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Rudolph gets life for Birmingham clinic attack

Olympic bomber's sentence is first in plea deal in 4 blasts




Crime, Law and Justice

(CNN) -- The widow of a Birmingham, Alabama, police officer denounced confessed bomber Eric Rudolph as a "monster" Monday after a federal judge sentenced him to life in prison for the 1998 blast that killed her husband.

U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith in Birmingham sentenced Rudolph to two consecutive life terms without parole in connection with the January 1998 bombing of the New Woman All Women clinic, which performs abortions.

The blast killed off-duty police officer Robert Sanderson, 35, who was working as a security guard at the clinic, and maimed a nurse, Emily Lyons, then 41.

Rudolph, 38, avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty in April to the Birmingham bombing and three other attacks in the South between 1996 and 1998, including the blast at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. In all, two people were killed and more than 100 injured.

In an extensive statement before his sentencing, Rudolph said the bombings were part of a guerrilla campaign against abortion, "the homosexual agenda" and the U.S. government.

He said he had "nothing personal" against Lyons or Sanderson, but targeted them "for what they did" at the clinic.

"No matter how he tries to justify his actions and glorify himself, he is a terrorist. He is a murderer," Felicia Sanderson, the officer's widow, told reporters outside the courtroom in Birmingham.

"Don't ever forget that. He's very arrogant. Don't let him be that way. ... Show him for the monster that he is."

Sanderson said she didn't think Rudolph was moved by anything said at his sentencing.

"I don't think Eric Rudolph listens to anything except his own stupid ramblings," Sanderson said. "You look in his face, nobody's home."

Lyons said she had been waiting 7 1/2 years for the chance to speak to Rudolph face to face, and "the main purpose was to see him and let him know he failed."

"I hope I used the word failure enough that he knows it," she told reporters after the hearing.

In her statement at the hearing, she sarcastically thanked Rudolph for leaving behind an extensive trail of clues and sneered at him for taking a plea bargain that spared his life.

"A hole the size of a fist was torn in my abdomen and large sections of my intestines were removed, but I have more guts in my broken little finger than you have in your body," she said.

"The joint in my middle finger had to be fused, and it is indeed an injury I have longed to show you."

Lyons ended her statement by winking at Rudolph, as he had done in court when he pleaded guilty to the attacks April 13.

As part of his plea agreement in exchange for four consecutive life sentences, Rudolph told investigators where in western North Carolina he stashed five caches totaling more than 160 pounds of explosives.

He is scheduled to be sentenced August 22 in Atlanta for three attacks, including the Olympics one and two in 1997 on a lesbian nightclub and suburban women's clinic.

Rudolph likely will serve his time at a "Supermax" federal prison in Florence, Colorado, which also houses "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski and Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

In his statement Monday, Rudolph said he considered the bombings a "moral duty" to stop abortions, since the U.S. government "is no longer the protector of the innocent."

Diane Derzis, owner of the New Woman All Women clinic, said Rudolph "didn't stop a single abortion that day."

"We reopened a week later strengthened, committed to what we do," Derzis said.

"And he has taken a woman [Lyons] who was perfectly happy being a nurse, very apolitical, and he has turned her into the most powerful advocate for choice that is possible. ... It was important today to stand up and say, 'What you did made no difference.' "

Atlanta area bombings

Prosecutors said Rudolph told friends he detonated a bomb at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Olympics because "the whole world would be watching."

In a statement in April, Rudolph said he targeted the Olympics "to confound, anger and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the world for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand."

The pipe bomb killed 44-year-old Alice Hawthorne and injured more than 100 people on the night of July 27, 1996, including Hawthorne's daughter. A Turkish cameraman, who rushed to cover the aftermath, died of a heart attack.

In the later Atlanta area blasts, Rudolph targeted federal agents by placing second bombs nearby set to detonate after police arrived to investigate the first explosion.

In January 1997, a bomb exploded at the Northside Family Planning Services clinic in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs. A second bomb went off an hour later, injuring seven people.

A month later, four people were wounded in an explosion at Atlanta's Otherside Lounge. Police found a second bomb and defused it before it went off.

In his statement, Rudolph described gay rights as "a direct assault on the long-term health and integrity of civilization."

Rudolph's attacks came to an abrupt end after the Birmingham blast. Witnesses tracked him from the scene of the bombing to his truck and wrote down the license number.

That number led prosecutors in Birmingham to announce they were seeking to interview him as a material witness.

At that point Rudolph, a survivalist and former soldier, disappeared into the hills near his home in Murphy, North Carolina.

He eluded one of the largest manhunts in U.S. history for five years, only to be captured in May 2003 by a rookie police officer who found him foraging in a trash bin behind a grocery store in Murphy.

CNN's David Mattingly, Henry Schuster and Matt Smith contributed to this report.

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