By Jay Reeves
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
BIRMINGHAM, July 18 -- An unrepentant Eric Rudolph gave an impassioned defense of his murderous bombing of a Birmingham abortion clinic Monday as a judge sentenced him to two life sentences and victims confronted him in court for the first time.
The wife of a police officer killed in the blast and a nurse maimed in the storm of shrapnel described him as a cowardly, bumbling American terrorist.
"I faced five pounds of dynamite and hundreds of nails, yet I survived," said the nurse, Emily Lyons. "Do I look afraid? You damaged my body, but you did not create the fear you sought."
"In the name of faith, you hate," said U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith, who imposed the life terms worked out in a plea deal. "For the professed goal of saving human life, you killed. Those are riddles I cannot resolve."
Standing before the judge in a red jail uniform and with shackles around his ankles, Rudolph jabbed at the air and spoke in a deep, firm voice as he compared legalized abortion to primitive rituals of killing newborns.
"Abortion on demand is a return to the ancient practice of infanticide," said Rudolph, 38.
The death of the Birmingham police officer and the grave injuries suffered by the nurse were justified because both worked at an abortion clinic, Rudolph said. Abortion, he said, must be fought with "deadly force."
He pleaded guilty to all the cases in April in a deal that let him avoid the possibility of a death penalty. As a key part of the agreement, he directed authorities to about 250 pounds of dynamite hidden in the woods of western North Carolina, where he spent more than five years in hiding before his capture in 2003.
He also faces life sentences in Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics bombing that killed one woman and injured more than 100, as well as 1997 bombings at an abortion clinic and a gay bar in Atlanta.
In sentencing Rudolph to life in the federal government's "supermax" prison in Colorado, the judge compared Rudolph to the killers of Nazi Germany and the Ku Klux Klansmen who bombed a Birmingham church a few blocks from the courthouse in 1963, killing four black girls.
Smith ordered Rudolph to pay $1 million in restitution to victims but acknowledged that the serial bomber was broke. A fraction of the money, plus $200 in court fees, will come from the $1,600 in cash found in Rudolph's trailer after he disappeared into the woods in 1998, Smith said.
In Rudolph's statement -- his first extended comments in public -- he lashed out at abortion and the women's clinic that performs the operation.
"What they did was participate in the murder and dismemberment of upward of 50 children a week," he said. Abortion is murder, Rudolph said, adding: "I believe that deadly force is indeed justified in an attempt to stop it."
Diane Derzis, the owner of the clinic that Rudolph bombed, sat in the witness box a few feet from Rudolph and talked about creeks, trees and all the little things in life the outdoorsman would miss while spending the rest of his life in prison.
"I think you chose a fate far worse than death," Derzis said of the plea deal. "So my wish for you is that you live a very long life."