Eckardt, Last of Kerrigan Gang, Released From Prison
SALEM, Ore. (AP) _ Shawn Eckardt, the 300-pound would-be bodyguard of figure skater Tonya Harding, walked out of prison this morning, the last of those involved in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan to be set free.
His first priority:
``Go get something to eat,″ he said, ``get some real food.″
Eckardt said the food in prison was ``indescribable.″ He went to a restaurant and ordered pancakes.
Eckardt, 28, admitted helping Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly (who subsequently changed his last name to Stone) plan the January 1994 attack on Kerrigan, Harding’s chief rival for the U.S. figure skating title.
The plot was hatched in the Portland home where Eckardt lived with his parents. Kerrigan was whacked above the right knee with a metal police baton after a practice session in Detroit, where she was preparing for the 1994 U.S. championships.
The injury kept Kerrigan out of the competition, and Harding went on to win the national title but trail far behind silver medal winner Kerrigan in the Olympics weeks later.
Eckardt spent 15 months in the Oregon State Penitentiary after pleading guilty to racketeering. He was the last to be freed because he was the last to begin serving his term.
A fight with another inmate landed Eckardt in the prison’s segregation unit for the last 18 days of his term. Otherwise, Eckardt’s time in the penitentiary was largely uneventful, prison spokeswoman Carolyn Schnoor said.
Eckardt was the last to be freed because he was the last to begin serving his term. He said he’d learned his lesson.
``I’ve come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be involved in anything like that again,″ Eckardt said.
Gillooly, hit man Shane Stant and Stant’s uncle, Derrick Smith, all served time in prison for their roles in the Kerrigan attack. Harding pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hinder prosecution and was placed on three years’ probation. She is completing her 500 hours of community service and has paid $110,000 in fines.
She was stripped of her national title and banned for life by the U.S. Figure Skating Association.
Harding insists she was not aware of the plot until after the attack was carried out, but Gillooly and Eckardt have insisted she was in on it from the start.