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Law

Rudolph revealed 250 pounds of dynamite

Could have killed more people, prosecutor says


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Federal prosecutors and FBI agents in Atlanta explain the explosives they recovered in the plea deal.
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Eric Rudolph left 250 pounds of dynamite hidden in western North Carolina that could have killed "more people after he was imprisoned or executed than he ever did when he was free" had the government not agreed to a plea deal, the top federal prosecutor in Atlanta said Wednesday.

"Until last week, a part of western North Carolina was literally a hidden minefield," U.S. Attorney David Nahmias told reporters.

"You may not appreciate how much dynamite 250 pounds is until you realize that Rudolph's bombs that caused so much devastation in Atlanta and Birmingham each contained only 5 pounds to 15 pounds of dynamite," Nahmias said.

Rudolph, 38, pleaded guilty Wednesday to four bombings, three in Atlanta and one in Birmingham. The bombings killed two people and wounded dozens more. (Full story)

After his court appearance, his lawyers released a statement from the unrepentant Rudolph. (Rudolph statement)

As part of the plea deal, Rudolph agreed to disclose locations where he had hidden his caches. In exchange, he avoided the death penalty.

Among the items was a fully constructed 25-pound dynamite bomb filled with 20 pounds of screws as shrapnel found across the street from the National Guard Armory in Murphy, North Carolina.

The armory was where federal investigators set up their command post to search for Rudolph after witnesses pointed them to the area following the January 1998 bombing of a Birmingham women's clinic.

"The driving of a new fence post could easily have caused a huge explosion and killed people," said Nahmias, whose office prosecuted the Atlanta bombings.

Three of the locations were relatively near populated areas. Two other sites were in a popular hunting and camping area of the Nantahala National Forest. The latter two sites contained 110 pounds and 88 pounds of nitroglycerin dynamite.

"We did not want Eric Rudolph to be imprisoned after trial or even executed, and then end up with a group of people in North Carolina being blown up by the materials he'd left behind," Nahmias said.

"A tent stake driven into one of the containers by a Boy Scout group could have detonated the dynamite and killed them."

He said investigators knew Rudolph had obtained 340 pounds of dynamite before he carried out the bombings.

They had "always been concerned we did not have this stuff," Nahmias said.

Authorities found the material last week -- with the aid of maps drawn by Rudolph. Explosives experts destroyed the dynamite because it was too volatile to be removed, Nahmias said.

He said that although Rudolph led investigators to the material, he "is not cooperating in the classic sense."

A former Army soldier, Rudolph hid in the woods of North Carolina for more than five years, gaining celebrity among survivalists for his abilities to elude one of the nation's largest manhunts in history.

He was eventually found by a rookie Murphy police officer in May 2003, looking through a trash can for food.

Nahmias said investigators have found no evidence Rudolph had co-conspirators or that anyone was helping him.

The only person Rudolph approached was a good friend about six months after he went into hiding, and that happened only after Rudolph had watched him for weeks, Nahmias said.

The friend gave him supplies "but then told us about Rudolph, and we almost caught him," he said.

Nahmias pointed out that when caught, Rudolph was "diving in a Dumpster for food" -- not the action of someone with a lot of support.

"Eric Rudolph will now spend the rest of his life where he belongs: locked in a prison cell hurting no one and, we hope, thinking more about his victims and the tremendous harm he caused to them," Nahmias said.


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