By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
Goffredi was concerned that conflicts of interest could arise between Stant and Smith. Stant could be portrayed as the impressionable nephew who only did what his uncle told him to. If he decided to play that role, he could get off easier than Smith. Both men signed waivers of potential conflict, but Goffredi still thought the two should have separate counsel, and he called them together to talk about just that.
"They said they couldn't afford it," Goffredi remembers. Then the literary-rights issue surfaced: "One said, 'What about paragraph seven?' My jaw just hit the table. I had no idea of that arrangement." He resigned as their counsel, and the presiding judge insisted that Merrill withdraw, as well. Goffredi threatened to sue for his fee, and received $2,000 from Merrill, half of what he billed.
Merrill found new attorneys for the pair. Then the money started to roll in.
Merrill alleges that he initially did not intend to market the Stant and Smith story until the trial was over. He was then going to look at book and film opportunities, and he thought he could get around an Oregon "Son of Sam" law that says literary proceeds from crimes should go to the victims. Nancy Kerrigan's lawyers had assured Merrill that Kerrigan would not be demanding restitution; in that case, the money would go into trust for a period of years before reverting to the criminals.
TV reporters rang Merrill's phone off the hook, and the most promising deal came from the TV newsmagazine Hard Copy.
"We advised them not to do Hard Copy," says Silvert. And, in fact, Silvert was able to produce letters from Smith and Stant, dated January 30, to verify that claim.
Stant's letter read, in part, "I realize that you have counseled me against doing any interviews, for it may hurt my case. You have also counseled me to listen to my public defender, Randall Vogt. He agrees with you and also counseled me against any interviews. However, I have decided on an interview with Hard Copy. It is extremely difficult to hear what is being said about me, Derek [sic], and our family." Smith wrote a similar letter. Both letters asked that Merrill continue to represent them in civil matters.
Merrill and Silvert cut the deal, and Smith and Stant sat through four interviews, for which Hard Copy paid an initial $40,000 to Merrill on January 29 (Leslie Thomas hand-carried the check from Portland to Phoenix to deliver to Merrill), with an additional $20,000 to be paid at the end of February. Though Hard Copy refused to confirm or deny such payment, Merrill produced his copy of an agreement with the TV tabloid show. Leslie Thomas and Suzanne Smith also received $7,500 each from Hard Copy as payment for use of personal photographs.
Then Merrill and Silvert started working on other moneymaking projects. "We were raising revenue for them," says Merrill, "so they could go into the Multnomah County [Oregon] prosecutor like Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly did and say, 'Here's $100,000, we want to make a deal.'"
Stant claims they also received $15,000 from the National Enquirer, and that when that publication contacted him, he said to the reporter, "I was just in the supermarket and saw a picture of heaven in [the Enquirer]."
Silvert denies any such interview took place--unless money was paid directly to them, in which case we know nothing about it." And Richard Baker, the articles editor of the Enquirer, also denied that any sums of that size were paid for Stant's or Smith's story. "We may have talked to him, but I don't recall any money," Baker says. "If we would have paid him anything, it would have been an insignificant amount."
Silvert did set up a 900 phone line on which Stant and Smith implicated Harding and Gillooly in the attack. In addition to the phone-charge revenues--which Merrill estimates as nearly $20,000, yet to be collected--the phone message sold memorabilia: tiny baton key chains that sold for $29.95, autographed photos and tee shirts that read "Save a Skater, Club a Gillooly."
While in Phoenix in March, they posed for the photos, but they were never printed, because Stant's and Smith's relationship with Merrill finally exploded.
The final detonator, according to Stant, revolved around another planned interview with Hard Copy, held in the hotel next door to Merrill's Clarendon Avenue office.
According to Stant, Silvert got into an argument with the show's reporter over a $10,500 payment for the interview. Silvert wanted to be paid in advance, which the reporter refused. Then, Stant alleges, he and Smith discovered that they were expected to tell the cameras that Tonya Harding had been present at one of their two meetings with Shawn Eckardt and Jeff Gillooly.
As Stant recalls, "They were expecting us to say, 'Yeah, Tonya Harding knew about it. She gave the thumbs up.' They wanted us to say, 'Yes, I know for a fact she was involved.' They came down to Merrill's office. We went down there and we were telling them what we knew. They're like, 'What is this? What are you talking about? We were under the impression that you guys were going to say that she was in the room during the meeting, and what the hell are you talking about?'