Local News

Eric Rudolph Arrives In Birmingham To Face First Trial

Posted June 3, 2003

— Eric Rudolph is back in the city of one of his alleged bombings.

The alleged bombing suspect was flown Monday afternoon from an Asheville courthouse to a jail in Birmingham, where he will face his first trial on charges of bombing a women's clinic in 1998.

Under extremely heavy guard, Rudolph made his first court appearance Monday morning in Asheville. A crowd of reporters gathered outside the courthouse as early as 7:30 a.m. -- about an hour before Rudolph showed up. Nearly 100 reporters sought to get a ticket to get inside the courtroom for the proceedings and then packed the courtroom for the hearing.

Appearing very thin, Rudolph did not say much in court Monday. He said "yes, your honor" a couple of times and was reportedly very polite, but he didn't make any statements about the case or the charges against him. Rudolph wore handcuffs, shackles and a bulletproof vest. He listened quietly and read over his attorney's shoulder as prosecutors read aloud the charges against him.

Rudolph was appointed an attorney after he signed a financial affidavit saying he can't afford to hire one.

Rudolph faces six charges of using an explosive against a facility in interstate commerce. The charges stem from the explosion in Atlanta's Olympic Centennial Park during the 1996 summer Olympics, a 1998 bombing at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Ala., and 1997 bombings in Atlanta outside a gay nightclub and an office building that housed an abortion clinic.

In all, two people were killed and about 150 injured in the four attacks. Rudolph could face the death penalty if convicted.

Rudolph did not enter a plea to the charges, did not ask for bond and did not fight extradition to Birmingham.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said the bombing case in Birmingham offers the best chance of convicting Rudolph. Evidence gathered from the women's health center linked Rudolph to the other bombings.

Rudolph could have pleaded guilty and avoided a trial, but he will not do that. Rudolph, instead, will fight the charges against him.

Meanwhile, federal investigators combed the woods around Murphy for evidence of how Rudolph lived while on the run.

Investigators and crime lab technicians hiked deep into the woods -- to one of Rudolph's camps. Nearby, they found his tent.

The former fugitive apparently told officials where to find the hiding spot, which helped him mock a government manhunt for nearly five years.

Officials have been quiet about what Rudolph told them during questioning after his arrest behind a Murphy grocery store early Saturday morning.

Chris Swecker, FBI special agent in charge for North Carolina, said Rudolph was very calm during his time in jail and had interacted with people there. But Swecker declined to say whether Rudolph was cooperating with investigators.


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