Atlanta Olympic Park bomber now fighting convictions

Atlanta Olympic Park
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A man who was sentenced to life imprisonment after pleading guilty in the fatal bombing of an Alabama abortion clinic and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics is arguing he deserves a new sentencing hearing or a chance to withdraw his plea.

Eric Robert Rudolph contends a Supreme Court decision released after he pleaded guilty in 2005 means he should be able to change his plea in the bombing of New Woman All Women Health Care because part of the offense is no longer considered a federal crime.

Rudolph filed a handwritten challenge in June, and a public defender submitted further arguments in the case this week, WBMA-TV reported. He is seeking a new sentencing hearing or an opportunity to change his guilty plea.

Prosecutors argue that Rudolph, 54, waived his right to appeal when he pleaded guilty in the clinic blast, which killed an off-duty Birmingham police officer who was providing security for the clinic. Subsequent court decisions don’t void Rudolph’s plea, they also argued.

Court records show Rudolph, who is serving his sentence at the “supermax” federal prison in Florence, Colorado, also is challenging his plea in Atlanta’s Olympic Park bombing, but the case is stalled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A bomb went off during a musical show at Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta on July 27, 1996, killing one person and injuring dozens. The clinic bombing occurred in downtown Birmingham on Jan. 29, 1998.

A witness tracked Rudolph away from the clinic, providing authorities with a description but he got away and disappeared into the mountains of western North Carolina. He was subsequently arrested behind a grocery store in Murphy, North Carolina, in 2003.