Eric Rudolph, Unrepentant Bomber, Avoids Death Penalty

Extremist Crimes

To the surprise of many people close to the case, federal prosecutors this April approved a plea bargain with Eric Robert Rudolph, a right-wing extremist who carried out four major bombings that killed two people and injured more than 100 others.

Shortly before he was expected to go on trial in the 1998 bombing of an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Ala. — a bombing that left one police officer dead and a nurse gravely wounded — prosecutors announced the deal, which allowed Rudolph to avoid the death penalty by agreeing to a sentence of life without parole.

Rudolph also admitted his responsibility for bombing the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, killing one woman, and the 1997 bombings of an Atlanta gay nightclub and a Sandy Springs, Ga., abortion clinic. Letters taking credit for all the attacks except the Olympics bombing were signed "Army of God."

Prosecutors said they negotiated the plea bargain because Rudolph agreed to tell them where he had hidden several hundred pounds of volatile explosives. They said they feared the caches could go off and kill or injure passersby.

Rudolph did reveal the locations of the hidden explosives, including a 25-pound bomb set up across the street from a local armory that served as headquarters for the federal task force that sought Rudolph in the North Carolina woods for five years.

But he hardly sounded repentant when the deal was announced. In a statement released by his lawyers, he haughtily defended himself, although he sounded slightly defensive when describing the Olympics attack. He ended his manifesto with a dismissal of those who "opine" that he is finished. "I say to you people that by the grace of God I am still here — a little bloodied, but emphatically unbowed."