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Archive for Saturday, April 9, 2005

Atlanta Olympic bomber pleads guilty

April 9, 2005

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— Eric Rudolph has agreed to plead guilty to carrying out the deadly bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and setting off three other blasts in a deal that allows the anti-government extremist to escape the death penalty, the Justice Department said Friday.

"The many victims of Eric Rudolph's terrorist attacks ... can rest assured that Rudolph will spend the rest of his life behind bars," Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales said in a statement from Washington.

Rudolph, 38, is scheduled to admit his guilt Wednesday in court. The plea deal calls for four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. Rudolph had faced a possible death sentence.

As part of the deal, Rudolph provided authorities with the location of more than 250 pounds of dynamite buried in the mountains of North Carolina. Family members of bombing victims said they were angry that Rudolph would not get the death penalty, but said they grudgingly went along with the deal in part to protect others from the explosives.

Defense lawyer Bill Bowen did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Rudolph -- thought to be a follower of a white supremacist religion that is anti-abortion, anti-gay and anti-Semitic -- was charged with carrying out a series of blasts in the late 1990s in Georgia and Alabama that killed two people and injured more than 120.

One woman was killed and more than 100 people were injured in the Olympic blast, caused by a bomb in a knapsack that sent nails and screws ripping through a packed crowd that had gathered to watch a rock concert. In the next two years, he allegedly set off bombs at a lesbian nightclub in Atlanta and at two abortion clinics -- one in Birmingham and one in Atlanta. The Birmingham attack killed an off-duty police officer and maimed a nurse.

Rudolph then slipped away into the mountains of western North Carolina, where the former soldier used survivalist techniques to live off the land for more than five years -- all while being on the FBI's list of 10 Most Wanted fugitives. Then in May 2003, he was captured after being seen scavenging for food near a grocery store trash bin in Murphy, N.C.

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