Richard Jewell, the man who went from hero to suspect to innocent in the Olympic park bombing, stood still today before the cameras that have relentlessly pursued him for the last three months and described "a nightmare," a life "lived every waking minute of those 88 days afraid that I would be arrested and charged with a horrible crime -- a crime I did not commit."
His voice quavering and several times on the verge of tears, the burly former Olympics security guard, who on Saturday received a letter from the Justice Department clearing him as a target of the investigation, told a packed news conference: "I thank God that it has now ended, and that you now know what I have known all along. I am an innocent man."
He thanked his mother and friends for standing by him as the FBI and news media presented him as the person responsible for the July 27 Olympic bombing, in which two people were left dead and more than 100 injured. "I felt like a hunted animal, followed constantly, waiting to be killed," he said.
Hailed as a savior when he pointed out a pipe bomb minutes before it exploded, Jewell, 33, quickly became the FBI's only named suspect in the bombing, based on largely circumstantial evidence, according to an affidavit released today, and a psychological profile of a hero "wannabe," which his attorneys today derided as "psycho-nonsense."
The 10-page affidavit, which supported FBI search warrants against Jewell last summer, was released today on a judge's order. The document contained no hard evidence tying Jewell to the bombing. In the aftermath of the explosion and investigation, Jewell's home, hair, possessions and life were scrutinized not only by federal investigators but by the world media in Atlanta to cover the Olympics.
Jewell's lawyers today said they would file libel lawsuits in the next two or three weeks against the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which first named Jewell as a suspect, and NBC News and its anchorman Tom Brokaw.
Jewell's attorneys contend the media recklessly rushed to convict their client -- a contention supported by mostly pro-Jewell comments on call-in radio and talk shows here today.
The news organizations named above, and others, have denied any wrongdoing, stating they were reporting the facts, as they knew them, of an ongoing, important and journalistically competitive investigation as it unfolded -- as the FBI publicly searched his former home in northern Georgia and the apartment he now shares with his mother, and as agents tailed him, showing his photo at hardware stores where bomb-making material could have been purchased.
Jewell's attorneys reserved their harshest language today for the FBI, which they accused of mounting a campaign against their client of outright "lies" and "scummy affidavits" filled with "half-truths . . . slanted and distorted."
"To me, the bullies are in the government," said G. Watson Bryant, one of Jewell's attorneys and a friend. "I'm more afraid of the FBI. These are the people who scare the hell out of me . . . not some nut case with a bomb."
Among the deceptions Bryant said was perpetrated on their client was an incident in which a friend and officer with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation visited Jewell -- and ate a dinner of his mother's lasagna -- while secretly wearing a wire from the FBI, which taped their conversation, producing a transcript of more than a hundred pages.
And on the day Jewell's name appeared in the Atlanta newspapers for the first time, according to his attorneys, the FBI had Jewell participate in what it told him was a "training video." During the taping the former suspect was asked by law enforcement officials to surrender his "Miranda" rights to have an attorney present.
Bryant said the "training video" was stopped only after Bryant tracked Jewell down at Atlanta's FBI headquarters, after first being told Jewell was not present. "I told him to get . . . out of that building," Bryant said today.
The Justice Department has ordered an internal review into whether law enforcement officials used false pretenses in an effort to get Jewell to waive his Miranda rights, sources said.
Lin Wood, another Jewell attorney, said that he would devote much of his time toward pursuing the libel cases against the media and finding the source of the leak that first put the former deputy sheriff's name into the world spotlight.
Wood suggested that the FBI had been feeling tremendous pressure to make an arrest in the days after the bombing, which came less than two weeks after the TWA explosion off Long Island and threatened to end the upbeat mood of the centennial Olympics. Senior law enforcement officials have said that they were suspicious of Jewell, who first found the green backpack into which the pipe bomb was placed, but that they were forced to rush into seeking search warrants after his name was leaked to the Atlanta newspaper.
Jewell's attorneys also suggested that the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG), the official host for the Olympics, may have played a role in leaking Jewell's name. They said ACOG, which had "billions" of dollars invested in the Games, wanted Centennial Olympic Park swiftly deemed safe. Wood acknowledged, however, that he had no evidence supporting such a theory and said he was not accusing ACOG of anything.
ACOG officials could not be reached by telephone on several occasions today.
In his 10-minute appearance at a downtown hotel, Jewell said that he would still like to pursue a career in law enforcement. Before serving as a private security guard at Centennial Olympic Park, working on contract for AT&T, Jewell had worked as a deputy sheriff and as a security officer at a small college in north Georgia.
But finding such work might be hard after all the negative publicity, he said. "While the government can tell you that I am an innocent man," he said, "the government's letter cannot give me back my good name or my reputation."
According to his attorneys, Jewell is unemployed and still living with his mother. An Atlanta rock radio station and a grocery chain here have offered him work, but his lawyers said he would still like to explore getting a job again as a law enforcement officer. Staff writer Pierre Thomas in Washington contributed to this report. CAPTION: Cleared in Olympic park bombing, Richard Jewell faces reporters. Lawyer G. Watson Bryant is at left. CAPTION: Richard Jewell, cleared as bombing suspect, pauses as tears well up during his news conference in Marietta, Ga. CAPTION: Richard Jewell's mother Barbara, in foreground, bursts into tears while her son recalls his 88-day ordeal for reporters during a news conference.