Arlington, Va. — Anti-abortion extremist Eric Rudolph, who has admitted four bombings, seeks his mother's forgiveness in a series of letters she shared with USA Today, but he scoffs at people who peddle salvation to him "like peanuts at a ballgame."
Rudolph also describes feeling like a zoo specimen for tourists who peer into his cellblock, but expresses no remorse for his actions.
"Despite my many flaws, I still hope that you can find it in your loving selfless heart to forgive me," he said in one note to his 77-year-old mother, Pat Rudolph, in Sarasota, Fla.
"And even though I cannot apologize for being who I am and expressing myself in the way that I did, it troubles me greatly that you had to experience any hardships because of my deeds," he adds.
An interview with Pat Rudolph and portions of the letters from her son appears in Tuesday's editions of the paper. No telephone number is listed for her in Sarasota and she could not be reached for additional comment Tuesday.
He is in jail in Birmingham, Ala., awaiting sentencing on July 18 for the 1998 bombing of an abortion clinic. He will be sentenced later in Atlanta for the 1996 Olympic bombing that killed one and for bombings of a clinic and a gay bar. A total of 11 people were injured. Rudolph will get four life sentences without chance of parole.
Although he has written about his five years on the run and issued a rambling 11-page statement, he has given no interviews.
"I get more of a feeling for him from the letters than when I'm with him," says his mother, who sees him rarely. "And that's what counts. The feeling."
USA Today describes the letters, many undated, as more than 200 pages that "are cogent and well-written."
"The latest tour group just came through: The authorities here often bring a group of people, I know not who, up to the windows of my cellblock and peek in like tourists at a zoo viewing the latest exotic animal," he writes in one undated letter.
"I try to ignore them and act nonchalant, but I must confess I have the urge to bounce around and scratch my armpits for their entertainment."
He is not apologetic for the bombings.
"Perhaps I should have found a peaceful outlet for my opposition to the government in Washington: maybe I should have been a lawyer and fought (for) decency in the face of this rotten system; perhaps I could have taken up teaching and sought to inculcate a healthy outlook in a decidedly unhealthy society," he writes. "But I didn't do any of these things, and I resorted to force to have my voice heard. However wrongheaded my tactical decision to resort to violence may have been, morally speaking my actions were justified."
In another he refers to people who send him money and books.
"Most of them have, of course, an agenda; mostly born-again Christians looking to save my soul. I suppose the assumption is made that because I'm in here I must be a 'sinner' in need of salvation, and they would be glad to sell me a ticket to heaven, hawking this salvation like peanuts at a ballgame. I do appreciate their charity, but I could really do without the condescension. They have been so nice I would hate to break it to them that I really prefer Nietzsche to the Bible."
His mother told USA Today it took two years for her son to tell her he was guilty and that she heard it from an assistant to one of his lawyers.
But she says she sensed something was wrong the first time she hugged him after he was caught in 2003. "I felt he was uneasy," she recalls. "It wasn't his usual grab-and-hug-you sort of thing."