March 13, 2000 12:00 PM

The weapon was different this time around—a hubcap instead of a metal baton. But the latest bizarre assault involving Tonya Harding had a familiar outcome: more bad publicity for the troubled skater, who was banned from major competitions in 1994 for her role in the kneecapping of Olympic rival Nancy Kerrigan. “Tonya’s heartbroken,” says her godmother Linda Lewis, 55. “She’s saddened by all the circumstances that happened.”

The latest “circumstances” began shortly before 8 p.m. on Feb. 22, when Harding’s boyfriend, electrician Darren Silver, dialed 911 from their home in Camas, Wash. “I’ve got a domestic-violence case,” Silver, 28, told the operator. Then, Harding got on the phone and said, “Get a police officer over here right now.”

When police arrived, they found Harding, a bloodied Silver and two friends who had returned home with them after an evening of dinner, drinks and video poker. Harding had been “hooking me like Mike Tyson,” said Silver, who also claimed she hurled a hubcap at him in the garage (both witnesses agreed). The twice-divorced Harding, 29, was charged with misdemeanor assault and pleaded not guilty, saying she meant to hit Silver’s motorcycle with the hubcap and that he attacked first. “All I was trying to do was defend myself,” she said.

The incident could derail Harding’s budding comeback, including a second-place finish at a 1999 ESPN event. The only person able to see a bright side, it seems, is Silver’s father, Douglas. “I’m glad it happened in the garage rather than the kitchen,” he says. “There are a lot more dangerous items in the kitchen.”

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