Shane Stant spent the last weeks of his freedom literally shoveling shit. He'd taken a construction job in rural Oregon while he was waiting to be sentenced to prison. He was working for meals and not a paycheck, and one of his tasks was to dig the excrement out of an old outhouse pit.

"It has a lot to do with humility," he says. "Sometimes, you have to let your pride down to get by." And he throws his broad shoulders into it, for the first time in his life setting his sights on a conventional lifestyle back in Chandler with his fiance. "I don't want to have to attack figure skaters for a living," he quips, referring to his January 6 assault on Nancy Kerrigan. "It's not what I want to do or what I'm good at."
Ironically, the assault has made many thousands of dollars for other people--but not for Stant. Stant has only made himself a fool and a penniless prison inmate by making two mistakes in the last six months: First, he agreed to club Kerrigan for a measly $6,000 and the promise of a job as a bodyguard on the world figure-skating circuit.

The second mistake, he claims, was to hire for his legal defense a Phoenix attorney who had improperly solicited Stant's uncle and partner in crime, Derrick Smith.

Unbeknown to Stant and Smith, the attorney, Fredrick Merrill, and his paralegal assistant, Robert Silvert, had questionable backgrounds: Merrill was recently suspended from practicing law for 90 days by the Arizona Supreme Court; Silvert is on probation for a fraud conviction.

Together, they generated as much as $100,000 peddling the Stant and Smith story, ultimately doing more publicity than legal work. And until pressed by New Times, they never accounted for where the money went. Then they provided that accounting as an addendum to a lawsuit charging Stant and Smith with breach of contract, civil extortion and making false allegations against them. Meanwhile, Stant's new attorney had already filed a lawsuit charging negligence on Merrill's part and demanding a piece of the profits.

Through the din of argument, the clouds of legal documents, both parties--Stant on one side (Smith has chosen to remain silent) and Merrill and Silvert on the other--speak so earnestly that it's hard to tell who's shoveling what.

@body:Shane Stant has a restless and dangerous look to him. He's five-feet-11, but pumped all the way up to 215 pounds that he carries proudly in his chest and shoulders. He has grown a reddish beard since his arrest in January, and for reasons of fashion or poverty, he favors grunge clothing: workmen's thermal underwear, flannel shirts and baggy trousers, with pirate-style bandannas over his crinkly, short, black hair. On his back, he has a tattoo of a lion's head and the words "Hawaiian Pride." Beneath the armor--the hard looks, the big muscles--Stant is a very likable, very scared kid who may be confused as to what the truth is. As one of his early defense attorneys said, "He's transparent; you'd be able to see it if he was lying." But substantiating all of his claims is nearly impossible, because many of the people close to him--including Stant's parents, his current attorneys and Smith--won't talk, partly because they've already been burned in the press and partly because they're not the talking sort. And some of what Stant claims is just not true.

The Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding affair in January spawned a dizzy international pastiche of media misinformation and disinformation. Reporters scurried for stories and sound bites, seldom pausing to be confused by the facts, feeding off the common denominator of most tabloid scandals: that normal people don't get into these situations.

Harding and her husband, Jeff Gillooly, were driven by deceit and jealousy--as much jealous of each other as of Kerrigan. Shawn Eckardt, Harding's obese bodyguard, who arranged the attack, lived in a paranoid fantasy. Stant and Smith were loners--and you can't base an accurate profile on the recollections and insights of friends and acquaintances if the profile subjects have very few friends or acquaintances.

Because of all that sociopathic behavior, Kerrigan's clubbing was a cash-cow, three-ring spectacle that provided weeks of titillation leading up to the Olympics, not to mention a month's supply of Time and Newsweek covers. It spawned a made-for-TV movie, a comic book (Whacked! The Adventures of Tonya Harding and Her Pals) and a 900 number peddling memorabilia, which even Geraldo Rivera described as pandering.

Stant, Smith and Eckardt became three stooges to be joked about on Leno and Letterman. As the "whacker," Stant became the international villain of the year. Of course, people are always more complex than their simplistic depictions in the daily newspapers. And after several days of interviews with Shane Stant, he emerged as a bright and self-taught wanderer on a short trail to trouble.

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Michael Kiefer

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