Eric Robert Rudolph
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Eric Robert Rudolph, also known as the Olympic Park Bomber (born September 19, 1966) is an American domestic terrorist who committed a series of bombings across the southern United States, which killed three people and injured at least 150 others. In a letter to his mother, Rudolph once wrote "I really prefer Nietzsche to the Bible."<ref>Special report: Eric Rudolph writes home USA Today, July 5 2006</ref> In other written statements, Rudolph has cited Biblical passages and offered religious motives for his militant opposition to abortion.<ref> Full text of Eric Rudolph's written statement Army of God website</ref> Rudolph, who according to CNN was "connected with the Christian Identity movement, a militant, racist, and anti-Semitic organization,"<ref>CNN, "Eric Robert Rudolph: Loner and survivalist", December 11, 2003. Retrieved Nov. 26, 2006.</ref> declared that his bombings were part of a guerrilla campaign against abortion, what he describes as "the homosexual agenda," and perceived support for it from the United States government. He spent years as the FBI's most wanted criminal fugitive, but was eventually caught. In 2005 Rudolph pled guilty to numerous federal and state homicide charges and accepted five consecutive life sentences in exchange for avoiding a trial and the death penalty.
 Early life
Rudolph was born on September 19, 1966, in Merritt Island, Florida. His father Robert died in 1981, and Rudolph (then fifteen years old) moved with his mother and siblings to Nantahala, Macon County, in southwestern North Carolina. He attended ninth grade at the Nantahala School but dropped out after that year and worked as a carpenter with his older brother Daniel. His mother believed in survivalism and instilled this ideology in Rudolph.
After Rudolph received his GED, he attended Western Carolina University in Cullowhee for two semesters in 1985 and 1986. In August 1987, Rudolph enlisted in the U.S. Army, undergoing basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia. He was discharged in January 1989 while serving with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, reportedly for smoking marijuana. In 1988, the year before his discharge, Rudolph had attended the Air Assault School at Fort Campbell. He never rose above the rank of Private E-1.
Of the bombings committed by Rudolph, the most notorious was the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta on July 27, 1996, during the 1996 Summer Olympics. The blast killed spectator Alice Hawthorne and wounded 111 others. Hawthorne had attended the Olympics with her daughter because she wanted to watch the American basketball team. Melih Uzunyol, a Turkish cameraman who ran to the scene following the blast, died of a heart attack. Rudolph's motive for the bombings, according to his April 13, 2005 statement, was political:
- In the summer of 1996, the world converged upon Atlanta for the Olympic Games. Under the protection and auspices of the regime in Washington millions of people came to celebrate the ideals of global socialism. Multinational corporations spent billions of dollars, and Washington organized an army of security to protect these best of all games. Even though the conception and purpose of the so-called Olympic movement is to promote the values of global socialism, as perfectly expressed in the song "Imagine" by John Lennon, which was the theme of the 1996 Games even though the purpose of the Olympics is to promote these despicable ideals, the purpose of the attack on July 27 was to confound, anger and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the world for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand.
- The plan was to force the cancellation of the Games, or at least create a state of insecurity to empty the streets around the venues and thereby eat into the vast amounts of money invested.
If this was indeed the plan, it was unsuccessful. Olympic organizers did not even cancel the day's events.
Rudolph's statement did authoritatively clear Richard Jewell, a Centennial Olympic Park security guard, of any involvement in the bombings. Jewell had been falsely suspected of participation in the bombing a few days after the incident, after having been initially hailed as a hero for being the first one to spot Rudolph's explosive device, for saving lives, and for helping to clear the area. When he came (erroneously) under FBI suspicion for involvement in the crime, Jewell became the "prime suspect," and an international news story. Rudolph's confession vindicated Jewell—who ended up as a symbol, not of domestic terrorism, but of an FBI and media fiasco.
Rudolph has also confessed to the bombings of an abortion clinic in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs on January 16, 1997, a gay and lesbian nightclub, the Otherside Lounge, in Atlanta on February 21, 1997, injuring five, and an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama on January 29, 1998, killing officer Robert Sanderson and critically injuring nurse Emily Lyons. Rudolph's bombs were made of dynamite surrounded by nails which acted as shrapnel.
He is said to have targeted the health clinic and office building because abortions were performed there, and targeted the Otherside Lounge because it was a predominantly lesbian nightclub.
On May 5, 1998, he became the 454th Fugitive listed by the FBI on the Ten Most Wanted list. The FBI considered him to be armed and extremely dangerous, and offered a $1,000,000 reward for information leading directly to his arrest. He spent more than five years in the Appalachian wilderness as a fugitive, during which federal and amateur search teams scoured the area without success.
It is thought that Rudolph had the assistance of sympathizers while evading capture. Some in the area were vocal in support of him. Two country music songs were written about him and a locally top-selling T-shirt read: "Run Rudolph Run." Many Christian Identity adherents are outspoken in their support of Rudolph; the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group, notes that "extremist chatter on the Internet has praised Rudolph as 'a hero' and some followers of hate groups are calling for further acts of violence to be modeled after the bombings he is accused of committing."<ref>Anti-Defamation League, "Extremist Chatter Praises Eric Rudolph as 'Hero.'", June 3, 2003. Retrieved Nov. 26, 2006.</ref>
The Rudolph family supported Eric and believed he was innocent of all charges,<ref>Henry Schuster, CNN, "Why did Rudolph do it?", April 15, 2005. Retrieved Nov. 26, 2006.</ref> but found themselves under intense questioning and surveillance.<ref>Jeff Stein, Salon.com, "A TWISTED TALE OF TWO BROTHERS", Jan. 29, 1999. Retrieved Nov. 26, 2006.</ref> On March 7, 1998, Daniel Rudolph, Eric's older brother, videotaped himself cutting off one of his own hands with a radial saw in order to, in his words, "send a message to the FBI and the media."<ref>CNN, "Bombing suspect's brother cuts hand off with saw", March 9, 1998. Retrieved Nov. 26, 2006.</ref> The hand was successfully reattached.
The identification and pursuit of Rudolph was characterized by several bizarre incidents. The Justice Department was forced to apologize to Richard Jewell, whom they first hailed as a hero in the Olympic bombing, and later falsely identified as a suspect.
 Arrest and guilty plea
Rudolph was finally arrested in Murphy, North Carolina, on May 31, 2003,<ref>FBI, "STATEMENT OF ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN ASHCROFT REGARDING THE ARREST OF ERIC ROBERT RUDOLPH", May 31, 2003. Retrieved Nov. 26, 2006.</ref> in a chance encounter by a rookie police officer as Rudolph scavenged for food in a garbage can behind a Save-A-Lot store. To the surprise of many in law enforcement, he was unarmed and did not resist arrest. When arrested, he was clean shaven, with a trimmed mustache, and wearing new sneakers, potentially indicating that he was harbored by supporters while on the run. Federal authorities charged him on October 14, 2003. Despite his reputed anti-Semitism, Rudolph was defended by Jewish attorney Richard S. Jaffe, who said he knew of Rudolph's supposed beliefs but stated that Rudolph took no issue with his Jewish faith.
On April 8, 2005, the U.S. Justice Department announced that Rudolph agreed to plead guilty in all the attacks he was accused of executing, thus avoiding the death penalty. The deal was confirmed after the FBI found 250 pounds (113 kg) of dynamite he hid in the forests of North Carolina. His revelation of the dynamite was a condition of his plea agreement. He made his pleas in person in courts in Birmingham and Atlanta on April 13. He also released a statement in which he explained his actions and rationalized them as serving the cause of anti-abortion and anti-gay activism.
In his statement, he claimed that he had "deprived the government of its goal of sentencing me to death," and that "the fact that I have entered an agreement with the government is purely a tactical choice on my part and in no way legitimates the moral authority of the government to judge this matter or impute my guilt."<ref>CNN, , broken link as of Nov. 26, 2006.</ref>
The terms of the plea agreement were that Rudolph would be sentenced to four consecutive life terms. He was officially sentenced July 18, 2005, to two consecutive life terms without parole for the 1998 murder of a police officer.<ref>Associated Press, "Eric Rudolph Gets Life Without Parole", July 18, 2005. Retrieved Nov. 26, 2006.</ref> He was sentenced for his various bombings in Atlanta on August 22, 2005, receiving three consecutive life terms. The same day Rudolph was sent to the ADX Florence supermax federal prison, the home of other notable criminals. Rudolph is inmate # 18282-058 within the US federal prison system. Like other supermax inmates, he spends 22½ hours per day in his 80 ft2 (7.4 m²) concrete cell.<ref>R. Scott Rappold The Colorado Springs Gazette, "Olympic bomber Rudolph calls Supermax home",September 14, 2005. Retrieved Nov. 26, 2006.</ref>
After Rudolph's arrest for the bombings, the Washington Post reported that the FBI considered Rudolph to have "had a long association with the radical Christian Identity movement, which asserts that North European whites are the direct descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, God's chosen people."<ref>Alan Cooperman, Washington Post, "Is Terrorism Tied To Christian Sect?", June 2, 2003. Retrieved Nov. 26, 2006.</ref> Christian Identity is a white supremacist sect that holds that those who are not white Christians will be condemned to Hell. In the same article, the Post reported that some FBI investigators believed Rudolph "may have written letters that claimed responsibility for the nightclub and abortion clinic bombings on behalf of the Army of God, a violent offshoot of Christian Identity."
Many in the Christian community, however, have disputed Rudolph's status as a Christian terrorist. In a statement released after he entered a guilty plea, Rudolph denied being a supporter of the Christian Identity movement, claiming that his involvement amounted to a brief association with the daughter of a Christian Identity adherent. He also identified himself as a Catholic and said he hoped to stay one; a letter of his published after his arrest suggested he "prefer(red) Nietsche to the Bible."<ref>Blake Morrison, USA Today, "Special report: Eric Rudolph writes home", Posted 7/5/2005; Updated 7/6/2005. Retrieved Nov. 26, 2006.</ref> The question of what motivated the bombings remains a controversial one.
 See also
- Henry Schuster with Charles Stone, Hunting Eric Rudolph (Berkley Books, 2005), ISBN 0-425-19936-3
- Rudolph's writing about his time as a fugitive (at Army of God website)
- Text of Rudolph's statement
- Rudolph agrees to plead guilty - 8 April 2005
- FBI ten most wanted listing
- Eric Rudolph Charged In Centennial Olympic Park Bombing - 1998 DOJ press release
- Olympic bomb suspect Rudolph arrested behind N.C. grocery store - 31 May 2003
- Timeline in Eric Rudolph Case - 31 May 2003
- Southern Poverty Law Center interview with his sister-in-law - discusses his life and personal views.
- Collection of Christian websites offered in an effort to probe Rudolph's social context and range of motivations.
- Extremist Chatter Praises Eric Rudolph as 'Hero'
- http://www.prochoice.org/about_abortion/violence/eric_rudolph.htmlde:Eric Rudolph