Rudolph declared that his bombings were part of a guerrilla campaign against abortion and what he describes as "the homosexual agenda." He spent years as the FBI's most wanted criminal fugitive, but was eventually caught. In 2005 Rudolph pleaded guilty to numerous federal and state homicide charges and accepted five consecutive life sentences in exchange for avoiding a trial and the death penalty. Rudolph was connected with the Christian Identity movement; although he has denied that his crimes were religiously or racially motivated, Rudolph has also called himself a Roman Catholic at war over abortion.
After Rudolph received his GED, he attended Western Carolina University in Cullowhee for two semesters in 1985 and 1986. In August 1987, Rudolph enlisted in the U.S. Army, undergoing basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia. He was discharged in January 1989 while serving with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, reportedly for smoking marijuana. In 1988, the year before his discharge, Rudolph had attended the Air Assault School at Fort Campbell. He attained the rank of Specialist/E-4.
In the summer of 1996, the world converged upon Atlanta for the Olympic Games. Multinational corporations spent billions of dollars, and Washington organized an army of security to protect these best of all games.
The plan was to force the cancellation of the Games, or at least create a state of insecurity to empty the streets around the venues and thereby eat into the vast amounts of money invested.
If this was indeed the plan, it was unsuccessful. Olympic organizers did not even cancel the day's events.
Rudolph's statement did authoritatively clear Richard Jewell, a Centennial Olympic Park security guard, of any involvement in the bombings. Jewell had been falsely accused of participation in the bombing a few days after the incident, after having been initially hailed as a hero for being the first one to spot Rudolph's explosive device, for saving lives, and for helping to clear the area. When he came (erroneously) under FBI suspicion for involvement in the crime, Jewell became the prime suspect, and an international news story. Rudolph's confession vindicated Jewell.
Rudolph has also confessed to the bombings of an abortion clinic in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs on January 16, 1997, a gay and lesbian nightclub, the Otherside Lounge, in Atlanta on February 21, 1997, injuring five, and an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama on January 29, 1998, killing part-time security guard Robert Sanderson and critically injuring nurse Emily Lyons. Rudolph's bombs were made of dynamite surrounded by nails which acted as shrapnel.
He is said to have targeted the health clinic and office building because abortions were performed there, and targeted the Otherside Lounge because it was a predominantly lesbian nightclub.
On May 5, 1998, he became the 454th Fugitive listed by the FBI on the Ten Most Wanted list. The FBI considered him to be armed and extremely dangerous, and offered a $1,000,000 reward for information leading directly to his arrest. He spent more than five years in the Appalachian wilderness as a fugitive, during which federal and amateur search teams scoured the area without success.
It is thought that Rudolph had the assistance of sympathizers while evading capture. Some in the area were vocal in support of him. Two country music songs were written about him and a locally top-selling T-shirt read: "Run Rudolph Run." Many Christian Identity adherents are outspoken in their support of Rudolph; the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group, notes that "extremist chatter on the Internet has praised Rudolph as 'a hero' and some followers of hate groups are calling for further acts of violence to be modeled after the bombings he is accused of committing.
The Rudolph family supported Eric and believed he was innocent of all charges, but found themselves under intense questioning and surveillance. On March 7, 1998, Daniel Rudolph, Eric's older brother, videotaped himself cutting off one of his own hands with a radial arm saw in order to, in his words, "send a message to the FBI and the media. The hand was successfully reattached.
According to Rudolph's own writings, he survived during his years as a fugitive by camping in the woods, gathering acorns and salamanders, pilfering vegetable gardens, stealing grain from a grain silo, and raiding dumpsters in a nearby town.
Rudolph was unarmed and did not resist arrest. When arrested, he was clean-shaven, with a trimmed mustache, and wearing new sneakers, potentially indicating that he was harbored by supporters while on the run. Federal authorities charged him on October 14, 2003. Despite his reputed antisemitism, Rudolph was defended by Jewish attorney Richard S. Jaffe, who said he knew of Rudolph's beliefs but stated that Rudolph took no issue with his Jewish faith.
On April 8, 2005, the Department of Justice announced that it and Rudolph agreed to a plea bargain under which Rudolph would plead guilty to all charges he was accused of in exchange to avoiding the death penalty. The deal was confirmed after the FBI found 250 pounds (113 kg) of dynamite he hid in the forests of North Carolina. His revealing the hiding places of the dynamite was a condition of his plea agreement. He made his pleas in person in Birmingham and Atlanta courts on April 13.
He also Statement of Eric Rudolph in which he explained his actions and rationalized them as serving the cause of anti-abortion and anti-gay activism. In his statement, he claimed that he had "deprived the government of its goal of sentencing me to death," and that "the fact that I have entered an agreement with the government is purely a tactical choice on my part and in no way legitimates the moral authority of the government to judge this matter or impute my guilt.
The terms of the plea agreement were that Rudolph would be sentenced to four consecutive life terms. He was officially sentenced July 18, 2005, to two consecutive life terms without parole for the 1998 murder of a police officer. He was sentenced for his various bombings in Atlanta on August 22, 2005, receiving three consecutive life terms. That same day, Rudolph was sent to the ADX Florence Supermax federal prison. Rudolph's inmate number is 18282-058. Like other Supermax inmates, he spends 22½ hours per day in his 80 ft² (7.4 m²) concrete cell.
In a statement released after he entered a guilty plea, Rudolph denied being a supporter of the Christian Identity movement, claiming that his involvement amounted to a brief association with the daughter of a Christian Identity adherent, later identified as Pastor Daniel Gayman. When asked about his religion he said, "I was born a Catholic, and with forgiveness I hope to die one." In other written statements, Rudolph has cited Biblical passages and offered religious motives for his militant opposition to abortion..
Some mainstream books and media outlets have portrayed Rudolph as a "Christian Identity extremist" or a "Christian terrorist." Harper's Magazine referred to him as a "Christian terrorist." The NPR radio program "On Point" referred to him as a "Christian Identity extremist. The Voice of America reported that Rudolph could be seen as part of an "attempt to try to use a Christian faith to try to forge a kind of racial and social purity." Writing in 2004, authors Michael Shermer and Dennis McFarland saw Rudolph's story as an example of "religious extremism in America," warning that the phenomenon he represented was "particularly potent when gathered together under the umbrella of militia groups, whom they believe to have protected Rudolph while he was a fugitive.
Rudolph himself has written "Many good people continue to send me money and books. Most of them have, of course, an agenda; mostly born-again Christians looking to save my soul. I suppose the assumption is made that because I'm in here I must be a 'sinner' in need of salvation, and they would be glad to sell me a ticket to heaven, hawking this salvation like peanuts at a ballgame. I do appreciate their charity, but I could really do without the condescension. They have been so nice I would hate to break it to them that I really prefer Nietzsche to the Bible.
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