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Plea agreement could yield much information for feds
Scripps Howard News Service


April 13, 2005

Eric Rudolph's plea agreement could help authorities learn more than the secret location of a cache of explosives.

They could learn how a radical religious philosophy motivated someone to successfully execute four bombings and elude authorities for years.

They also could learn of likeminded people who assisted him or are plotting their own bombings.

"It's an unlimited opportunity at this point for the government to explore what he knows," said John Carroll, dean of the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. "He is now free to speak and share information with federal law-enforcement officers without worrying about that information being used against him at a future trial."

Rudolph pleaded guilty Wednesday to bombing a Birmingham abortion clinic in 1998 and was expected to plead guilty to three bombings in Georgia: The 1996 Olympic Centennial Park blast in Atlanta, which killed a spectator; and the 1997 Atlanta bombings of an abortion clinic and a gay club.

When it was announced Friday that Rudolph had agreed to plead guilty to the bombings in exchange for four consecutive life sentences without parole, it also was disclosed that Rudolph identified the whereabouts of more than 250 pounds of explosives in western North Carolina, where authorities believe he hid for five years.

Rudolph was arrested in 2003, when a rookie police officer discovered him foraging through a grocery-store trash bin in Murphy, N.C.

"There will be a complete debriefing of him I'm sure that will last many hours," said Walter Becker, a former federal prosecutor who practices at Chaffe, McCall in New Orleans.

Rudolph could provide authorities with a detailed look into the Christian Identity movement, a radical religious philosophy tied to Rudolph that would connect the four bombings, said Heidi Beirich, deputy director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala. The project monitors hate groups and extremist organizations.

"It remains to be seen what all he tells the federal government, but there's a theme (to the bombings) that runs through there that's actually coherent," Beirich said.

Christian Identity contends that nonwhites do not have souls and that Jewish people are the spawn of Eve and Satan, she said. It also espouses strong antigay beliefs.

Christian Identity is believed to have 40,000 to 50,000 followers in the United States. It appeared in the United States in the late 1800s and gained popularity in the early 1990s, Beirich said.

Rudolph was associated with the movement and spent time at Christian Identity encampments, including a six- to eight-month stint at a facility in Missouri in the late 1980s or early '90s, Beirich said. There's also a well-known facility in western North Carolina where Rudolph is believed to have hidden from authorities, she said.

"Who knows what kinds of information Rudolph has about these other people," she said. "He might be able to give quite a tour through Christian Identity land to the feds."

Deborah Rudolph, Eric Rudolph's former sister-in-law, worked with an FBI profiler to help federal agents capture him. She also granted an interview to the Intelligence Project, speaking about possible motives for the bombings of the clinics.

"He believes that the white people are eventually going to be a minority instead of a majority," she said in the 2001 interview posted on the center's Web site.

Attempts to reach Deborah Rudolph for further comment were unsuccessful.

The Olympic Park bombing could also be explained in terms of Christian Identity beliefs, Beirich said.

"The Olympics represent everything that these people tend to hate: it's cosmopolitan, it's internationalist, it's globalization, it's a celebration of multiple ethnicities and cultures," she said.

And the group's antigay dogma also would explain the bombing of the gay club, she said. Although Eric Rudolph has a family member who is gay, he spoke out harshly against other gay people, Deborah Rudolph said in the 2001 interview.


Contact Jamie Kizzire of the Birmingham Post-Herald in Alabama at

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