FBI, Media Turned 1996 Olympic Bombing Hero Richard Jewell Into Suspect

Richard Jewell went from being a hero for discovering a pipe bomb at the 1996 Summer Olympics and apparently saving lives of many by evacuating them, but was later looked on as a suspect by the FBI and the media.
Richard Jewell was a 33-year-old security guard for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Next month will be the 15th anniversary of that day when a terrorist put his terrorist agenda ahead of the safety of innocent bystanders there to enjoy the 1996 Olympics.
However, Jewell was in the right place at the right time, or the death toll may have been much higher when the bomb left by the terrorist exploded shortly after midnight on July 27.
Life Changed Forever
Jewell’s life would be changed forever on July 27, 1996 when he discovered a backpack underneath a bench in Centennial Park. The backpack contained a pipe bomb.
He immediately alerted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation about his discovery and helped evacuate the area, even before Eric Robert Rudolph, who later admitted being the bomber had made his 911 call to warn about the impending bomb explosion.
One of the mysteries that day was how Alice Hawthorne was killed by the explosion and over a hundred were injured since the bomb didn’t explode till 13 minutes later. A cameraman also died while running to cover the situation.
Mystery Why So Many Bystanders Were Injured, One Killed
It may have been a case of spectators wanting to see what was going on with their curiosity getting the best of them, rather than getting as far away from the scene as possible. It seems like law enforcement officials and security guards could have made sure that the area was empty as possible, since they had 13 minutes to evacuate the bystanders.
Richard Jewell at first was regarded as a hero, but then the FBI and the media combined to make him the prime suspect in the bombing. Their theory was that he planted the bomb then alerted authorities so he would become a hero.
 Never Formally Charged By FBI
Jewell was never formally charged by the FBI with the bombing. He even reportedly passed a lie detector test, which should have cleared him of any wrongdoing. His case was that of FBI profiling gone wrong. The FBI was so intent on proving that Jewell fit the profile of a lone bomber that they were focusing on the wrong man.
Piedmont College President Raymond Cleere and college spokesman Scott Rawles were sued by Jewell for giving false information to the FBI with Cleere describing Jewell as a “badge wearing zealot” when he called the FBI about Jewell.

Eric Rudolph admitted to bombing at the 1996 Olympics in a plea bargain which gave him life imprisonment in exchange for the Justice Department dropping their request for the death penalty which exonerated Richard Jewell.
It was 1998 before the FBI even made Eric Rudolph their main suspect in the bombing at Centennial Park. It would be five more years before he would be arrested in 2003 after hiding in the woods of North Carolina.
Rudolph agreed to a plea bargain in 2005 admitting his guilt for the bombing at Centennial Park in exchange for the Justice Department dropping their request for the death penalty.
Filed String Of Lawsuits
Once Jewell had been cleared of being the Centennial Park bomber, he filed a string of lawsuits against the media who had taken a FBI leak blaming Jewell for the bombing. That lawsuit ended with him receiving an undisclosed settlement.
His lawsuit against NBC and Tom Brokaw resulted in him receiving a $500,000 settlement. CNN also settled with Jewell, for an undisclosed amount.
Purchased Home For Mom With N.Y. Post Settlement
He also received a settlement from the New York Post. It was enough to pay his legal expenses, plus he bought a new home for his mother with  the settlement.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was able to avoid paying Jewell a settlement in 2007 when Judge John R. Mather dismissed the case in December of that year. By then however, Jewell had died four months earlier.
Died Due to Natural Causes
His death on August 29, 2007 was due to natural causes. He died in Woodbury, Georgia at the age of 44.
It is bad enough when someone charged with a crime is tried in the media. But in Jewell’s case, he was never charged but still vilified by the media.
The last 11 years of Jewell’s life were a nightmare, since he was portrayed as a criminal by most of the media, without being charged.
Hopefully, the media learned their lesson from the Richard Jewell saga, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

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