Olympic Bomber Given Life Sentence

By Harry R. Weber
Associated Press
Tuesday, August 23, 2005

ATLANTA, Aug. 22 -- Serial bomber Eric Rudolph was ordered Monday to serve a life of isolation behind bars as a prisoner of the government he professed to hate, after victims of the deadly 1996 Olympics blast and two others described him as a small man who cowardly fled amid his carnage.

Rudolph, 38, clean-shaven and gaunt, chose to sit rather than stand to face the judge as he read a two-page statement in which he apologized for killing Alice Hawthorne and hurting civilians who were among the 111 people injured in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing.

"I would do anything to take that night back," Rudolph said.

But the apology was only a partial one and did not mention the 11 people injured in the two other bombings he was sentenced for Monday, one at a gay nightclub and the other at an Atlanta abortion clinic in 1997.

As in past statements, Rudolph said he detonated the bomb at the Olympics because he wanted to force the cancellation of the Summer Games and "confound, anger and embarrass" Washington for sanctioning abortion.

Rudolph was sentenced to life in prison without parole -- four consecutive life sentences plus 120 years -- and ordered to pay $2.3 million in restitution for the three Atlanta bombings. He was sentenced last month to life in prison for a deadly explosion at a women's clinic in Birmingham in 1998 that killed a police officer and maimed a nurse.

Hawthorne's husband, John, speaking on what would have been the couple's 18th wedding anniversary, said he was content knowing that Rudolph would be spending the rest of his days locked up at the maximum-security federal prison in Florence, Colo.

"Do you really expect the world of man to believe that innocent people had to die so you could make your voice heard?" Hawthorne, addressing the court, asked Rudolph. "Why, if your cause is just, are you not willing to die for it as so many others have done in the past for their cause? I know why. And I think you do, too."

He described Rudolph as a coward and a "small man."

Federal prosecutors made a plea deal with Rudolph -- who had faced a possible death sentence -- in exchange for revealing the location of more than 250 pounds of stolen dynamite he had buried in the woods of western North Carolina.

Rudolph was identified as the Olympic bomber after the Birmingham blast and spent the next five years on the run in the North Carolina wilderness, employing the survivalist techniques he learned as a soldier. He was captured in 2003 while scavenging for food behind a grocery store in Murphy, N.C.

Rudolph, in his statement Monday, lashed out at the government, saying who he really wanted to hurt in the Olympics blast was police and first responders. Some federal agents and other officers were among the injured.

"The plan was conceived in haste and carried out with limited resources, planning and preparation -- it was a monster that kept getting out of control the more I got into it," he said.

Rudolph addressed the court after 14 victims and relatives, including Hawthorne, told of the horror he caused and their wishes that he suffer for the rest of his days. A 10-minute video tribute to Alice Hawthorne also was shown.

Hawthorne said the thought of Rudolph being executed -- "peacefully going to sleep on a gurney with a smile on his face" -- was unacceptable to him. He said he was pleased to know that Rudolph instead will "never again see the beauty of flowers and trees" and will sit in a prison cell for years.

"May God bless you with a long life," he told Rudolph.

Associated Press writers Dick Pettys and Doug Gross contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company