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Rudolph trial delayed at least until the beginning of 2004

From Henry Schuster

Rudolph after he was captured on May 31.
Rudolph after he was captured on May 31.

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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- The trial of accused bomber Eric Robert Rudolph has been delayed at least until the beginning of 2004, according to an order from the trial judge.

Rudolph will stand trial for the bombing the New Woman, All Women Health Care Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, in January 1998. Birmingham police Officer Robert Sanderson was killed by the bomb, while a nurse was critically injured.

Earlier this month Rudolph pleaded not guilty to the bombing charge, which carries a maximum sentence of the death penalty if he is convicted.

Attorney General John Ashcroft has not made a decision on whether to seek the death penalty.

Rudolph, 36, is also charged in the 1996 Olympic bombing in Atlanta that killed one and injured more than 100, as well as bombings the next year in Atlanta at an abortion clinic and a gay nightclub.

After one of the most intense manhunts in the nation's history, Rudolph was captured May 31 in Murphy, North Carolina, while looking for food behind a supermarket.

Under federal law, Rudolph was entitled to a trial within 70 days after he first appeared in federal court this past June 3. Rudolph was arrested on June 1, after being on the run for five and a half years.

The order issued Monday by Federal District Judge C. Lynwood Smith in Birmingham says "it is unreasonable to expect counsel for either party to be ready [for] trial in August, much less during calendar year 2003."

Rudolph's trial might be delayed even longer. Smith's order said the trial would be continued "until a later date to be announced by separate order."

The motion to delay the trial was filed by the prosecution and was unopposed by Rudolph's attorneys, who have indicated they could need up to a year to prepare their defense.

After the Birmingham case is tried Rudolph will face trial for the Atlanta bombings.

In a separate order, Judge Smith ordered that all future documents relating to the case be published on the Internet. He ruled that media and public requests for documents "create an extraordinary burden" on the court clerk.

Making such documents in a criminal case available on a Web site, the judge noted, goes against the federal judicial policy because of privacy concerns. He said in his order that both sides agreed in writing to make documents available on a Web page.

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