Richard Jewell: A Life Turned Upside Down by False Accusations

Richard Jewell testifies before the House Judiciary Committee.
Richard Jewell testifies before the House Judiciary Committee.

Today is the birthday of Richard Jewell, the security guard who discovered a bomb during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and was later considered a suspect in the attack.

Here are some things you may not have known about him.

Richard Jewell was born Richard White in 1962 in Danville, Georgia. He was later adopted by his stepfather and took his last name. He worked as a security guard at Piedmont College in Georgia before working in the same capacity at the Centennial Olympic Park during the summer games.

After midnight on July 27, a man, later identified as Eric Rudolph, planted a backpack filled with three pipe bombs and masonry nails under a bench near where a concert was underway.

Jewell discovered the bag, alerted police, and then helped clear people from the area. Thirteen minutes after he discovered the suspicious bag, it detonated killing one woman and injuring more than 100 people. A television cameraman from Turkey died of a heart attack while running to cover the explosion.

Initially Jewell was hailed as a hero for his actions. Four days later, media outlets reported that Jewell was considered a potential suspect. Jewell’s lawyers claimed that the president of Piedmont College called investigators and provided them with false information that cast Jewell in a negative light. The suggested motive painted him as a failed law enforcement officer who planted the bomb to create a situation to make himself look like a hero. The FBI searched his home twice and kept him under 24-hour surveillance. He later took and passed a polygraph test. Three months later, he received a letter from the investigating U.S. Attorney clearing him of any wrongdoing.

Jewell went on to sue Piedmont College, NBC News, the New York Post, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and CNN for libeling him. Each of the defendants settled, with the exception of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. All of the news outlets said they stood by their reporting.

In 1997, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said the Justice Department owed Jewell an apology and that she regretted the information leak that implicated him.

In 2006, Georgia governor Sonny Perdue honored Jewell for his actions during the attack.

After the Olympics, Jewell worked as a police officer in Pendergrass, Georgia and as a sheriff’s deputy in Meriwether County, Georgia.

He died in 2007, suffering from heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes. He was 44.

In 2003, Eric Rudolph was arrested after seven years on the FBI’s list of ten most wanted fugitives. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to the Olympic Park bombing, as well as bombings at two abortion clinics and a lesbian nightclub. He was sentenced to four life terms.

Our question, Rudolph is being held at the Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, Colorado. What is nickname of the security level at that prison?

Today is National Day in Bhutan, and Wright Brothers Day in the United States. It’s unofficially National Maple Syrup Day. It’s the birthday of Pope Francis, marathoner Paula Radcliffe, and boxer Manny Pacquiao.


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