August 23, 2005 in Nation/World

Bomber offers apology

Larry Copeland USA Today
Associated Press photo

John Hawthorne, right, husband of Olympic bombing victim Alice Hawthorne, is told he has to move farther back on the steps of the courthouse in Atlanta on Monday as he talks to the media after the sentencing hearing for Eric Rudolph.
(Full-size photo)

ATLANTA – Nine years after he began a deadly bombing campaign here, Eric Rudolph apologized to some of his victims Monday.

The apology came during an emotional sentencing hearing where Rudolph’s Atlanta victims confronted him face-to-face for the first time. He received four life sentences plus 120 years.

Rudolph, 38, read a statement apologizing to victims of the bomb he exploded at the 1996 Summer Olympics. He said he had telephoned authorities to warn them about the bomb he had planted at Centennial Olympic Park but that a 911 operator hung up on him, costing precious time.

“I fully realize that all of this may be no consolation to the victims who suffered as a result of my actions, but I would do anything to take back that night,” he said. “To these victims, I apologize.”

He said nothing about victims at three other sites he pleaded guilty to bombing: a lesbian and gay nightclub near here where five people were injured; an abortion clinic here where more than 50 were injured; and an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Ala., where a police officer was killed and a nurse maimed.

Monday’s courtroom drama ended major legal proceedings in a case that began when Rudolph’s pipe bomb shattered a public celebration at the Atlanta Olympics and ended when a North Carolina police officer found him rummaging through a garbage container after five years as one of the FBI’s 10 most wanted fugitives.

U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said Rudolph likely will serve his sentences at the “supermax” prison in Florence, Colo. That facility, among the most secure in the federal prison system, also houses Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, attempted “shoe bomber” Richard Reid and Oklahoma City bombing accomplice Terry Nichols.

Rudolph already had avoided a possible death penalty in an April plea agreement with federal prosecutors. He was sentenced last month to two life terms for the Birmingham bombing. He was also ordered Monday to pay $3.2 million in restitution.

On Monday, 14 victims told Rudolph how the bombings changed their lives.

“You are a very small man,” said John Hawthorne, whose wife, Alice, was killed when Rudolph’s bomb exploded at the Olympics, injuring 111. “And like other small men, you have a Napoleonic complex and a need to compensate for what you lack. Little man, big bomb. But you are still a small man.” He said Monday would have been their 18th wedding anniversary.

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