Published April 14, 2005
ATLANTA – Confessed murderer Eric Rudolph (search) pleaded guilty Wednesday to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics (search) bombing and two other area explosions, after earlier admitting to orchestrating a 1998 abortion clinic bombing in Alabama.
The killer said he picked the '96 Summer Games to embarrass the U.S. government in front of the world "for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand," according to his statement, which quoted the Bible throughout.
"Because I believe that abortion is murder, I also believe that force is justified ... in an attempt to stop it," Rudolph said in a statement handed out by his lawyers after he entered his pleas in back-to-back court appearances, first in Birmingham, Ala., in the morning, then in Atlanta in the afternoon.
Rudolph, 38, confessed to the bombings as part of a plea agreement with the government that will put him behind bars for the rest of his life but allow him to avoid the death penalty.
Click here to read Rudolph's guilty pleas (FindLaw).
He is expected to get four consecutive life sentences without parole for the blasts that killed two people and wounded more than 120 others. Sentencing is set for July 18 in Birmingham.
The statement marked the first time he had ever offered a reason for the bombings across the South.
"I am not an anarchist. I have nothing against government or law enforcement in general," the rambling statement read. "It is solely for the reason that this government has legalized the murder of children that I have no allegiance to nor do I recognize the legitimacy of this particular government in Washington."
When asked by the Birmingham judge Wednesday morning whether he detonated the bomb outside the abortion clinic in 1998, Rudolph replied, "I certainly did, your honor."
Rudolph flew from Birmingham to Atlanta, where he admitted to three other bombings, including the 1996 Olympics attack that left a woman dead and another at a gay nightclub, as part of the deal cut with the government.
Among those in attendance at the Atlanta hearing were security guard Richard Jewell (search), who was originally nabbed by the FBI as a suspect in the Olympics blast and has said the ordeal ruined his life.
The highly publicized bombing at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, which claimed the life of a mother named Alice Hawthorne (search) and wounded more than 100 others, was originally pinned on Jewell, but authorities later dropped their focus on him and concentrated on hunting down Rudolph.
The Olympics bomb was hidden in a knapsack and sent nails and screws ripping through a crowd at Centennial Olympic Park during a concert. In addition to Hawthorne's death, 111 people were wounded in what proved to be Rudolph's most notorious attack, carried out on an international stage amid heavy security.
Rudolph said he had thought up a much larger attack on the Olympics that would have used five bombs over several days. He had planned to make phone calls well in advance of each of the explosions, "leaving only uniformed arms-carrying government personnel exposed to potential injury."
"I had sincerely hoped to achieve these objections without harming innocent civilians," he said. But he said poor planning on his part made that five-bomb plan impossible and he settled on just the Centennial Park attack.
"There is no excuse for this, and I accept full responsibility for the consequences of using this dangerous tactic," he said.
Rudolph said after the first explosion he decided to not attempt any more Olympics attacks. He said he primed and detonated four other explosive devices in a vacant lot in downtown Atlanta and "left Atlanta with much remorse."
Rudolph also admitted bombing a gay nightclub in Atlanta, wounding five people, in 1997, and attacking a suburban Atlanta office building containing an abortion clinic that same year. Six people were wounded in that attack, which consisted of two blasts, first a small one to draw law officers, then a larger explosion.
At times Rudolph rocked in his chair but otherwise sat stonefaced and stared straight ahead as federal prosecutors detailed the Atlanta-area bombings down to the brand of nails, duct tape and plastic food containers used to make the bombs.
Earlier in the day, a more defiant Rudolph, dressed in red jail clothes, reportedly winked at prosecutors in Birmingham court and merely confirmed that he understood the charges he faced and answered a series of questions from the judge. He said he believed the government could "just barely" prove the case against him if it went to trial.
He arrived at the federal court in Birmingham (search) Wednesday morning in a car surrounded by 10 marked and unmarked police vehicles.
Rudolph's most elaborate statement was regarding his attorneys.
"They're very, very good, superlative attorneys," he told the judge.
With his admission, Lyons began weeping in the front row of the courtroom.
"He just sounded so proud of it. That's what really hurt," said Lyons, who lost an eye in the bombing and was nearly killed.
Rudolph drummed his fingers on the side of a podium as a prosecutor told of the Wal-Mart hose clamp that was found inside the body of the off-duty police officer who died in the blast, then described pieces of a remote control receiver found in Lyons' body.
She said she was "nauseated" that Rudolph's plea would allow him to dodge the death penalty.
"We've always felt the death penalty is what he deserved. The punishment should fit the crime," Lyons said. "It's just a sickening feeling."
Deborah Rudolph, the ex-wife of Eric's brother Joel, said Rudolph is hardly getting off easy. She said being kept in solitary confinement with only one hour a day of fresh air is a fitting punishment for an outdoorsman who hated the government.
"Knowing that he's living under government control for the rest of his life, I think that's worse to him than death," she said from her home in Nashville, Tenn.
FOX News has obtained copies of the plea agreements concerning the attacks: one for the '98 abortion clinic bombing in Alabama, the other for the three Atlanta area blasts.
Both were signed April 4.
For the Alabama crime, the maximum term of imprisonment is life without parole for each count and the mandatory minimum is seven years for count one and 30 years for count two.
Rudolph had to agree to pay restitution to the victims, with the amount to be determined later, as part of both plea deals.
Rudolph provided authorities with the location of more than 250 pounds of dynamite buried in the mountains of western North Carolina in the Alabama agreement. The government said some of the explosives were found near populated areas and could have become unstable and detonated.
Under the plea deal, Fulton County prosecutors agreed not to pursue future state charges in Georgia against Rudolph at the request of federal authorities, said Erik Friedly, a spokesman for District Attorney Paul Howard. In Alabama, Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber said he wouldn't comment on the possibility of any state charges there until after sentencing.
A description of the Olympic Park bombing was included in the Atlanta portion of the deal with the feds, detailing a bomb made of "three 12-inch-long metal plumbing pipes stacked in a pyramid, each packed with smokeless powder and covered with more than 5 pounds of 3-inch cut masonry nails designed to be propelled from the bomb as additional shrapnel."
"Rudolph concealed the 40-pound bomb in a military-style olive-green backpack," the agreement read. There was also a description of a photo taken of Rudolph in 1997 that appears to match the videotaped image taken near the site of the Olympic Park bombing, and the agreement says that at least 15 people identified his voice from a recording of a July 27, 1996, phone call saying "there is a bomb ... you have 30 minutes."
Rudolph, believed to be a follower of a white supremacist religion that is anti-abortion, anti-gay and anti-Semitic, eluded a 5 1/4-year manhunt in the Appalachian wilderness. He was captured near a grocery store in Murphy, N.C., in 2003.
The judge in Birmingham said Rudolph will receive two consecutive life sentences for the abortion clinic bombing, $200 in special assessments and an undetermined amount of restitution to the victims to be decided when he is officially sentenced.
Diane Derzis, the owner of the Alabama clinic that Rudolph bombed, sat in the Birmingham courthouse Wednesday with Lyons and Felicia Sanderson, the widow of the police officer killed in the blast.
Derzis, whose New Woman All Women Health Care (search) installed security cameras after the attack, had hoped Rudolph's confession would lead to the arrest of others she believes assisted in the bombing.
"Absolutely he had help," Derzis said. "There's not a doubt in my mind."
But prosecutors said Rudolph told authorities he acted alone.
Rudolph could be back in Alabama within an hour of his plea in Atlanta, where courthouse security questions are still swirling after a gunman killed a judge and three other people a month ago at a separate, state judicial building.
"We want him back here. We think he's much safer," said Rudolph's defense attorney Bill Bowen, of Birmingham.
FOX News' Jonathan Serrie, Catherine Donaldson-Evans, Anna Persky and The Associated Press contributed to this report.