Richard Jewell today sued the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the college where he once worked as a security guard, accusing them of libeling him in stories linking him to the Centennial Olympic Park bombing.
Jewell's lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, accuses the newspapers of portraying him as a man with "a bizarre employment history and an aberrant personality" who likely was guilty of placing the bomb.
Those stories quoted Piedmont College President Ray Cleere as describing Jewell as a "badge-wearing zealot" who "would write epic police reports for minor infractions," the lawsuit said.
Lin Wood, a lawyer for Jewell, called the lawsuit "the first step in what will be a long and hard-fought battle against a billion-dollar corporation that tried and convicted Richard Jewell for a crime he did not commit."
Journal-Constitution publisher Roger Kintzel defended his newspapers' coverage of the bombing as "fair, accurate and responsible."
"Noticeably lacking is any explanation of what is false about what we reported," Kintzel said at a news conference. The newspapers will fight the lawsuit, he said. "There has been no discussion of any settlement."
In December, the newspapers refused Jewell's demand to print a retraction to three stories about him while he was a suspect.
Meanwhile, Jewell and his mother settled a complaint against CNN for an undisclosed amount, according to a joint statement issued by CNN and Jewell's lawyers.
"CNN continues to believe that its coverage was a fair and accurate review of the events that unfolded following the Centennial Olympic Park explosion," the Atlanta-based network said in a statement.
However, neither side would discuss details.
Last month, Jewell reached a settlement with NBC over comments anchorman Tom Brokaw made on the air about Jewell shortly after the bombing. The Wall Street Journal reported the settlement was worth $500,000.
Jewell, 34, was working as a private security guard in Centennial Olympic Park when a pipe bomb exploded before daybreak on July 27, killing one person and injuring more than 100. He initially was praised as a hero for spotting the bomb in the Olympic park and helping to move people out of the way before the blast. Three days after the bombing, an extra edition of the Atlanta Journal identified Jewell as a suspect. Jewell came under intense media scrutiny for three months, until federal prosecutors cleared him in October.
The Journal report linking Jewell to the bombing was leaked by an FBI agent and confirmed by unidentified members of the Atlanta Police Department, the lawsuit said.
Nine reporters or editors of the newspapers and officials of Piedmont College in Demorest also are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Wray Eckl, a lawyer for the college, had no comment.