. But Eckardt and Gillooly couldn't agree on a price, and according to Gillooly, he asked Eckardt to call the whole thing off. Eckardt said it was too late, that his reputation was on the line. On Christmas, Smith called to say he was coming to Portland and would arrive in about 18 hours: Eckardt and Gillooly could resolve their differences then.

Smith and Stant would be arriving in the early afternoon on Monday, Dec. 27, and Eckardt told Gillooly it would be a good idea to have some personal information on Kerrigan: a photograph, her address, the location of the rink where she skated. According to Gillooly's FBI statement, he passed this request on to Harding, suggesting she call a journalist of their acquaintance, Vera Marano, who lived in West Chester, Pa. Harding, Gillooly says, agreed to do so, saying she would tell Marano that she and Gillooly had a bet regarding where Kerrigan lived, and Marano could settle the bet. Harding also mentioned a poster of Kerrigan. Kristi Yamaguchi and Harding that she could say she needed Kerrigan to sign.

Interviewed by the FBI, Marano said the following: On Dec. 26 Harding called her, saying she needed to settle a bet. She asked Marano if she could find out where Kerrigan trained and if Kerrigan owned any property on Cape Cod. Marano told Harding she would try to get that information and would get back to her. Marano did this by calling a friend in Massachusetts, Dorothy Baker, a member of the U.S. Figure Skating Association. Baker told Marano that Kerrigan trained at Tony Kent Arena on Cape Cod. Baker would not provide any information about Kerrigan's place of residence. Marano called Harding back and left the information on an answering machine.

Gillooly told the FBI that when he and Harding listened to the tape, it sounded as though Marano were saying Kerrigan trained at "Toby Can" arena. They couldn't understand it. Gillooly says that Harding called Marano back on Dee. 27 and that he heard her ask Marano to "spell it out." Harding wrote down "Tony Kent Arena." Alter hanging up. Harding told him that Marano couldn't find out where Kerrigan lived. They then started looking for a picture of Kerrigan, and Gillooly found a brochure containing a photo of Yamaguchi, Harding and Kerrigan.

The drive by Smith and Stant to Portland from Phoenix, straight through, took 22 hours in Smith's black Porsche 944. Upon arrival the two men checked in at the Del Rancho Motel, across the street from a 7-Eleven, and paid in cash, registering under Stant's name. On Monday night, Dee. 27, Eckardt called Gillooly and told him that the guy who would carry out the attack had arrived. Time was short, and they wanted to meet the next morning at 10. Gillooly told him Harding was training at that time but he would try to get there as close to 10 as possible.

Harding's practice session was over at 10:30 a.m. Gillooly put gas in their blue Ford pickup, then, with Harding as a passenger, drove to the army-green, two-story house in which Shawn lives with his parents, Ron and Agnes. According to Gillooly, Harding knew what the meeting was about, and she was none too thrilled over his having direct contact with a possible hit man. Parked in the drive was Eckardt's 1976 green Mercury four-door and Smith's Porsche, which stood out like a pumpkin in a radish patch. Gillooly told Harding he would call her when the meeting was over, and she drove off in the pickup.

It was 11 a.m. when Gillooly arrived. While they were waiting, Smith had asked Eckardt to tape the conversation. The tape, he said, might be useful leverage if things went wrong and Gillooly refused to pay up. Eckardt put a pocket tape recorder on the desk and covered it with a paper towel. When Gillooly arrived, Eckardt's mother let him in. Eckardt's father was also in the house. Agnes told Gillooly, "They're in the office."

Eckardt's office was half a flight up, a small, converted bedroom with a window facing the street. He owned a computer, and his neatly stacked bookshelves had volumes arranged by subjects. The Poor Man's James Bond and The Anarchist Cookbook were among Eckardt's collection. He also had an impressive array of catalogs on SWAT and mercenary equipment.

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