Former Fugitive Pleads Guilty to String of Deadly Bombings
Rudolph, dressed in an orange prison uniform, entered his first guilty plea in a federal court Wednesday morning to the 1998 fatal blast at a women’s clinic in Birmingham, Ala. He was then taken to a federal court in Atlanta, where he confessed to three other bombings in the city, including the 1996 deadly explosion at the Centennial Olympic Park during the Summer Olympic Games.
In a statement released after his courtroom appearance, Rudolph said he perpetrated the attacks “because I believe that abortion is murder, I also believe that force is justified … in an attempt to stop it.
“The purpose of the attack on July 27th (1996) was to confound, anger and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the world for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand,” Rudolph said in the statement, which quoted the Bible throughout.
“I am not anarchist. I have nothing against government or law enforcement in general. It is solely for the reason that this govt (sic) has legalized the murder of children that I have no allegiance to nor do I recognize the legitimacy of this particular government in Washington.”
Rudolph, 38, admitted to committing the bombings as part of a plea deal with the Justice Department in which he will receive four consecutive life terms without parole, while avoiding a possible death sentence.
As part of the plea agreement, Rudolph told federal prosecutors the location of more than 250 pounds of dynamite buried in the mountains of western North Carolina. Authorities found and disposed of the explosives last week.
As he entered the Birmingham courtroom Wednesday morning, Rudolph winked toward prosecutors and tersely answered a series of questions from federal Judge Lynwood Smith, saying prosecutors could “just barely” prove his guilt if the case went to trial.
When asked by the judge if he planted the bomb outside the clinic, Rudolph replied, “I certainly did, your honor.”
Rudolph’s attack on the New Woman All Women Health Care clinic, which provides abortion and gynecological services, killed Robert Sanderson, an off-duty police officer, and blinded and severely injured the nurse, Emily Lyons.
Lyons, who attended the hearing, expressed disappointment over the plea deal. “We’ve always felt the death penalty is what he deserved. The punishment should fit the crime,” she told reporters after the hearing. “It’s just a sickening feeling.”
After his morning court appearance in Birmingham, Rudolph was flown to Atlanta and escorted by police to a city courthouse Wednesday afternoon.
When asked in Atlanta whether he was guilty of all the bombings, Rudolph calmly responded, “I am.”
The bombing at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park, where hundreds of people had gathered for a free late night concert, killed one woman, Alice Hawthorne, and wounded 111 others, immediately sparking concerns about domestic terrorism.
Suspected of following a white supremacist religion that is anti-abortion, anti-gay and anti-Semitic, Rudolph also pleaded guilty to bombing another abortion clinic located in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs in January 1997. The blast injured six people. He also admitted to a fourth bombing that occurred about a month later on a lesbian nightclub in midtown Atlanta that injured five people.
Rudolph first came to the attention of authorities after he was seen leaving the site of the Birmingham explosion, which eventually led investigators to connect Rudolph to the earlier blasts in Atlanta.
After being identified, Rudolph eluded an intensive manhunt for more than five years by hiding in the mountains of western North Carolina. He was finally arrested in May 2003 after a police officer spotted him scavenging through a garbage dumpster outside a grocery store in his hometown of Murphy, N.C., a town of fewer than 2,000 people.
Rudolph will be held at the county jail in Birmingham while he awaits his formal sentencing, expected to take place in three months, the AP reported.