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FORMER INTERN IN STALKING CASE IS BUFFALO NATIVE

When George Stephanopoulos worked in the White House, intern Tangela Burkhart became infatuated with him.

When Stephanopoulos left the White House and moved to New York City, the Buffalo native also moved there.

Now the 32-year-old Burkhart, who grew up in North Buffalo and graduated from Buffalo State College, is criminally accused of stalking Stephanopoulos over the last 14 months in the neighborhood surrounding Columbia University, where he teaches.

Stephanopoulos, who also works for ABC News, spoke briefly with The Buffalo News Tuesday but declined to comment because of the pending charges.

Burkhart, in contrast, wanted to talk.

"I have only good feelings about George Stephanopoulos, but I can't comment on our relationship," she said.

Burkhart's positive feelings toward Stephanopoulos, President Clinton's former communications director and close adviser until 1996, are not mutual.

Stephanopoulos has changed apartments "in part to escape her pattern of harassment," according to a complaint he filed Friday in Manhattan Criminal Court.

"Basically, I was in a coffee shop, and he walked by and I smiled at him. I was charged with criminal contempt on Friday, my birthday," Burkhart said of the latest incident, in which she is accused of violating a court order to leave him alone.

Did Stephanopoulos smile back?

"No, he did not," said Burkhart.

"This situation has gone on for five years. When he moved to New York City, she moved. She once barged into his class at Columbia," an associate of Stephanopoulos told The News.

Burkhart, however, insists relations weren't always so strained between her and Stephanopoulos.

Stephanopoulos, she said, included her in his book "All Too Human," a book about Clinton.

"It was on Page 298 of 'All Too Human.' He said, 'She wrote letters to me with insight into me beyond anything in the newspapers,' " said Burkhart, quoting from the book.

The same associate of Stephanopoulos denied the passage referred to Burkhart.

"He has tried to work with this young woman's family and doesn't feel it is appropriate to comment. When he was in Washington, the Secret Service had to intervene because she was stalking him," the associate said.

Burkhart, 5 feet tall, described herself as non-threatening.

She said she was first charged with misdemeanor harassment in July 1998 after writing letters to Stephanopoulos.

"I wrote him some very benign letters about my interest in public policy. He even wrote me back a personal letter," Burkhart said.

In September 1998, she was charged with harassment and criminal contempt after she allegedly said hello to Stephanopoulos.

"The first charge hasn't been resolved," she said. "There's a pre-trial hearing on it today in court."

Later Tuesday, Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Troy Webber ordered a psychiatric examination for Burkhart after a hearing on whether statements she made to police after she was arrested should be used against her at trial.

Burkhart's lawyer, Myron Beldock, said his client probably will undergo the exam sometime in October.

Before Tuesday's hearing, the judge refused to find Burkhart in criminal contempt for allegedly violating a court order to stay away from the former presidential aide.

Burkhart, who left Buffalo several years ago, said the criminal contempt charge is a clear case of "prosecutorial overzealousness."

Burkhart -- who has a degree in political science from Buffalo State College and who wants to pursue journalism studies at Columbia -- was arrested Friday at the French Roast Coffee Shop near West 85th Street and Broadway, which Stephanopoulos frequents. She was arrested twice last year for allegedly harassing him. Most recently, she was in the cafe when Stephanopoulos arrived, went to a telephone and dialed 911.

But Webber said the latest police complaint was defective because it offered no evidence that the woman knowingly violated the court order.

"There is nothing in the complaint that says she was aware that the complainant frequented that coffee shop," Webber said, noting that she was already in the shop when Stephanopoulos came in.

The cafe is in Stephanopoulos' new neighborhood, an area some 30 blocks south of the Columbia University area where Burkhart lives and Stephanopoulos recently moved from.

Manhattan Assistant District Attorney John Martinez argued that Burkhart should be held in contempt because Stephanopoulos had seen her in the coffee shop three times before the defendant's latest arrest.

"The defendant shows up at coffee shops (that Stephanopoulos patronizes) at eight and nine in the morning, 30 blocks from her home," Martinez argued. "This is not a matter of happenstance."

The judge said a proper complaint could note whether Burkhart had asked the cafe's employees, or residents of the area, where Stephanopoulos had his coffee.

In response to a suggestion that Burkhart be ordered to stay out of the area, or out of nearby coffee shops, Webber said the authority to give such an order wasn't clear.

"I have a duty to protect Mr. Stephanopoulos," Webber told Martinez, "but I also have a duty to protect Ms. Burkhart."

The Associated Press also contributed to this article.

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