Rudolph: I would do anything to take it back

Updated: August 22, 2005, 5:14 PM ET
Associated Press

ATLANTA -- Nearly nine years after setting off the bomb that devastated the 1996 Summer Olympics, Eric Rudolph was sentenced to four life terms in prison Monday at a hearing in which victims described him as a cowardly terrorist.

"Like other small men who act as you have acted, you have a Napoleonic complex and need to compensate for what you lack," said John Hawthorne, whose wife died in the Olympics bombing. "Little person, big bomb. But you are still a small man."

Rudolph, 38, clean-shaven and gaunt, apologized for the Olympics bombing, saying he "would do anything to take that night back."

The sentence brings a close to a case that began with the Olympics bombing and included an exhaustive five-year manhunt for Rudolph, who was captured in North Carolina scavenging for food from a trash container.

He pleaded guilty earlier this year and was sentenced last month to life for the 1998 bombing of a women's clinic in Alabama that killed a police officer and maimed a nurse. Monday's hearing covered the Olympics blast, a bombing at a gay nightclub in Atlanta and another at an abortion clinic in the city in 1997. One woman was killed and more than 100 people were injured by the Olympics bomb.

He had faced a possible death sentence, but reached a plea deal with prosecutors in exchange for him revealing the location of more than 250 pounds of stolen dynamite he had buried in North Carolina.

In court Monday, 14 victims and relatives told of the horror he caused and their wishes that he suffer for the rest of his days. Many other victims decided not to attend, saying they have moved on with their lives and didn't want to give Rudolph any more time.

John Hawthorne spoke directly to Rudolph in court on what would have been his 18th wedding anniversary with Alice Hawthorne.

"Do you really expect the world of man to believe that innocent people had to die so you could make your voice heard?" John Hawthorne asked. "Why, if your cause is just, are you not willing to die for it as so many others have done in the past for their cause? I know why. And I think you do, too."

Rudolph smirked and rolled his eyes during the testimony of some of the victims, especially those refuting his anti-abortion, anti-homosexual beliefs. He laughed under his breath when one of the victims said it was appropriate that authorities found Rudolph scrounging for food.

As in past statements, Rudolph said he detonated the bomb at the Olympics because he wanted to force the cancellation of the Games and "confound, anger and embarrass" the federal government for sanctioning abortion. He said he had no intentions of hurting civilians.

His apology was only a partial one, and did not mention the 11 people injured in the two other bombings.

John Hawthorne said the thought of Rudolph being executed -- "peacefully going to sleep on a gurney with a smile on his face" -- was unacceptable to him. He said he was pleased to know that Rudolph instead will "never again see the beauty of flowers and trees" as he sits in prison.

"May God bless you with a long life," he told Rudolph.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press