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Rudolph Captured

Aired May 31, 2003 - 14:32   ET


SOPHIA CHOI, CNN ANCHOR: And now we want to take you back to the Eric Rudolph case and back to Atlanta's Olympic Centennial Park and Martin Savidge, and he's got Mike Rising with him, former FBI agent, also wounded in the Sandy Springs bombing -- Martin.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, many people think of the bombing spree as being Olympic Centennial Park, but Atlanta was struck not only on that occasion, but also struck several times after that, and that's why where Mike Rising comes in. Former FBI agent joins us now. You are originally were part of the team that didn't respond to the park but did respond to the case, but I want to take you beyond that. Now that January 1997, and the explosion that goes off at an abortion clinic, and you as an FBI agent respond.

MICHAEL RISING, FORMER FBI AGENT: Yes, that's correct. When the first bomb went off that morning, I was working on the civil rights program in the Atlanta FBI office. And we received word at the office and I was directed to go up to the bomb location. Kind of get a feel for what was going on and then contact the first assistant at the U.S. attorney's office and give them a lay of the land.

SAVIDGE: We are listening now of what is obviously the aftermath of the secondary device, the second explosion. What were you doing when that happened?

RISING: When the second bomb went off, I had been standing in a crowd of 30 to 50 FBI-ATF-firefighter personnel, that we had formed up opposite of the location of the first bomb, and I was getting ready to make a cell phone call to the U.S. attorney's office and it was too noisy. So I walked away from the crowd and I went over to where there were two vehicles parked, and I was leaning against two of the vehicles and come to find out, the bomb was located right on the other side of the two vehicles. I was actually on a speaker phone talking to John Davis, the chief assistant of the U.S. attorney's office, on their speaker phone, and I had the phone to my left side.

When the bomb went off, it was deja vu to Vietnam, 1969. I had been wounded in a rocket-propelled grenade attack, and it was almost the exact same experience. I was struck in the side of the head, in the back, and it knocked me three or four feet to the right. I immediately made a very -- it was a reactionary comment...

SAVIDGE: As anybody would have.

RISING: To the U.S. attorney's office, and I said someone's set off another bomb and I need to get off the phone.

SAVIDGE: And that changed your dynamics with the case, because you went from being a professional federal investigator now to being a victim?

RISING: Correct. I became a victim witness. After I was hauled out of there, basically from that point on, I was not participating in the investigation to determine who had done it, because of the fact that I had been wounded in the attack.

SAVIDGE: And what do you think now hearing word of his arrest?

RISING: My first reaction was, it was great. Personally, I've got a good feeling about it, but I feel even better for the people. Following those attacks, hundreds of federal and local law enforcement people were involved in that and still are involved in that. And law enforcement has taken some criticism in the past for the amount of money we spent to locate Rudolph. And I just really feel good for those people. Knowing a lot of them personally and how their personalities are. Just this dogged determination that they were going to find this fellow, and to have found him like this, in atypical fashion, I guess I understand he was wrestling through some trash and a local deputy stopped him. I mean, that's fantastic, but he's been taken in and I really feel good about that.

SAVIDGE: Just about out of time, but do you have personal feeling, personal grudges towards Eric Rudolph?

RISING: No, not really. The biggest pain that he caused me as a person was to my family. My children and my wife, for several hours, they knew I had been -- that I was in that explosion and they had no idea what my physical status was, and it was not real good for them. I knew almost instantly that I had my mind, I knew I was bleeding a lot but I was probably going to be OK. And I had been in several of these confrontations with people over my career, both in the Marines and in the bureau, and that's just part of the job.

SAVIDGE: Mike Rising, thank you very much for talking to us today.

The interesting thing about Mike is not only that he worked professionally on the case of Eric Rudolph, but now given the fact he is in custody, could very well be called as a witness -- Sophia.

CHOI: Yes, and I spoke with him earlier and he said that he would be willing to testify if called upon. Martin, thank you.

We're going to take a short break, but you'll want to stay tuned, because coming up, a man who probably knows more about this case than just about anybody else. His name, Charles Stone, a retired deputy director of the task force with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. His thoughts, his comments and insights coming right up.


CHOI: After hiding out for more than five years, bombing suspect Eric Rudolph is now custody. Here's what we know at this hour. The 36-year-old suspect in the Olympic Park blast and several other bombings in the Southeast was arrested the earlier today in the small town of Murphy in North Carolina in the mountains there. Rookie police Officer J.S. Postell arrested Rudolph after spotting him behind a supermarket. His identity was later confirmed by fingerprints.

Rudolph is charged in the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta. That explosion killed an Albany, Georgia, woman and injured more than 100 others. He's also charged in the 1998 bombing outside of a Birmingham, Alabama women's clinic that killed an off-duty police officer and seriously injured a nurse, and he's also wanted in connection with two other bombs in the Atlanta area, one at a women's clinic and another at a nightclub.

Rudolph is believed to have been hiding out in the western North Carolina mountains since he disappeared in July 1998. And I want to introduce you to a man now who has been tracking Rudolph since he disappeared. Probably knows more about this case than almost anybody else. Charles Stone, who is a retired deputy director of the task force with the GBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigations.

Mr. Stone, thanks for joining us.


CHOI: So you've actually help come up with a profile.

STONE: I met with the profiles out of Quantico and Dr. Park Dietz, profiler, psychiatrist out in California, and I had some prior experience doing profiles. We met with witnesses, family members, friends and relatives and a fairly good profile. And got to know -- at least I felt like I got know Eric's mentality fairly well.

CHOI: Tell us about that mentality.

STONE: Eric basically became an anti-social personality type. He avoided major cities, he exhibited some paranoid personality traits before he disappeared. And talking with his friends and girlfriends, they related he had become increasingly more paranoid over the years, and to the point that he thought that the federal government was watching him for an extended period of time.

When the bombings began, we can place him back in North Carolina immediately following the bombings. And then, of course, through the witness in Birmingham were able to positively identify and the manhunt began in North Carolina.

CHOI: You have been tracking this guy for so long, what was your reaction when you found out he had finally been caught?

STONE: A great deal of elation. I was contacted very early this morning, made aware of the arrest and the tentative identification of Eric. And I'd retired along with most of the supervisors on the task force since the investigation began. So I felt a great deal of relief. I do believe Eric is a dangerous sociopath. We know or feel -- we have a strong belief that he has some more explosives, and until he was taken into custody, posed a threat to public safety. Now that he's been taken into custody, hopefully we will be able to locate the places where he has been hiding, his main hiding place, locate some explosives we believe he has and render them safe.

CHOI: Judging by his profile and all of the various witnesses that you have talked to, do you think he was working alone, or do you think someone was helping him all of this time?

STONE: I'm a firm believer in that he was operating alone. He didn't trust anyone. The one person he reached out to initially in North Carolina ultimately cooperated with us, and I've met with a lot of -- for a lack of a better description, militia, right wing people in Murphy. And I don't believe he had any support whatsoever. There are some people that have strong anti-federal government feelings, but in talking with them, I didn't detect any knowledge they had of his whereabouts, anything of that nature. I think given what we know about it and talking to his family and friends, he was operating alone and wasn't receiving any support from anybody.

CHOI: We heard today he was a good outdoorsman, not a great outdoorsman from an FBI special agent in charge of this case. What were your thoughts on how he could survive so long just out in the wilderness like that?

STONE: Well, in talking with the family members and his friends, Eric grew up in that area from the time he would be middle-school age on up until he left and joined the Army. He enjoyed hiking in the area, hunting and fishing in the area. He knew of a lot of old mines and caves in the area.

He went into the military, received training in both explosives and survival and escape. And when he came back, once the bombing campaign began, he utilized his skills. You're talking about an area that's half a million acres of pure wilderness. Although it has a lot of trails, gravel roads and stuff, so he could travel pretty much undetected as far as not leaving signs.

CHOI: Let me just ask you real quickly about a potential motive here. I mean, you've researched this guy. What in the world would be his motive?

STONE: I think Eric's basic motive was he disliked the federal government for a variety of reasons, and he decided that in order to avenge his father's death and express his outrage, he would begin to kill law enforcement.

STONE: I want to introduce you once again to a man you know pretty darn well, Henry Schuster, who is senior producer here at CNN. Got some questions for you.

HENRY SCHUSTER, CNN SR. PRODUCER: Charles, I just wanted to ask you how you felt, because one of things that came out of the press conference was from the FBI agent that he had spent all of this time within five miles of where he stayed. You were one of the biggest advocates of that theory. Now hearing that, maybe you can explain why through the face of all of these questions about where he was, why you held to that belief up until the day he was caught?

STONE: Henry, I had a fair amount of experience chasing people who are wanted, and it had been my experience that fugitives normally go back to an area they feel comfortable in. Eric was very comfortable in that area. Once the manhunt began in earnest and we had that large task force, and he was able to elude us, so there was no reason to think he would leave. He had opportunities when he took George Nordmann's truck. He could have left then, and he didn't. He stole some supplies, used a truck, and then abandoned the truck. He abandoned his own truck the day -- the night that he found out he was wanted. He could have driven to another state then.

So people go to where they're familiar, and in that area he is familiar with, is right around his house.

SCHUSTER: And you've said that you thought he was pretty dangerous to the public until he was caught. Were you surprised that he didn't put up more of a fight?

STONE: I haven't seen his physical appearance yet. I would assume that he is worn out physically and emotionally. Being on the run, tensing every time you see a helicopter and aircraft, and not being able to be seen, exacts a toll on you and I would think he worn himself down to point.

CHOI: All right, Charles Stone, thank you very much. Retired deputy director with the GBI. Thanks.

STONE: You're quite welcome.

CHOI: Rudolph is likely to make his first court appearance Monday in Asheville, North Carolina. Eventually he will be extradited to Georgia or Alabama to face trial. Let's talk about Rudolph's legal future with our guest, Albert Johnson, a nationally known criminal defense lawyer out of Boston. His client list includes Patty Hearst, Pamela Smart and F. Lee Bailey.

Lida Rodriguez-Taseff is an attorney and serves as president of ACLU out of Miami, and we want to welcome both of you.



CHOI: So, let's talk first of all about this jurisdiction in this case. Who do you think will get first crack at Mr. Rudolph?

RODRIGUEZ-TASEFF: Well, it is a...

JOHNSON: Go ahead.

RODRIGUEZ-TASEFF: Go ahead. JOHNSON: It is ostensibly a federal case. The federal government has jurisdiction over cases involving interstate commerce, as they say, cases which have no particular jurisdiction where they happen in different states.

So I would expect that the federal government will move on this case and it will become a federal case, although the federal government does not prosecute murder cases as such. The federal government does have jurisdiction over cases where murder or homicide or death results from an explosion or an explosive device as had occurred here.

CHOI: So we assume, if we're talking the feds taking a hold of this case initially, then Attorney General John Ashcroft will be make some important decisions in this case. Lida, let me turn to you now and ask you about the defense. How in the world would you defend a guy like this who's had so much publicity surrounding his case for so many years now?

RODRIGUEZ-TASEFF: I think it will be a difficult case to defend, because of the fact that there has been so much publicity surrounding the evidence that the federal government alleges to have.

I think the first line of defense is going to depend on whether or not he is treated as a terrorist, and whether or not the procedures that have been put place to treat terrorists after September 11 are put in place here.

And by that, I mean, you read the statement earlier from Attorney General John Ashcroft in which he talked about Mr. Rudolph as a terrorist, and referenced terrorists foreign or domestic. If he is treated as a terrorist, it is entirely possible for the federal government to intercept communications between Mr. Rudolph and his defense counsel.

That would make a defense of this case very, very difficult because the element of candor and the protection of the attorney/client privilege, which exists in this country, would essentially be eviscerated.

I also think that the defense of the case is also going to depend on very complicated scientific evidence relating to bombs, how bombs are made, how bombs are detonated and what's put into them. So the defense is going to need many experts, science experts, bomb experts who can explain whether or not there is indeed a connection between these four unrelated bombs.

CHOI: Albert, let me turn to you now. You think that's way the government will go, the terrorism route?

JOHNSON: Well, I think that what immediately comes to mind is some of the highly visible cases we've seen recently. McVeigh, the Oklahoma bombing, the sniper cases, the World Trade bombing cases and so forth, and now the Peterson case.

These are all very high visibility cases, and I agree that the problem here is that the First Amendment to the Constitution clashes often with the Sixth Amendment. The First Amendment right of the public to know, and the Sixth Amendment right to have individuals to have fair trials. And the problem is that individuals, prosecution and defense, are going to be dumping out evidence into the public domain, which may complicate the right of a fair trial.

We've already seen it in this case. There has been, today alone, comments by law enforcement officers about specific evidence which is believed to be known about Mr. Rudolph, which may complicate his right to have a fair trial.

Don't forget, potential jurors are watching this. And that right of the Sixth Amendment becomes extremely important.

CHOI: Well, this is certainly a complex case, and I'm sure we'll be calling on the both of you to comment more on this at a future date. Thank you so much for now, though, Albert Johnson and Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, for joining us. Thanks.


CHOI: And we're going to take a short break right here. But when we come back, more coverage of the Eric Rudolph case when we come back.


CHOI: We want to take a look back now on what some call Rudolph's alleged reign of terror. CNN's Mike Boettcher takes us through the deadly bomb attacks that police linked to him.


MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first bomb shook the 1996 Summer Olympics. The blast killed Alice Hawthorne (ph) and injured more than 100 other people crowd crowded in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta.

Six months later, two bombs exploded outside of a suburban Atlanta women's clinic where abortions were carried out. The first bomb drew dozens of law enforcement and emergency officials to the scene. Several were hurt when the second bomb exploded an hour later.

Weeks later, in February of 1997, another double bombing struck a lesbian nightclub in Atlanta.

Nearly a year later, January 29, 1998, just days after the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion, another bomb exploded outside of a Birmingham women's clinic. A police officer was killed and a nurse seriously injury.

Eric Robert Rudolph quickly became a suspect when his pickup truck was found nearby that clinic and an eyewitness described someone leaving the scene. Rudolph was soon listed on the FBI's 10 most wanted list, and hundreds of federal and state agents moved into western North Carolina to hunt him down, combing a half million acres of mountainous, heavily wooded terrain.

A year later the search was scaled back, but investigators continued to believe Rudolph, now 36, was hiding in the Nantahala National Forest where he spent his teenage and young adult years.

An Army veteran and a mountain resident, it was believed he knew how to hide and survive. The southeast bomb task force formed to investigate the bombings kept a presence in the area, and there were occasional sightings reported.

With Rudolph's capture, it now has to be decided where he will be tried and on what charges. Prosecutors will have to agree where the evidence against Rudolph is strongest.

Mike Boettcher, CNN, Atlanta.


CHOI: I'm Sophia Choi at CNN Center in Atlanta.


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