Rudolph pleads guilty in Olympic bombing

Published April 14, 2005 12:50PM (EDT)

ATLANTA (AP) -- During a two-year series of bombings in the Deep South, Eric Rudolph considered himself a warrior -- against abortion, which he calls murder, and a government that permits it.

A sometimes-rambling, sometimes-reflective 11-page manifesto released by Rudolph's attorneys Wednesday soon after he entered his last guilty plea in the bombings gave the most detailed look yet into the mind of the former Army explosives expert who killed two people and injured more than 120 others.

Rudolph pleaded guilty in federal court to the deadly 1996 Olympic park bombing in Atlanta and attacks at two abortion clinics and a gay nightclub.

He was sentenced to four life sentences without parole, escaping the death penalty by telling authorities the whereabouts of hundreds of pounds of dynamite and other explosives he stashed while hiding in the North Carolina mountains for five years.

In the statement, Rudolph said stopping abortion -- "this holocaust," he called it -- was his main motive. Any agent of a government that allows it, he reasoned, is an enemy that deserves death.

He also apologized to his victims who don't work for the government or perform abortions, rejected virtually every theory about his motives laid out over the years, and spelled out the strategies, techniques and, ultimately, failures involved in his attacks.

Among the information: that the Olympic bombing was intended to be part of a weeklong campaign of explosions aimed at shutting down the games and embarrassing the U.S. government.

Rebutting claims that his anti-government views were shaped by racism, his family or involvement in the extreme fundamentalist Christian Identity movement, Rudolph called himself a Roman Catholic at war over abortion.

"Because I believe that abortion is murder, I also believe that force is justified ... in an attempt to stop it," he wrote, "whether these agents of the government are armed or otherwise they are legitimate targets in the war to end this holocaust."

In the Atlanta courtroom, he sat stone-faced and answered questions calmly and politely. But in Birmingham, he winked toward prosecutors as he entered court, said the government could "just barely" prove its case, and admitted his guilt with a hint of pride in his voice.

Emily Lyons, who lost an eye -- and nearly her life -- in the Birmingham clinic attack, wept and said she was almost physically ill as she watched in court from her front-row seat.

"He just sounded so proud of it. That's what really hurt," she said.

Rudolph showed no remorse for the death of Robert Sanderson, a security guard killed in the Birmingham blast that maimed Lyons. "Every employee is a knowing participant in this gruesome trade," he wrote.

But he apologized to "innocent civilians" and their families wounded in attacks like the Centennial Park bombing - an operation he said he botched.

Rudolph, 38, wrote that the purpose of the Olympic bombing "was to confound, anger and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the world for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand."

He originally hoped to obtain high-grade explosives and knock out the power grid around Atlanta, ending the games. When that failed, he planned a series of five bombings over several days. He said he wanted to make phone calls well before each explosion, "leaving only uniformed arms-carrying government personnel exposed to potential injury."

The bomb that exploded at the Olympics was hidden in a knapsack and sent nails and screws ripping through a crowd at Centennial Olympic Park during a concert. Alice Hawthorne, 44, was killed and 111 other people were wounded in what proved to be Rudolph's most notorious attack.

Rudolph wrote that a 911 call meant to warn authorities about the bomb was cut short, possibly because a plastic device he used to disguise his voice made him hard to understand. He himself cut a second call short because he thought people standing near the phone booth he was using were becoming suspicious.

"I had sincerely hoped to achieve these objections (sic) without harming innocent civilians," he said. "There is no excuse for this, and I accept full responsibility for the consequences of using this dangerous tactic."

Rudolph also called homosexuality an "aberrant sexual behavior" and blasted what he called the government's acceptance of it. But he wrote that a pair of bombs planted at The Otherside Lounge, an Atlanta club that catered to a gay and lesbian clientele, targeted law enforcement, not the club's patrons.

In a postscript to his statement, Rudolph belittled, in sometimes mocking tones, theories that have swirled for years about his possible motives.

He denied any allegiance to the racist, anti-Semitic, anti-gay Christian Identity movement, saying he attended an Identity church for about six months in the early 1980s only because the father of a woman he was dating went there.

"I was born a Catholic, and with forgiveness I hope to die one," he wrote.

He dismissed reports that he turned against the government when his father, suffering from cancer, sought an experimental drug not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. And he admitted to growing a small amount of marijuana in the early '90s, but turned sarcastic about claims he was a major dealer.

"Yes, this is why I was living in a trailer paying $275 a month for rent," he wrote. "Big time drug dealer, that's me."

Deborah Rudolph, Rudolph's former sister-in-law whom he criticized in the statement, noted the irony of Rudolph's plea deal putting him in custody of a government he hates.

"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.

By Doug Gross

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