Atlanta Olympics Bomber Repentant at Sentencing

Eric Rudolph is sentenced in Atlanta to four life sentences plus 120 years for bombings at the Olympic Games in 1996 and in 1997 at a health clinic and a nightclub. Last month in Birmingham, Ala., Rudolph was sentenced to two life terms in prison for bombing a clinic in that city.

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Eric Rudolph was back in court today, this time in Atlanta, where he apologized to the victims of the 1996 Olympics bombing. Rudolph received four life sentences plus 120 years for that attack and also for blasts at a women's clinic and a gay nightclub. Last month, Rudolph received two life sentences for bombing a clinic in Birmingham, Alabama. Rudolph confessed to the attacks as part of a deal to avoid the death penalty. From Atlanta, NPR's Kathy Lohr reports.

KATHY LOHR reporting:

The government said Eric Rudolph used violence to intimidate civilians and challenge the government, that he's a murderer and that he has earned a spot beside the likes of Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh with his cowardly acts of cruelty and destruction.

Mr. DAVID NEMEAS (US Attorney): Eric Rudolph is a terrorist.

LOHR: David Nemeas is the US attorney.

Mr. NEMEAS: His primary motive was to attack the United States government and law enforcement, against whom he had openly and long expressed his hatred along, with his hatred of African-Americans, Jewish people and other groups. But now he tries to justify his violence as opposition to abortion, an issue which our extensive investigation showed he very rarely mentioned, much less condemned, before he bombed the Olympics.

LOHR: Eric Rudolph committed a series of bombings between 1996 and 1998 that killed two people and injured more than 100 others. He targeted the largest peacetime event ever conducted in the United States, the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. After that, he set his sights on a clinic where abortions are performed, then on a gay nightclub. Rudolph wore a blue suit in court today, and he was much more subdued than at his sentencing hearing in Alabama when he winked at some in the courtroom. One of the victims, Alice Hawthorne, died when shrapnel from the 40-pound pipe bomb ripped through her body on July 27th, 1996, in Centennial Park. Her husband, John Hawthorne, told the court that today would have been the couple's 18th wedding anniversary.

Mr. JOHN HAWTHORNE (Husband of Bombing Victim): Justice has been served and that she can now rest knowing that we're going to move forward, that we're not continuing to stress with what has taken place over the last nine years. So I'm hoping that she's looking down smiling this day.

LOHR: Hawthorne described Rudolph as a small man whose twisted hatred extinguished a bright flame.

Rudolph read almost verbatim from a statement he released last April, explaining he was targeting the ideals of what he called `global socialism' and saying that his purpose of the attack on Centennial Park was, quote, "to confound, anger and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the world for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand." Rudolph apologized to the civilian victims of the Olympic bombing, but added no apology for victims of other bombings, including Lori Simmons(ph).

Ms. LORI SIMMONS (Bombing Victim): The level of hate and anger and frustration--not just for myself, but for the families of those who lost their loved ones, for those who were injured, I feel for them. I feel empathy for them, and I can understand and I share their pain and that leads me to feel that way. I think that he deserves what he gets and there's a lot of hatred there.

LOHR: Many of the victims say they hope this is the last time they ever hear of Eric Rudolph. He will go to the federal government's supermax prison in Colorado, where he will live out the rest of his life. Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Atlanta.

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