After five years on the run, Eric Rudolph is at last behind bars. He will now face trial in Birmingham, Ala. on charges stemming from the 1998 bombing of a Birmingham abortion clinic. An off-duty police officer moonlighting as a clinic security guard was killed in the explosion, and a nurse who had just arrived for work was seriously wounded. Rudolph is also suspected in three other bombings, all of which occurred in the Atlanta area. A woman was killed and more than 100 were injured in July 1996 when a bomb packed with masonry nails exploded in Atlanta’s Centennial Park, which at the time was crowded with visitors to the Olympic Games. In January 1997 a bomb exploded at a Sandy Springs abortion clinic, and a second bomb, apparently timed to harm rescue workers and investigators, exploded in the parking about an hour later. Five weeks later, four people were injured in a blast at a nightclub primarily patronized by homosexuals. Once again, the bomber evidently targeted rescuers, but police officers discovered and safely detonated a second device that had been hidden in the club’s parking lot.
Rudolph was identified as a suspect when a truck registered to him was seen driving from the scene of he Birmingham bombing, and forensic evidence linked him to the other two. For five years, federal, state, and local law-enforcement officers used search dogs, helicopters, and all manner of high-tech wizardry and low-tech woodsmanship as they combed the hills of western North Carolina in the manhunt. Not even the offer a $1 million reward was enough to loosen the lips of those said to be sympathetic to Rudolph and who may have helped him avoid capture all these years. In the end, all the crime-fighting resources of the federal government were for naught, for Rudolph was nailed by a cop from the Murphy, N.C. police department — a mere “local,” to use the feds’ derisive term — and a rookie at that. Jeff Postell, a police officer for just under a year, spotted Rudolph rummaging through a Dumpster near a Save-A-Lot grocery store and cornered him after a short chase. Rudolph initially identified himself as Jerry Wilson, but when challenged he admitted his true identity.
And so begins another high-profile journey through the justice system, every last moment of which will be examined from every conceivable angle, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. What on earth are the cable channels to do if the Eric Rudolph and Scott Peterson trials are underway simultaneously? How many ex-lawmen and “former federal prosecutors” will come out of the woodwork to claim their time in the soft and rosy glow of the media spotlight? The green room at the Fox News Channel will probably look like some kind of ex-cop convention. (I can see the sign now: “Ms. Van Susteren insists that guests check their guns before air time.”)
And how will the New York Times and others handle their coverage of the Rudolph trial? As was the case in the aftermath of the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, newspapers often run dreadfully long and exhaustive stories examining the “root causes” of crime whenever the perpetrators are members of this or that oppressed minority, as though such membership in some way mitigates one’s criminal culpability. A prediction: There will be no such stories in any major paper during the course of the Rudolph trial. Nor should there be.
ABOUT THOSE MISSING WMDS
I was a bit miffed to learn Michael Moore came to town this weekend and didn’t invite me out for so much as a sandwich and a beer (both of which, I’m guessing, he consumes in staggeringly large quantities). Well, he’s a busy man, so I’ll let it go this time. But I did tune in to C-SPAN to see him address a gathering at the Book Expo, held over the weekend at the L.A. Convention Center. If the event had instead been held on a cruise ship it would have listed dangerously to port, for despite the recent successes of such as O’Reilly, Coulter, and Hannity, the Book Crowd is dominated by liberals. No greater proof of this could be found than that on display in Moore’s address to a crowd of booksellers, publishers, agents, and the like on Sunday. Unlike at the Academy Awards, unfortunately, there was no orchestra to interrupt him, no dissenters to boo him, and no Steve Martin to poke fun at him afterward. And oh, how thunderously the bookish types applauded, how approvingly they nodded, how earnestly they Yes, Michael-ed, as Moore let fly with his usual menu of banalities, among which was of course a jab at President Bush for our failure to discover any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Now, unlike many of the writers appearing here on NRO, I’m no expert in matters of international relations or arms control. But I do know a few things about police work, and it is this experience that now enables me to be helpful to Mr. Moore and anyone else who may be skeptical that Saddam Hussein did in fact possess these dread weapons. From time to time police officers are called upon to obtain search warrants authorizing them to barge into people’s houses and look under the sofa cushions for things they are not allowed to have. To obtain a search warrant a police officer must convince an impartial magistrate there is a probability that these proscribed items are to be found in the house to be searched. There are a number of steps that precede the execution of a search warrant, one of the most important of which is an adherence to secrecy. This may come as a surprise to Michael Moore, but if I call up some miscreant and say, “Now look here, sir, we’re coming over to your house in two weeks’ time, and we’re going to have a look around the place, including under the sofa cushions, and if we find anything in the way of contraband you’ll be hauled into the dock for a stern lecture from the judge and long spell in the jug,” well, it’s safe to speculate that when the appointed hour arrives the only thing we’ll find under those sofa cushions is some loose change and some cracker crumbs.
So, given the time Saddam Hussein had to prepare, it hardly seems surprising that our best efforts have turned up little in the way of banned weapons. But then, if we find them now, Michael Moore will only say we planted them there. Wherever Saddam Hussein is now, I’ll bet he’s got Johnnie Cochran’s number on the speed-dial.
— Jack Dunphy is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. “Jack Dunphy” is the author’s nom de cyber. The opinions expressed are his own and almost certainly do not reflect those of the LAPD management.