Hoping to nullify a search warrant, Eric Rudolph’s attorneys are disputing the government’s claim that he planned to turn fugitive after a 1998 Alabama abortion clinic bombing.
In court papers made public Tuesday, the attorneys argue the one-time soldier and woodsman would have taken more provisions — certainly “more than a last meal of a Whopper, Coke and fries at Burger King” and $109.06 in food from a grocery store — if he anticipated a life on the lam in the North Carolina woods.
If Rudolph didn’t plan to hide out, then he didn’t “abandon” his trailer in Topton, N.C., and a later search by authorities looking for clues to the bombing was illegal, the attorneys contend.
Rudolph, set for trial this spring in the federal death penalty case, was the subject of a manhunt after the deadly Birmingham clinic bombing and spent more than five years on the run before his arrest in 2003.
Magistrate backed prosecutors
A federal magistrate earlier agreed with prosecutors and decided that Rudolph had abandoned the trailer shortly after the Alabama bombing, making it legal for agents to get search warrants and enter his home.
In the papers, the defense rebutted claims that agents knew Rudolph had disappeared because of the way they found the trailer two days after the bombing: the front door standing open, lights on, oatmeal on the table and dresser drawers on the floor, yet no one home.
“An equally valid conclusion which could also be drawn from the pulled-out drawers on the floor was that (the) defendant was not a good housekeeper,” Rudolph’s lawyers wrote.
“For all law enforcement knew at the time the residence was searched, Rudolph had left on a lengthy camping trip and been careless in locking his door and turning off his TV before leaving,” the defense argued.
Agents reportedly find explosives residue
Inside Rudolph’s trailer, agents discovered items later found to contain explosives residue, according to the government. They also found materials that prosecutors contend could have been linked to bombs.
The defense previously has suggested that Rudolph remained a fugitive for so long because he feared being framed by the government for the crime. The papers made public Tuesday did not elaborate on what prompted his flight into the woods.
Besides the clinic bombing, which killed a policeman and critically injured a nurse, Rudolph is charged with setting bombs that killed a woman at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and two more in Atlanta in 1997.
Arrested near a grocery store trash bin in Murphy, N.C., Rudolph had at least two campsites in the mountains and had stockpiled food and other supplies in apparent preparation for disappearing into the wilderness, according to authorities.
Prosecutors have suggested that Rudolph fled into the woods after learning that police were after him because a witness saw his pickup truck in Birmingham after the clinic bombing.