San Francisco Examiner

Harding sentenced to 3 days in jail for attack on boyfriend

By William McCall, ASSOCIATED PRESS
San Francisco Examiner
May 18, 2000

CAMAS, Wash. — Former figure skating champion Tonya Harding was sent to jail for three days Thursday after she pleaded guilty to attacking her boyfriend, who said he "has forgiven her in my heart."

Harding was accused of punching Darren Silver and throwing a hubcap at his head during an argument at her house in Camas, bloodying his face and resulting in a 911 call to police.

But Silver, in a statement read at her sentencing, said that the argument was unusual in their three-year relationship, and he pleaded for leniency: "If I can forgive her, so should the state," Silver said.

Harding's lawyer, Steve Thayer, blamed the Feb. 22 attack on a mix of alcohol, prescription painkillers and the anti-depressant Zoloft, but he claimed Harding did not have a drinking problem.

"We had her evaluated and her evaluation showed she didn't have a problem," said Thayer, who introduced statements from restaurant owners, her boyfriend and Harding's doctor indicating she does not abuse alcohol.

Judge Darvin Zimmerman, however, was skeptical and ordered Harding to avoid alcohol completely for two years, putting her on "bench probation" — or probation supervised by a judge. But he allowed her to end Antabuse treatments ordered following her arrest to prevent her from drinking.

Harding, 29, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and to malicious mischief during a brief appearance before Zimmerman in Camas-Washougal Municipal Court.

He sentenced her to three days in jail on the disorderly conduct charge and 10 days of community service for the malicious mischief plea. He also suspended 167 days of possible jail time, fined her $300 on each charge and ordered her to pay $111 per conviction in court costs.

In addition, he lifted a "no contact" order preventing her from seeing Silver, at Silver's request.

Zimmerman also ordered Harding to attend anger management classes and repeatedly warned her that she would land back in jail if she violated any part of her sentence.

"You sort of went off the deep end," Zimmerman told her. "If you mess up, you're going to be facing some substantial penalties."

Zimmerman rejected a defense recommendation that Harding be allowed to offer skating lessons to low-income children as her community service, saying that "I'm attempting to treat you like anyone else ... and everybody else picks up garbage on the work crew."

Harding was immediately taken to jail and was not allowed to make a statement.

But when Zimmerman asked her in court whether she had anything to say, she told him she was sorry and that "we all wish this had never happened."

"I'm here to accept my responsibility for my actions," Harding said in a soft voice. "I'd like to apologize."

Harding was banned for life from figure skating for her role in a January 1994 knee-clubbing attack on Nancy Kerrigan at the national figure skating championships in Detroit. Harding was later stripped of her title and pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution in Oregon for helping to cover up a plot against Kerrigan hatched by Harding's former husband and his friends.

Harding has tried acting and singing, and has appeared on dozens of talk shows, but she has performed just three times as a skater since the 1994 Winter Olympics, when she failed to win a medal in Lillehammer, Norway.

Last October, she placed second at the ESPN Professional Skating Championships in Huntington, W.Va.

In February 1998, she appeared briefly on ice for a Fox TV "reunion" with Kerrigan, and in 1997 performed at a minor league hockey game in Reno, Nev.

©2000 San Francisco Examiner