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Eric Rudolph in Police Custody

Aired May 31, 2003 - 09:30   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you get a sense that you know Eric Robert Rudolph? I mean, you have been investigating this. You have been so close to this for so long. Do you feel, I mean, in your gut that you know this man, that you understand the motives? Or do you not care?
DOUG JONES, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, NORTHERN ALABAMA: No -- well, it's not that I don't care. I am very -- I'm fascinated about what is going to come out at a trial as to a possible motive. What will he say? Will he take the witness stand to try to either say -- to deny or to defend his actions?

I don't know the motive. I -- Eric Rudolph has been a complete mystery, and there's all -- and in the days to come, there will be a lot of theories about his motives. And until he takes that stand, you'll never know. Until he makes a statement, you will never know. Because we had clinics that perform abortions, we had the Olympics, we had a gay bar. It -- there's no rhyme or reason, really.

This man was a loner, and for him to have stayed below the radar screen as long as he did, even between the Olympic Park bombing and the bombing here in Birmingham, is pretty amazing. And he was not part of an overt group that was out there all of the time.

So I don't feel like I know Eric Rudolph, to be honest with you. I'd like -- I can't wait to find out. The one thing that I feel like that I have known and have said for some time is that I believed he was still alive.

I have never wavered from the fact that I felt like Eric Rudolph had been able to slip through the cracks somehow, some way in woods that he knew much better than law enforcement and had been living in a very meager lifestyle this whole time, which was fine with him. That was his -- that was typical of the way he lived anyway.

So that's the only part of him that I know, and I'm going to follow this case with incredible interest in the days to come to try to get a glimpse into what was going on in this man's mind.

ARTHEL NEVILLE, CNN ANCHOR: Mr. Jones, this is Arthel Neville. I want to ask you, sir, you mentioned adrenaline. What sort of rush of emotion do you think you'll experience when you actually see Eric Rudolph?

JONES: You know, that's a good question. I mean, I -- right here this morning in my home, just watching the various news reports and pacing back and forth and getting the chill bumps when I hear, listening on the telephone here, that it has been confirmed that it is Eric Rudolph, I can't tell you, it is going to be one of those things that you put and you invest so much in. It's going to be very hard to describe.

But the sense of satisfaction will be tremendous. Because again, knowing a very methodical, painstaking process that law enforcement went through. And again, I hate to keep belaboring the point, but I go back to the law enforcement. This bombing in Birmingham galvanized the law enforcement community, whereas in the past, you've often seen, you know, federal and state investigators who, you know, who argued over turf and who fought each other.

We had state and federal agents, you know, side by side, and they came together with a task force that truly was remarkable. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

NEVILLE: Has that sort of -- that sense of synergy remained in place?

JONES: Absolutely, it really has. And everyone continues to talk about that, and they point to this case as being the kind of thing that has created such, as you said, a synergy. You know, the Birmingham police chief, Mike Koppage (ph), who was the chief of police at the time, and a brand-new chief, is now the director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety. And I know that he's going to be as thrilled as I am.

But it has continued. The agents have come and gone...


JONES: ... to some extent, but...

NEVILLE: Well, Mr....

JONES: ... they are still there together.

NEVILLE: Mr. Jones, I do appreciate your excitement for that synergy. We do appreciate your joining us here on the phone this morning. Doug Jones, former U.S. attorney from Alabama.

COOPER: And, you know, when I asked him would he like to come back, as he did in the Birmingham church bombing case, to do this, he -- you could hear it in his voice.

NEVILLE: No hesitation.

COOPER: No hesitation there.

NEVILLE: Absolutely.

COOPER: Let's just recap a little bit where we are, what we know at this point, 9:35 here on the East Coast of the United States. And some good news this morning, Eric Robert Rudolph is in custody. A lot of investigators have been waiting a very long time to hear that sentence spoken.

Eric Robert Rudolph, according to one source at the FBI, we have yet to hear official confirmation from the FBI, but a source close to the investigation, CNN's Kelli Arena reporting that the FBI has confirmed through fingerprints Eric Robert Rudolph is in custody. He's at a sheriff's station right now in Cherokee County, North Carolina.

Why there? Well, last night a man was found on a road, believed at the time it looked like a homeless person who was described -- sources describing to CNN senior producer Henry Schuster in Murphy, North Carolina, this man was found, that, of course, in Cherokee County, North Carolina.

This morning, we got the word about two hours or so ago. They were trying to get a fingerprint identification match. That apparently, according to the source at the FBI, telling Kelli Arena that has now happened.

And again the sentence, Eric Robert Rudolph, this is the headline, is in custody. It has been a long investigation. He has been indicted in the Birmingham clinic bombing, the Olympic Park bombing, as well as the bombing of a gay nightclub called the Otherside here in Atlanta.

There are various other charges. State murder charges have not -- are not on the books at this point, but very likely that, of course, will change as this news gets digested.

NEVILLE: And, of course, someone who knows a little bit about FBI investigations, someone with more than 20 years of extensive experience in law enforcement, our own CNN Mike Brooks is actually on the way to North Carolina as we speak.

And, Mike, I understand you have some information you want to share with us at this point.

MIKE BROOKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, I feel the same way as your lest guest did, Arthel. I -- having worked on this case myself when I was on the Joint Terrorism Task Force, I can -- when I heard this, I said, I couldn't believe it. Because so many people had said that they thought that he maybe had died in the mountains, but, you know, I didn't give up hope. And a lot of other investigators with the FBI and ATF and the local authorities there hadn't given up hope either.

But we look at, you know, we look at exactly what he did, you know, from the Olympic Park bombing, there you had a device in a knapsack, which was basically three large pipe bombs that was made for one thing and one thing only, and that was to kill or injure people.

And then we go -- and then we have the two bombings of the abortion clinics, the first one in Atlanta, where there was a dynamite, a device using dynamite (UNINTELLIGIBLE) pipe bomb (UNINTELLIGIBLE) dynamite, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) one bomb and then (UNINTELLIGIBLE) device after first responders responding to the scene. Police, fire, EMS were there (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and then another bomb went off.

And that was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for one reason, that was (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

NEVILLE: OK. Yes, Mike, I know you're actually on your way to North Carolina, don't mean to jump in there, but I think it's breaking up a bit...

COOPER: You can tell he's getting into some remote area.

NEVILLE: ... of -- yes, exactly. But, of course, we will be hearing a lot more from Mike Brooks on this story as we continue to cover the arrest and confirmation that authorities do have in their -- have arrested an Eric Robert Rudolph, FBI 10 most-wanted fugitive list for years, last seen July 7, 1998...

COOPER: And as you pointed out, you know, so many people have worked so long on this investigation, both from law enforcement and in the media. Our own Henry Schuster, who's here with us, senior producer for CNN, has been following this and working very closely on it. Produced documentaries that really kept this in the public eye, kept the word out there. Just on a personal level, your thoughts on hearing that this man is in custody.

HENRY SCHUSTER, CNN SR. PRODUCER: Well, I got a call about 6:00 this morning from a source who said that there was a man in custody in North Carolina, and I have gotten calls like that over the years. I have got calls not recently. And I have to say I haven't gotten into the office this quickly in a long time. I'm still trying to take it in, when we heard that there was official confirmation that it is Eric Rudolph's fingerprints.

COOPER: Why, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because you didn't, did you believe he was still alive?

SCHUSTER: I did, but, you know, when we did -- when we last visited the case, when we did this documentary a couple of years ago, it seemed the more I learned about Eric Rudolph, the less I was convinced. I mean, we -- on the one hand, we had -- four years ago, John McGall (ph), who at that time was the outgoing chief of the Alcohol and Tobacco and Firearms bureau in Washington, said he thought Eric Rudolph was dead.

A lot of people have expressed that sentiment. When we did the documentary, and we went back and we asked people where they thought Eric was, we had all sorts of responses. Some people said they thought he was dead. Some people said that he had -- thought that he had taken the money that he had stored and gone abroad, because we had learned that he had traveled abroad.

COOPER: And he had made some cash by selling marijuana.

SCHUSTER: Absolutely. And the figures that we had gotten from various people who had -- who were involved in the selling of the marijuana with him, we are talking tens of thousands if not a hundred thousands of dollar in cash. So this is a man who had money at his disposal.

Yet you had other people, one ATF agent told us, he had an elaborate scenario, he said, You know, I can just picture, Eric Rudolph is in a bar, it's Friday night, Eric Rudolph is in a bar somewhere within 300 mile radius of here.

He's back of the bar. He doesn't have a cell phone because he doesn't want to put himself in the position of talking to anybody. He probably doesn't have cable TV. Sure, he has a VCR, because, as you remember, he was -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) his last act, his last act before he left was renting a movie and then going to the Burger King.

They all had elaborate scenarios. But the one that they stuck with was that he was close to home. But being close to home still put -- you had the dense woods. You had hundreds of mines and tunnels, half a million acres of woods. You had people potentially who were friends.

One of the tactics that they did use when they scaled back the task force over the last couple of years was that they did try to keep -- pay periodic visits to close friends of his. They figured that if there was one way of keeping pressure on Eric, in case he made contact with any friends, they wanted those friends to know, A, they could make a million bucks. There was a reward out for him. But B, this was a cop killer, in their eyes.

Now, of course, none of that's been proven. But that was their argument to people. Forget what you think about why he may have done it, if he did it. Their argument was, Look, this man killed a woman in Centennial Park, that was their argument, and, Look, this man killed a policeman, a policeman in Birmingham.

So that was their argument to his friends, and that was their tactic. So even though they were putting a lot of resources at it except for helping us, because they really wanted it in the public eye, that's where they were going with it.

NEVILLE: Actually, we have on the phone with us now, Henry and Anderson, Emily Lyons, who actually became a victim of Eric Rudolph's. She was injured in that Sandy Springs bombing of the abortion clinic there.

And Miss Lyons, I want to say good morning, and thank you for joining us here.


NEVILLE: And as we do speak to you, we are showing some pictures of you shortly after that explosion that left you disabled but yet left you with loads of courage.

LYONS: Yes, it did. It's amazing what a tragedy in your life can do for you if you can see the positive in it. And we are very thankful that he has been caught, thankful to the police and the FBI and the ATF and the media that has kept his picture and his name out there. We know at least that since he's been in hiding this long, he hasn't been able to hurt anyone else.

NEVILLE: And now that we do know that in fact he is in authorities, in the custody of authorities, what would you like to, if you had a chance, Miss Lyons, to speak to Eric Rudolph, what would you like to say to him?

LYONS: Why? You know, why did you do it that day? Why did you do the ones in Atlanta? What did you want to accomplish out of all this? Did you like the destruction that you caused? Those things. I mean, they're just basic questions.

NEVILLE: How has your life been different, Miss Lyons, since that unfortunate day?

LYONS: Well, I've lost some of my independence. I can't work again. I was -- I think the independence and the loss of vision is the biggest things.

NEVILLE: And I understand that since then, you have been a very big advocate of pro-choice, and you've been supporting many pro-choice organizations.

LYONS: Right.

NEVILLE: Because you did not want to let him win, him being Eric Rudolph, of course?

LYONS: Right. He is like so many others in this country that most people don't know about that are out there, who are willing to kill health providers just because they provide abortion services for women. I mean, there are just hundreds of them out there. And somebody has to talk about it, you know.

There's never been a bombing in a clinic that killed anybody until this happened. Nobody has survived the bombing, you know, until this happened. So it's a story that had to be told to people to make them realize that it's out there, and he is what I call a terrorist.

NEVILLE: Miss Lyons, you mentioned that you have lost some of your independence. If you could tell us a bit about that.

LYONS: Hello? Yes, I didn't hear that.

NEVILLE: Miss Lyons, you said that since the bombing, and you were left disabled and in great pain, you said that you lost some of your independence.

LYONS: Right. I can't drive at night. I don't drive very far any more. I don't read any more. My hand is getting worse, so I can't write like I used to. I don't play the piano anymore. You know, part of my life is gone because of this person.

NEVILLE: I have a -- it's an awkward question here, but I'm trying to figure out here, I am looking at this video of you, I'm sure you can see it as well, and I know you don't look like that any more. I am trying to get an idea of your age, Miss Lyons. LYONS: I am 46.

NEVILLE: You are. Just because, you know, in helping us understand that a woman 46 years old who can't do -- can no longer do some of the things that you're talking about.

LYONS: Right, and who pretty much has the aches and pains of an old person, you know, 80-on-up-type. You know, so I have aged a good bit.

NEVILLE: And Miss Lyons, I understand you still have nails in your body?

JONES: Yes, my right leg and the right side my chest are the ones that have most of the injuries, most of the nails left in them. They'll just stay there unless they cause a problem, and they'll take them out when that happens.

NEVILLE: Well, Miss Lyons, I really do appreciate you taking the time to talk to us here this morning and share your courage...

LYONS: Thank you.

NEVILLE: ... and share your story. Thank you very much.

LYONS: Thanks.

COOPER: And just extraordinary courage it is. I mean, it's just unbelievable when you think about it, the price this one person paid.

NEVILLE: I can't believe it.

COOPER: And many have paid a price of this reign of terror from several years ago.

We are joined on the phone right by Jeffrey Toobin, CNN legal analyst. Jeffrey, you've obviously heard the news. Where does this thing go from here?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is actually going to be an extremely complex legal situation, because you've got many jurisdictions with possible claims on Rudolph. I mean, it will certainly be a, you know, a federal case. It will be in federal court somewhere.

But you have three or four states with legitimate claims to trying him first. And certainly what will happen is, the Justice Department will call everybody in and decide who has the best case, where, perhaps, the death penalty is best -- may be applicable, and then sort out where he gets tried first.

But also you have the question of a lot of evidence over many years reconstructing, you know, the -- what he's alleged to have done. It's going to take a long time and be a very complex undertaking.

COOPER: And let's just emphasize at this point, it is all alleged. He's been indicted in the Birmingham clinic bombing, indicted in the Olympic Park bombing, indicted for the outside club bombing, but it's just indictments, it is not proof at this point.

We -- you know, Jeffrey, I don't know if you heard, we were talking to Doug Jones, former U.S. attorney in Alabama, who said he thought it would go to Birmingham first. And that's really because it would appear that's where the case is strongest. That's where there was an eyewitness, and that was really the incident that broke the case wide open.

TOOBIN: That's usually how these things are determined. But, you know, we had a similar situation in -- with the sniper cases in Maryland and Virginia. They go to the places where they think the evidence is strongest, and also where they think they have the best chance of winning and getting the penalties that they want.

Here, you don't have the state-versus-state competition. These are all federal claims. But certainly, what these U.S. attorneys will do when they come to Washington to make their case to get Rudolph first, they'll say, Look, we have the strongest case.

You know, personally, I don't know which one is the strongest case, but that's usually how these things are determined.

COOPER: And when you read, when you look at the indictments, as I've been this morning, you don't see the word "murder." Why is that?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, bombing is a separate offense, and you can be charged with murder if the bombing is done intentionally to kill someone and someone dies. But also federal law does not specifically have a murder crime. There are various -- there are various crimes that include murder, but murders per se is not a federal offense.

COOPER: You said the murder has to come from the state court.

TOOBIN: Not necessarily. I mean, you can be charged in murder as part of a larger federal case. But murder specifically is not a criminal -- is not a federal crime. It's a legal distinction that's not particularly meaningful, because you can still be, you know, executed in federal court as a result of a federal case, as Timothy McVeigh case illustrates. But murder specifically is not a federal offense.

COOPER: So he's take -- would be basically adjudicated wherever the case is stronger, whether that's in Birmingham, or whether that's here in Atlanta. And then (UNINTELLIGIBLE), one trial, and then move to another state for another trial?

TOOBIN: Well, that's an interesting question. You know, sometimes the government decides that as a reasonable use of resources, if it's clear that he's got the penalty he's going to get, if he's -- if the penalty is death, if the penalty is life in prison, and they don't think they can do any better, they will decide to save the government and not try him again. You know, we have right now going on in Oklahoma City, the retrial -- the new trial of Terry Nichols. Terry Nichols is serving a life sentence. All his appeals are over in the Oklahoma City bombing because of his federal conviction in federal court that took place in Denver.

But the Oklahoma authorities are trying him again, and there's a lot of controversy about that, about whether that is a worthwhile use of resources.

Here, you could -- I don't want to look too far ahead -- have a similar issue where, if he is tried once, convicted, and who knows whether he'll be convicted, but if he is, whether all these jurisdictions will want to try him again.

COOPER: And the decision on the death penalty will be made by whom, and when?

TOOBIN: It will certainly be made by the attorney general, John Ashcroft. This is the kind of case that will go straight to the top. The attorney general has a committee that reviews all death penalty cases in federal courts, and they have a set of criteria that they use, and so that they try to keep application according to consistent standards.

But ultimately the buck really stops with John Ashcroft, and that will -- and that will determine how the first case -- how that part of the case is pursued.

COOPER: What -- and in your mind, the hardest part about this case is going to be what?

TOOBIN: Well, I think the age of the case. You know, one of the things about criminal cases is that they don't improve with time. You know, evidence is lost, witnesses disappear, they die, their memories fade. I think the time is going to be difficult to prove.

And also I think the complexity. Bomb cases are always complex. You tend not to have the same kind of eyewitnesses that you might have to a shooting or a stabbing or something like that.

And just the complexity of how to prove where someone got their ingredients, where other people -- you know, whether other people were involved. You know, I covered the Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols trials in Denver. And, you know, they were just enormously complex undertakings, because you had to prove where they assembled all of the bomb ingredients from. And that kind of stuff takes time, and it's a long -- it can be a long process.

COOPER: All right, Jeffrey Toobin, legal analyst, appreciate you joining us early on this Saturday morning. Thanks very much -- Arthel.

NEVILLE: And, of course, joining us here still with us is Henry Schuster, CNN correspondent, who's been covering this story from the beginning. Also on the phone, Charles Stone, who is a former GBI agent, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, who was actually the deputy director of the task force for this particular investigation and search for Eric Rudolph.

And Mr. Stone, if you are there, I want to say good morning to you again, sir.


NEVILLE: And Henry, I understand Mr. Stone -- actually, you have a -- some -- a question for Henry, is that correct?

STONE: No. I thought you said that Henry had a question for me. I apologize.

NEVILLE: Go ahead, Henry.

SCHUSTER: Well, Charles, I wonder if you could get back to this person, at who is Eric Rudolph, and how you and your investigators five years ago and even a year ago and even every time we talk about this case, why you were so convinced with all of the places he could have gone, what led you to believe he was still -- and some of you all had said within a five-mile vicinity of where he was caught?

STONE: Henry, in talking with Eric's family and friends, acquaintances, including girlfriends, it became obvious that he was very comfortable with western North Carolina. He had grown up there since an early age. He loved the outdoors. He continually played actually a variation of hide-and-seek with friends in the woods.

He was a (UNINTELLIGIBLE), he went into the military, received training and survival escape and evasion and explosives training. And usually with fugitives, once they're identified, they normally run back to an area they're comfortable with. Eric, of course, found out he was wanted and went to a hiding place in western North Carolina, probably a place that he's had since he was in high school.

We were during the big manhunt in '98, we were never able to find his main hiding place.

SCHUSTER: What would be there? What would -- if you all could find it now, what would be in there?

STONE: Well, my -- and this is speculation on my part, but I would suspect in his hiding place, that would be where his bomb factory is, where he produced the devices. Probably there's going to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- and this is a public safety issue, and I feel sure the authorities in North Carolina will be dealing with this -- there will be a cachet of explosives.

And that is something -- not knowing Eric's complete knowledge of explosives, some of the explosives we believe he has become dangerous over a period of time.

And so it'll be critically important to get them located, and then probably the other stuff that we suspected he had and could not find in searches of his former residences, and, of course, the storage unit in North Carolina.

SCHUSTER: You know, we are looking at video of the Olympic Park bombing, and you -- your involvement of that case started that night.

STONE: Right.

SCHUSTER: Well, tell us about that, and tell us how it was for 18 months that you were searching for a person. You couldn't put a name to a person. And then finally you were able to put a name and a face to a person and build a profile about him. But you weren't able to until now to get him. Tell me, tell me, bring, bring us from that night of the Olympic Park bombing forward.

STONE: Well, the night of the park bombing, of course, a lot of chaos and confusion reigned, but a plan was implemented. The investigation began. A task force was formed to investigate the bombing. And since we didn't have a known suspect, we had to dwell primarily on physical evidence and witnesses in the park.

And this consumed a great deal of resources and time. And I can't express how much effort went into the forensic identification of the components of the bomb. We began -- we were doing that, we had the secondary bombing -- the second bombing at the abortion clinic, and of course the secondary device there. We were able to link the bombs forensically...

SCHUSTER: And right there, you are talking about the secondary bombings and the first bomb going off earlier than expected at Centennial Park. Earlier today, you were mentioning that part of the profile you developed, even before you knew it was Eric Rudolph, was of someone who was out to get law enforcement.

STONE: Right.

SCHUSTER: Explain a little bit more about that.

STONE: Well, initially at the park, of course, we received a warning call saying, You have 30 minutes. The bomb detonated a short time later, well below 30-minute level, which was an indicator that the bomber might have been trying to get policemen. Normally, protocol at that time would involve bomb techs going to the device physically and looking at it and trying to render it safe.

If that had happened that night, of course, we would have had fatalities with the police. Since what they -- the only fatality was Miss Hawthorne (ph), who was tragically just an innocent bystander, I believe it changed his routine, and went to a tactic that's common with the Irish Republican Army, use of secondary devices.

Again, fortunately for us, a car was directed to park and parked basically directly on top of the second bomb at the abortion clinic.

In talking with the profilers and just common sense, it became obvious that somebody was targeting law enforcement.

NEVILLE: Agent Stone, we do appreciate your insight this morning. Perhaps we will be speaking with you later on in the morning.

But right now, we are going to go to Washington, D.C. Kelli Arena is standing by with "ON THE STORY," and Kelli is going to stay on this story for a short bit longer.

And we, Anderson and then myself, Arthel Neville here, will join you again in about 15 minutes.

COOPER: ... Kelli.


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