04/13/2005

Olympics Bomber Eric Rudolph to Get Life in Prison

Eric Rudolph, who is accused of four bombings that killed two and injured more than 150 others over a three year period, pleaded guilty today to four terrorist bombings during federal court appearances in Birmingham, Ala., and Atlanta.

Rudolph, 38, admitted setting off a backpack bomb in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park during the Summer Games in July 1996, which killed spectator Alice Hawthorne and injured 111 other people. In 1997, Rudolph allegedly carried out two bombings in Atlanta — one at a family planning clinic and another at a lesbian dance club, the Otherside Lounge.

Rudolph also admitted setting off an explosion at an Alabama abortion clinic in 1998 that killed an off-duty police officer, Robert Sanderson, and seriously injured a nurse, Emily Lyons. Jury selection for that case had already begun when a plea agreement was announced.

Rudolph will receive four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. In exchange, he will not face the death penalty. Rudolph appeared in federal courts in Birmingham and Atlanta to plead guilty to the bombings.

Rudolph, a former Army soldier, eluded capture for more than five years despite a $24 million manhunt that included 200 federal agents, a $1 million bounty and a listing among the FBI's most wanted. He was finally captured in 2003 by a rookie police officer in Murphy, N.C., who spotted him rooting through the garbage behind a grocery store.

The Rudolph family was deeply anti-Semitic. They were linked with the racist and anti-Semitic Christian Identity religion, which holds that Jews are Satanic. According to his sister-in-law, Deborah, Eric wrote a ninth grade paper that denied the Holocaust and his family subscribed to many racist and anti-Semitic publications. The family referred to television as "The Electronic Jew."

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. Federal agents exploded the caches without incident in recent days, including one fully assembled bomb that contained 25 pounds of dynamite.