IF FIGURE skating is a great spectator sport, plea bargaining after smashing a skater's leg has become an art. Jeff Gillooly, the architect and paymaster behind the attempt to do in Nancy Kerrigan, was permitted to plead guilty to one count of racketeering which guaranteed him a maximum of two years in prison and a fine. In exchange, Gillooly promised to rat on his ex-wife Tonya Harding and make the district attorney a big man in Portland.
The sentence was a message to the world that if you try to harm an Olympic athlete you will get six months in jail and the keys to a new Porsche.
To understand Gillooly's plea bargaining you have to comprehend how some D.A.s work.
Let's take the case of Lolita Bushwhack, who was slated to win six medals in speed skating.
"Three Fingers" Luchese, the manager of her rival, Lorelei Tango, had other ideas. He figured out that by eliminating Lolita from the competition, he could land a contract for "I Can't Believe It's Butter." He called his team together for suggestions.
Rip Sober said, "This is the Olympics, and therefore we must treat the contest with respect since it honors some of the most dedicated young men and women in the world. We should cut the laces of Lolita's skates."
Three Fingers said, "It's too complicated. We don't know what ice skates she will be wearing."
Todo, the bodyguard, suggested, "Why don't we use piano wire?"
Everyone turned to him in astonishment.
"We string up piano wire across the rink and when Lolita skates by we lift the wire and she goes flying into the bleachers and our skater wins."
Three Fingers smiled, "I like it. It's clean, simple and sportsmanlike. Here's $25 to buy the wire, but don't tell anyone what it's for."
Well, you all read what happened after that.
Lolita hit the wire and fell on her keister, but the judges restarted the race because a Swedish skater, Gloria Swensen, had a false start. At this point an official discovered the wire and noticed Todo holding one end and Three Fingers holding the other.
They were both arrested, but Todo received a pardon and a condo in Miami for turning in Three Fingers.
When Three Fingers showed up with his lawyer for arraignment, the D.A. was all business. "I'll see that you get the gas chamber if you don't name names."
The lawyer said, "What names do you want?"
The D.A. replied, "I'll take anyone -- Sen. Packwood, Michael Jackson, Boris Yeltsin."
The lawyer said, "Suppose we give you Three Fingers' mother?"
"It's not enough," the D.A. yells.
"How about we implicate his mother and his last three wives?"
"Now you're talking sense. But in order to persuade the judge that I'm representing the people, can you think of anyone else who was involved?"
"What did he have to do with it?"
"Nothing, except that we stole the wire from his piano."
Art Buchwald is a syndicated columnist.