07/18/2005

Clinic Bomber Rudolph Sentenced to Life

Eric Rudolph, the abortion clinic and Olympic Park bomber responsible for four bombings that killed two and injured more than 150 others over a three-year period, was sentenced to life in prison today.

In a long statement before his sentencing, Rudolph, 38, was unrepentant.

"Abortion is murder and because it is murder I believe deadly force is needed to stop it," Rudolph told a courtroom that included Emily Lyons, a nurse maimed by one of his bombs, and Felicia Sanderson, whose husband was killed by the same explosion.

Rudolph was sentenced under a plea agreement that allowed him to avoid the death sentence. Under the deal, Rudolph received two life terms without parole for the 1998 bombing of the Birmingham abortion clinic that killed off-duty police officer Robert Sanderson and badly injured Lyons.

Next month, Rudolph is expected to receive two more life sentences for the 1996 Olympic Park bombing and two other attacks in Atlanta – one at a family planning clinic and another at a lesbian dance club.

During Monday's sentencing hearing, Lyons said Rudolph deserved more than life in prison.

"The full responsibility for this would have been the death sentence," Lyons said. "When it was your turn to face death, you weren't so brave... You want to see a monster, all you have to do is look in the mirror."

Felicia Sanderson echoed Lyons' sentiment in her words to the judge.

"I want to tell you there is no punishment in my opinion great enough for Eric Rudolph," she said. "When Eric Rudolph leaves this earth and has to face final judgment, I'm going to leave the final judgment in God's hand."

In a 1998 interview with the Center's quarterly Intelligence Report, Lyons said the pain from the bombing was unbearable and that violence, no matter what the reason, is never appropriate.

"Does 'hell' describe it?" Lyons said, referring to her pain from the bombing. "I spent eight weeks in the hospital. I've had nine surgeries, and I've got plastic surgery left to go... Violence is not the way to do it. If you want to change something, go through the system. You don't take it upon yourself to decide what is right and wrong."

Rudolph will be sentenced Aug. 22 in connection with the Atlanta bombings. As part of his plea agreement, Rudolph told authorities where to find more than 250 pounds of dynamite and bomb components that he had secreted away while hiding in western North Carolina.