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Rudolph apologizes for Olympic bombing

Bomber to serve multiple life sentences for Atlanta attacks




Atlanta (Georgia)
Crime, Law and Justice

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Convicted serial bomber Eric Robert Rudolph apologized Monday to his victims and their families for his 1996 bombing of Centennial Olympic Park, in which one person died and more than 100 were wounded.

He did not apologize for any of his other attacks, including the bombing of a family planning clinic.

"Listening to the victims, I can't begin to understand the pain I inflicted on these innocent people," Rudolph said in his statement, which he read after 14 victims or their relatives read statements. Two other statements were read into the record.

Rudolph, wearing a dark-gray suit and blue shirt with no tie, said his goal had been to confound and anger the federal government and to force the cancellation of the games -- or at least get people to stop attending them.

"I accept full responsibility for the consequences," he said. "I would do anything to take that night back and, to those victims, I apologize."

The statement came during a hearing in which Rudolph was ordered to serve multiple sentences of life in prison for the three Atlanta-area attacks to which he has confessed.

Last month, Rudolph was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in connection with the January 1998 bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, of the New Woman All Women clinic, which performs abortions. The blast killed off-duty police officer Robert Sanderson and maimed a nurse, Emily Lyons.

Though the Atlanta sentence has long been decided, Rudolph's victims and their survivors, who filled the approximately 300 seats in the Richard B. Russell Federal Building, were permitted to make statements.

John Hawthorne, whose wife, Alice, was killed by a bomb Rudolph planted at Centennial Olympic Park, read one of them.

He began his remarks by saying Monday would have been his 18th wedding anniversary.

"I want you to see my wife as I saw her," he told Rudolph. Inside the courtroom, photographs of Alice Hawthorne were displayed.

"This day, Alice can rest," the widower said, then began to choke up. "Justice is served."

Directing his comments toward Rudolph, he added, "You are a very small man. You have a Napoleonic complex: little person, big bombs. That doesn't make you a revolutionary, but a copycat."

He told the 38-year-old prisoner, "You're a young man, and may God bless you with a long, long life."

After Rudolph delivered his apology, Hawthorne told reporters outside the courthouse that Rudolph's apology surprised and pleased him. "It sounded sincere. Whether it was or not, no one will ever know other than him, but it was at least good hearing that."

Hawthorne's stepdaughter, Fallon Stubbs, who was 14 years old when her mother was killed, also testified.

"What I expressed was that, unlike a lot of others, I do not hate him, that I forgive him," the 23-year-old woman told reporters outside the courthouse.

"I just needed him to know that, whether it matters to him or not. I just needed to say it: that the love is real. As Christians and humans, we all love each other and, through him, I've learned more tolerance for people different than me."

Asked whether she believed Rudolph's apology was sincere, she said, "I think he said what he thought should have been said."

She noted that he offered no apology for any of the other bombings. "Being apologetic for one part and not the other is not enough," she said.

The bomb that killed her 44-year-old mother detonated in the crowded downtown park during a late-night concert during the 1996 Olympics.

Two other Atlanta bombings

Rudolph has also admitted bombing Northside Family Planning Services, a clinic in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs in January 1997; and, a month later, a gay nightclub, the Otherside Lounge, in Atlanta. Eleven people were wounded in those attacks.

In both of those cases, Rudolph targeted federal agents by placing second bombs nearby, set to detonate after police arrived to investigate the first explosion.

In April, he pleaded guilty to the January 1998 Birmingham clinic bombing and three other attacks.

In a statement after his guilty pleas in April, he said the Olympic bombing was meant "to confound, anger and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the world for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand."

Rudolph has said the attacks were part of a guerrilla campaign against abortion, gay rights and the U.S. government.

He has said he considered the bombings a "moral duty" to stop abortions from being performed, because the U.S. government "is no longer the protector of the innocent."

Five years on the run

After a witness spotted Rudolph's truck leaving the scene of the Birmingham bombing, the survivalist and former soldier evaded capture for more than five years in the hills of North Carolina.

He eluded authorities until May 2003, when a rookie police officer in Murphy, North Carolina, caught him foraging for food in a garbage bin behind a grocery store. As part of his plea agreement, Rudolph told investigators where to find caches of explosives totaling more than 160 pounds in the nearby mountains.

He is likely to serve his time at a "supermax" federal prison in Florence, Colorado, which also houses Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Oklahoma City bombing accomplice Terry Nichols and Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. It was also home to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh before his execution in 2001.

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