Tonya Harding sentenced to 10 days in jail for drinking while on probation

Friday, August 9th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CAMAS, Wash. (AP) _ Tonya Harding was sentenced to 10 days in jail for drinking alcohol while on probation.

In court Thursday, the former Olympic figure skater said her arrest for drunken driving forced her to re-examine her life and was the best thing that could have happened to her.

``I'm grateful to the judge for giving me this opportunity; I finally found out what my problem is: It's alcohol,'' Harding said after the brief hearing.

``I'm glad it happened so no one gets hurt, I don't get hurt and I'm making something right in my life for a change.''

Harding is scheduled to start her sentence Aug. 20. Her lawyer, Steven Thayer, asked Judge Darvin Zimmerman to let Harding do her time in isolation. He presented a letter from a doctor saying Harding suffers from panic attacks.

The judge took no action on the matter. It's unclear whether the detention center in Vancouver, Wash., is equipped to shield celebrities from other prisoners.

In April, Harding was behind the wheel of her truck when it veered off the road and crashed into a ditch. Harding failed a field sobriety test and her blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.16 _ twice the legal limit in Washington.

The accident happened when Harding had less than a month to go on her two-year probation for hitting a boyfriend with a hubcap. As part of her probation, she was not allowed to consume alcohol.

The 31-year-old acknowledged violating that condition when she pleaded guilty Monday to drunken driving and was ordered to enter a treatment program for alcoholics.

Zimmerman could have sentenced Harding to more than 5 1/2 months in jail. Instead, he gave her 30 days, with 20 of them suspended if she completes 12 hours of classes for troubled young adults.

``I hope you're sincere and things work out better for you,'' the judge said.

After the hearing, Camas Assistant City Attorney Shawn MacPherson said he was ``satisfied that justice was done.''

Harding's attorney said the sentence was fair and wouldn't hinder the progress his client is making in treatment.

``She's gone 10 days, not 10 months,'' he said.

The two-time U.S. champion was convicted in 1994 of hindering prosecution in a plot to injure rival Nancy Kerrigan during the U.S. championships in Detroit. Harding also was banned for life by the U.S. Figure Skating Association.