Jewell wants probe of FBI investigation
Testifies before House subcommitteeJuly 30, 1997
Web posted at: 4:20 p.m. EDT (2020 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A year after being identified as the FBI's lead suspect in the Centennial Olympic Park blast, an exonerated Richard Jewell on Wednesday called for an independent probe into methods used by FBI agents during their investigation of him.
Jewell made his statements before the House Judiciary crime subcommittee, saying "unanswered questions" remained despite a recent Justice Department report into the FBI's handling of the case.
The 34-year-old former security guard called the report inaccurate and misguided, saying it was much like the media accounts that portrayed him as the bomber.
"I submit to you that the Justice Department cannot investigate itself," Jewell said. "The truth must come out."
He then urged the subcommittee to open a "legitimate investigation into the very disturbing questions raised by the FBI investigation of me -- unanswered questions that will remain unanswered unless an objective third party investigates the FBI and the Justice Department's conduct."
In its report, the Justice Department concluded earlier this week that FBI agents in Atlanta tried to trick Jewell into waiving his right to a lawyer by telling him he was taking part in a training video.
Jewell discovered the bomb shortly before it exploded in Centennial Olympic Park on July 27, 1996. The blast killed one person and injured 100. After being hailed a hero, he quickly became the FBI's main suspect.
Jewell: FBI knew it had 'wrong man'
Jewell gave accounts Wednesday of agents tracking his mother and him everywhere in the months after the bombing. He said investigators once followed him to a friend's funeral. Another time, agents showed up at the football field where he coached 10-year-olds.
"Why did the FBI put me and my mother through this 88-day nightmare?" Jewell asked. "I am an innocent man."
"I believe I am entitled to a public explanation."
Jewell told the panel that the FBI knew it had "the wrong man" within days of the investigation. Asked how he knew such information, Jewell said agents who searched his mother's apartment told him that "they knew I didn't do it."
"They were on the cell phone to (FBI Director Louis) Freeh, telling Mr. Freeh there was nothing there to take me to jail."
Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, interrupted, "You heard them talking to Mr. Freeh?"
"I heard one of the agents talking to someone on the phone, saying there's not enough here to take (me). And then when he got off the phone, he looked at the other agent and said, 'That was Louis,'" Jewell responded.
Media accounts were 'all lies'
Jewell also lashed out at the media for portraying him "as a violent man, a terrorist" -- all accounts which he said proved to be untrue.
"They were all lies," he said. "Through it all, the FBI never had the integrity to tell the world that the media was wrong."
Jewell has settled libel lawsuits against NBC, reportedly for $500,000, and against CNN for an undisclosed amount. He also has filed lawsuits against the Atlanta newspapers that first reported he was a suspect, and the New York Post.
Following three months of intense FBI and media scrutiny, the FBI sent Jewell a letter last fall clearing him of any involvement in the blast.
Panel member: Where is Freeh?
The Justice Department report said the agents assigned to interview Jewell had not planned to advise him of his rights to an attorney until Freeh ordered them to do so, in the middle of the interview. At that point, an agent incorporated the warning into the interview, still using the pretense of making a training video.
Freeh told a Senate panel Monday that Jewell's constitutional rights would have been violated by agents if he had said anything incriminating during the interview
In opening statements Wednesday, Rep. John Conyers, D- Michigan, criticized the subcommittee for not requesting Freeh to testify.
When told Freeh had testified before the panel earlier this year, Conyers shot back, "If you're alibiing for the director of the FBI, chairman, then hold your breath. He should be here in this room."
"Here is the most prominent case of the year and the Miranda rights were ignored," Conyers said.
The Supreme Court's Miranda ruling requires that a person in custody be advised of the right to a lawyer. If that right is waived, any subsequent statements can be used in court against the person. Courts have thrown out statements from defendants who were not warned.
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