Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Lounge Bombing Survivors Confront Eric Rudolph

(Link) Otherside Lounge owners and patrons find bomber's lack of remorse appalling: "He sounded like a two-year-old child saying I’m sorry for sticking bubblegum in your hair."

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
By Laura Douglas-Brown
Washington Blade

Beverly McMahon and Dana Ford, life partners for more than 20 years, stood together at a podium in federal court in Atlanta on Monday to confront Eric Robert Rudolph as he was sentenced for three bombings that shook the city in the late 1990s.

"At the end of this day, I am sure that all the people who are affected by your actions will walk away stronger," Ford said as she read a statement written by the couple

Ford and McMahon owned the Otherside Lounge, a gay Midtown nightclub on Piedmont Road, when it was attacked by Rudolph on Feb. 21, 1997.

"Eric, I am going to pray for you, and I mean that," McMahon added at the conclusion of the couple’s prepared remarks. "God bless you."

Eric Robert Rudolph offered no apology to victims of his attacks on a Midtown gay bar and Sandy Springs abortion clinic when he was sentenced Monday for three Atlanta bombings. (Photo by AP)

With Rudolph’s sentence already outlined in a plea agreement that spared him from the possibility of the death penalty, the hearing on Monday was largely a formality, giving his victims the opportunity to address their attacker in court.

"I’m here today to personally tell you that you didn’t kill me," Memrie Creswell, a patron at the Otherside Lounge who had a nail from the bomb pierce her right arm, told Rudolph before pledging to "trump your evilness with love and kindness for the rest of my days."

In April, Rudolph pleaded guilty in federal courts in Atlanta and Birmingham to four bombings in the Southeast. His July 1996 attack on Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park killed one and injured more than 100. The January 1997 bombing of a Sandy Springs abortion clinic injured more than 50.

The bombing a month later of the Otherside Lounge, McMahon and Ford’s now-defunct gay bar, injured five; and the January 1998 bombing of a Birmingham abortion clinic killed an off-duty police officer and critically injured a nurse.

On July 18, a federal judge in Birmingham sentenced Rudolph to two consecutive life terms without parole for the attack there.

Seven victims of the Olympic bombing chose to address Rudolph in person on Monday, including the husband, daughter and sister of Alice Hawthorne, who was killed by the blast. Two others submitted statements to be read aloud during the hearing.

Two victims of the Sandy Springs bombing and five victims of the Otherside bombing also spoke before U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell sentenced Rudolph to four life terms plus 120 years in federal prison, all to be served consecutively.

Rudolph was also ordered to pay a special assessment fee of $800 to the court and $2,311,703.09 in restitution to the Atlanta victims, a sum designed to prevent the admitted bomber, who has been declared indigent, from profiting if he should sell his story in the future.

But the apology and explanation that McMahon said she wanted most were missing when Rudolph took his final opportunity to address the court.

"There’s no closure," McMahon sobbed. "It hurts, and that’s always going to be my question: why?"

In an 11-page statement released after the April hearing in Atlanta, Rudolph called abortion "the vomitorium of modernity," and denounced homosexuality as an "aberrant sexual behavior" with which gays "should not attempt to infect the rest of society," but did not explain why he chose his specific targets.

Speaking prior to his sentencing Monday, Rudolph addressed only the Olympic bombing, claiming it was designed to embarrass the "Washington government" for its "abominable sanction of abortion on demand."

Rudolph then repeated the explanation of the Centennial Park bombing that he provided in the earlier written statement, claiming his plan did not function as intended and he only meant to injure law enforcement personnel.

"I would do anything to take that night back, and to these victims, I apologize," he said.

Rudolph’s words appeared to bring little comfort to the people hurt by the Olympic bombing, and his glaring omission of the other two attacks angered those victims.

"He sounded like a two-year-old child saying I’m sorry for sticking bubblegum in your hair," Tonya Wolford, another victim of the Otherside bombing, said after the hearing.