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The Columbian (Vancouver, WA)

May 19, 2000

Author: STEPHANIE THOMSON, Columbian staff writer

WASHOUGAL — In skating competitions, those tough Russian judges could only penalize Tonya Harding fractions of a point.  In court Thursday, a Clark County District Court judge gave her a much more serious penalty: three days in jail and 10 days on work crew.The sentence wrapped up a February assault case in which Harding punched her live-in boyfriend in the face, threw a wheel cover at his head and chucked a handful of rocks at his truck, scraping the paint.

Judge Darvin Zimmerman rejected the prosecutor’s recommendation that Harding spend 240 hours doing community service. And the judge scoffed at defense attorney Steve Thayer’s proposal: for Harding to spend the service hours teaching ice-skating lessons to “underprivileged children” in the community.

“I don’t think you are quite the role model who should be out working with youth,” Zimmerman told Harding.

In a quiet voice, the former Olympic figure skater told the judge she wanted to take responsibility for her actions.   She apologized and told the judge it would never happen again.

“Did you tell the judge the same thing in Oregon a few years back?” Zimmerman asked, referring to Harding’s conviction for hindering prosecution in the 1994 assault against skating rival Nancy Kerrigan.

Victim Darren Silver, who at the time had lived with Harding for three years at her rural Camas home, was not at the hearing because he could not miss work. In a written statement, he urged the judge to spare Harding jail time.

“I have forgiven her in my heart if I could forgive her, so should the state,” Silver wrote.

Both Silver and Thayer said the Feb. 22 assault was the first of its kind. Thayer said Harding’s erratic behavior was brought on by mixing alcohol with Zoloft, a prescription antidepressant medication.

Thayer said his client does not drink alcohol to excess, but Zimmerman ordered her to stay away from it for two years while on probation. She does not have to continue taking Antabuse, as required earlier by a judge. The drug makes users ill if they drink alcohol.

The judge warned Harding that any probation violations would probably not be kept a secret.

“The whole world keeps an eye on you, so if you’re drinking some place, it’s not like a probation officer isn’t going to hear about it.”

Harding, dressed in a sleeveless white pantsuit and black high heels, looked surprised when Zimmerman told her she would be leaving immediately after the hearing for the Clark County Jail.

Minutes later, she was handcuffed and escorted out the back door of the Camas-Washougal Municipal Court.

Clark County Sheriff’s Lt. Cliff Evelyn said Harding would be isolated from the 500-plus other inmates so as to not cause a distraction at the chronically overcrowded jail.

“Basically we decided it would be safer to keep her in protective custody,” Evelyn said, adding Harding will be kept in a single cell and brought her food.


Tonya Harding pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors Thursday in Camas-Washougal Municipal Court:

* Third-degree malicious mischief: 10 days on a Camas-Washougal work crew, a suspended 80-day jail sentence and $411 in fines and fees.

* Disorderly conduct: Three days in the Clark County Jail, a suspended 87-day jail sentence and $411 in fines and fees.

* Also: The original charge of fourth-degree domestic violence assault, which has a maximum penalty of a year in jail, was dropped. Harding will be on probation for two years, during which time she cannot consume alcohol. If she drinks and gets caught, a judge could make her serve the suspended jail sentences.

The no-contact order between Harding and victim Darren Silver was dropped at the victim’s request.