Victims: Bomber taunting from prison

Rudolph writes a supporter who posts items on the Internet. Authorities say that's legal.

Published May 15, 2007

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Victims of Eric Rudolph, the anti-abortion extremist who pulled off a series of bombings across the South, say he is taunting them from deep within the nation's most secure federal prison, and authorities say there is little they can do to stop him.

Rudolph, who was captured after a five-year manhunt and pleaded guilty in deadly bombings at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and a Birmingham abortion clinic, is serving life in prison at the "supermax" penitentiary in Florence, Colo.

Housed in the most secure part of the prison, he has no computer and little contact with the outside world aside from writing letters.

But Rudolph's long essays have been posted on the Internet by a supporter who maintains an Army of God Web site. Rudolph claimed to represent the group in letters sent after the blasts.

In one piece, Rudolph seeks to justify violence against abortion clinics by arguing that Jesus would condone "militant action in defense of the innocent."

In another essay about his sentencing, Rudolph mocks former abortion clinic nurse Emily Lyons, who was nearly killed in the 1998 bombing in Birmingham, and her husband, Jeff. He uses pseudonyms rather than naming the couple, but there is no doubt he is describing them.

Jeff Lyons said he doesn't often look at the Web site, which has had some items posted for nearly two years. But he said he is worried that Rudolph's messages could incite someone to violence.

"He's still sending out harassing communication. He's still hurting us, " Lyons said.

Bureau of Prisons regulations give wardens the right to reject correspondence by an inmate for "the protection of the public, or if it might facilitate criminal activity."

The Bureau of Prisons failed to respond to inquiries about whether Rudolph's writings violate rules. But U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, who helped prosecute Rudolph for the Alabama bombing, said there is nothing the prison can do to restrict Rudolph or the supporter who keeps posting his writings, Donald Spitz of Chesapeake, Va.

"An inmate does not lose his freedom of speech, " she said.

Spitz said he corresponds with Rudolph and posts some of his essays. As for those who might be offended, he said, "They don't have to look at it."

John Hawthorne, whose wife, Alice, was killed in the Olympic bombing, said he isn't bothered by Rudolph's essays.

"I don't mind him saying whatever he's going to say as long as they keep him locked up, " Hawthorne said.