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Eric Rudolph stood defiant and without remorse today as he was sentenced to life in prison for the 1998 bombing of an abortion clinic in Alabama. That blast killed an off-duty police officer and severely injured a nurse. Rudolph's sentence was part of a plea bargain with prosecutors. They agreed not to pursue the death penalty if Rudolph admitted to that Alabama bombing and three other bombings. NPR's Adam Hochberg reports from Birmingham.
ADAM HOCHBERG reporting:
Today's sentence comes seven years after Rudolph masterminded a string of bombings in Alabama and Georgia, two at clinics that perform abortions, one at a gay night club and one at a crowded Atlanta park during the 1996 Olympics. Together his four attacks killed two people and injured more than a hundred, a toll that led federal prosecutors in court today to call Rudolph a terrorist. After the hearing, US attorney Alice Martin expressed satisfaction in the life sentence.
Ms. ALICE MARTIN (US Attorney): Eric tried to seek private justice. Citizens cannot do that. He's a monster; he's a murderer. He won't be able to murder again. He'll be in federal prison for the rest of his life.
HOCHBERG: The court hearing, which was closed to cameras and microphones, included emotional statements both from Rudolph and the people his attack affected. In a defiant 10-minute speech, Rudolph was unrepentant about the bombs he set and the lives he took. He referred to abortion as `hedonistic barbarism' and said deadly force is justified to stop it. He said he attacked the clinic, in his words, `to pull back the lid on a stinking vat of vomit.' Meanwhile, his victims delivered strong statements of their own. Felicia Sanderson, whose police officer husband was killed in the bombing, called Rudolph `a piece of garbage.' She left the courtroom before Rudolph's speech, saying she had no desire to hear it.
Ms. FELICIA SANDERSON (Victim's Wife): Don't forget what Eric Rudolph is. No matter how he tries to justify his actions and glorify himself, he is a terrorist. He is a murderer. Don't ever forget that.
HOCHBERG: Bombing survivor Emily Lyons, the clinic nurse, called Rudolph a failure. Addressing him directly, she said, `You didn't shut the clinic down, and you didn't shut me down.' Noting that one of the many injuries she suffered in the blast was a fused middle finger, Lyons told Rudolph, `That's one injury I'd like to show you.' Afterward, Lyons said she relished the chance to belittle Rudolph in public.
Ms. EMILY LYONS (Victim): Because he's not a hero, and his actions were that of a little man. And I think that was the only way to make him even think about what he did, maybe irritate him from what I said. I've been waiting for it.
HOCHBERG: Justice Department lawyers had considered seeking the death penalty, but say they settled for a life sentence because that was the only way to get Rudolph to divulge an important piece of information--the location of some 250 pounds of dynamite he hid in the North Carolina mountains. Prosecutors fear the stash of explosives could cause a massive disaster if somebody accidentally disturbed it. Birmingham police Chief Annetta Nunn says Rudolph's life prison term was a necessary trade-off for agents to be able to remove the dynamite.
Chief ANNETTA NUNN (Birmingham Police Department): A Boy Scout could have come across that in the woods or someone who Rudolph communicates with could have found it and killed even more people. So we're glad that we're able to get that dynamite. And, you know, staying inside of an eight-by-12 cell for the rest of my life--I'd rather die.
HOCHBERG: The victims of Rudolph's attack expressed mixed emotions about the plea bargain. Emily Lyons says that eight-by-12 cell is too good for Rudolph and wanted to see him executed. But Felicia Sanderson says she's content Rudolph will spend his life in federal prison for killing her husband, and she says she's content, as well, to leave Rudolph's final punishment in God's hands. Adam Hochberg, NPR News, Birmingham.
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