Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph given 4 life terms

Associated Press/August 23, 2005
By Harry R. Weber

Atlanta -- Nearly nine years after setting off the bomb that disrupted the 1996 Summer Olympics, Eric Rudolph was sentenced to four life terms in prison yesterday 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.

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. Yesterday'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 in exchange for him revealing the location of more than 250 pounds of stolen dynamite he had buried in North Carolina.

In court yesterday, 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 the 18th anniversary of his marriage to Alice Hawthorne.

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.

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