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Richard Jewell - Bombing at Centennial Olympic Park

Richard Jewell - Bombing at Centennial Olympic Park

In Atlanta, Georgia, the XXVI Summer Olympiad is disrupted by the explosion of a nail-laden pipe bomb in Centennial Olympic Park. The bombing, which occurred during a free concert, killed a mother who had brought her daughter to hear the rock music and injured more than 100 others, including a Turkish cameraman who suffered a fatal heart attack after the blast. Police were warned of the bombing in advance, but the bomb exploded before the anonymous caller said it would, leading authorities to suspect that the law enforcement officers who descended on the park were indirectly targeted. Within a few days, Richard Jewell, a security guard at the concert, was under investigation for the crime. However, evidence against him was dubious at best, and in October he was fully cleared of all responsibility in the bombing.

READ MORE: Why the Hunt for the Real Atlanta Bomber Took Nearly 7 Years

On January 16, 1997, another bomb exploded outside an abortion clinic in suburban Atlanta, blowing a hole in the building’s wall. An hour later, while police and ambulance workers were still at the scene, a second blast went off near a large trash bin, injuring seven people. As at Centennial Park, a nail-laden bomb was used and authorities were targeted. Then, only five days later, also in Atlanta, a nail-laden bomb exploded near the patio area of a crowded gay and lesbian nightclub, injuring five people. A second bomb in a backpack was found outside after the first explosion, but police safely detonated it. Federal investigators linked the bombings, but no suspect was arrested.

On January 29, 1998, an abortion clinic was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama, killing an off-duty police officer and critically wounding a nurse. An automobile reported at the crime scene was later found abandoned near the Georgia state line, and investigators traced it to Eric Robert Rudolph, a 31-year-old carpenter. Although Rudolph was not immediately found, authorities positively identified him as the culprit in the Birmingham and Atlanta bombings, and an extensive manhunt began.

Despite being one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives, Rudolph eluded the authorities for five years by hiding in the mountains in western North Carolina before finally being captured on May 31, 2003. As part of a plea agreement that helped him avoid a death sentence, Rudolph pled guilty to all three bombings, as well as the 1998 murder of a police officer, and was sentenced on July 18, 2005 to four consecutive life terms.

READ MORE: When World Events Disrupted the Olympics

The Atlanta Olympic Park bombing, 20 years on: have we learned the lessons?

Richard Jewell’s vigilance saved countless lives, but the constellation of factors that conspired to destroy his name are even more present today. Has the media – and to a broader extent a society – learned anything?

Last modified on Thu 25 Aug 2016 19.33 BST

T he biggest hero of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta won no medals, broke no records and signed no endorsement deals. It was neither a lithe sprinter nor a limber gymnast. He was a 33-year-old security guard on temporary hire who lived with his mother.

The name of Richard Allensworth Jewell will forever endure in Olympic lore for the early morning of 27 July 1996, when he spotted an unattended green backpack beneath a light and sound tower at Centennial Olympic Park, the designated town square of the Atlanta Games. He immediately alerted Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) officers and began clearing the area. The pipe bomb within the knapsack exploded minutes later, causing the death of two people and injuring 111 others, but Jewell’s vigilance had spared countless lives and his hometown the gruesome legacy of what could have been the worst tragedy in Olympic history.

The bombing, which came only 10 days after the explosion of TWA Flight 800 killed all 230 people on board, cast a pall over the remainder of the Olympics and prompted heightened security measures that presaged America after 9/11. With the FBI under pressure to make an arrest and news organizations desperate for the scoop, a miscarriage of justice followed as Jewell went from a hero to a suspect within days, a burden that haunted him long past his ultimate exoneration until his 2007 death.

Twenty years on, as the Rio Olympics draw near amid an ever quickening news cycle with media outlets subject to even more competitive pressures, the saga of Jewell raises the question: what have we as an industry – and to a wider extent as a society – learned from the destruction of a man’s name? The answer is, not much.

J ewell was one of about 30,000 police and guards, the largest peacetime security force in US history, enlisted to protect the Atlanta Olympics. He’d been hired as a temporary contractor by the security firm Anthony Davis Associates and had been on duty for nearly seven hours in Centennial Park when he spotted the unattended pack beneath a bench near the tower at 12.58am. Nine minutes later a 911 call from a nearby phone booth told dispatchers: “There is a bomb in Centennial Park. You have 30 minutes.”

At 1.15am, a team of security officers including Jewell began clearing the area. The contents, three pipe bombs surrounded by masonry nails, detonated roughly 10 minutes later before all spectators could be removed. Among the fallen were Alice Hawthorne, a 44-year-old cable TV company receptionist from Georgia who died of “multiple penetration injuries” from the flying metal fragments, and Turkish cameraman Melih Uzunyol, 40, who died of a heart attack while rushing to film the scene.

Bill Clinton decried the Olympic Park bombing as a “pure act of terror” in the hours after the explosion.

Olympic officials called a 5.15am press conference to say the Games would continue just as they had in Munich 1972, when Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli team members. Around 10am, President Bill Clinton condemned the bombing as a “pure act of terror” and an “act of cowardice which stands against the courage of the athletes”. He praised the security who spotted the package, called it in and prevented severe loss of life.

Behind the scenes Jewell was interviewed by the secret service, the GBI and the FBI. That night CNN reported that he was the first to catch sight of the suspicious bag and he was lauded as a hero in the next day’s papers. But when Piedmont College president Ray Cleere phoned the FBI the following afternoon to suggest that Jewell, a former campus security guard at the school with a reputation for overzealousness, might have planted the bomb himself in order to play the hero, the FBI looked further into his background.

A postmortem later filed by the justice department’s internal watchdog unit indicates that by Monday morning, Jewell had emerged as the FBI’s “principal (though not the only) suspect in the Centbom investigation”, saying that he fit the profile of a wannabe cop who believed that making himself a hero at the Olympics would help him land a permanent job in law enforcement. Sometime over the next day, an FBI source leaked Jewell’s name as a person of interest in the case.

At 4.50pm on Tuesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a special edition led by a 10-paragraph, 365-word story with no attribution that stated Jewell was the “focus of a federal investigation”. The banner headline screamed: FBI suspects ‘hero’ guard may have planted bomb.

Lin Wood, Jewell’s attorney, holds a copy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution extra edition that branded his client as a suspect. Photograph: Doug Collier/AFP/Getty Images

Seven minutes later CNN broadcast the story, holding the Journal-Constitution up to the camera. At 5.11pm, the Associated Press released a wire story attributed to its own sources. Shortly after, NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw said on air: “The speculation is that the FBI is close to ‘making the case’, in their language. They probably have enough to arrest him right now, probably enough to prosecute him, but you always want to have enough to convict him as well. There are still some holes in this case.”

A second-day opinion piece in the Atlanta newspaper only doubled down on the scoop: “Like this one, he became famous in the aftermath of murder. His name was Wayne Williams,” columnist Dave Kindred wrote, referencing the serial child murderer. “This one is Richard Jewell.’’

Early in his career, Jewell often found himself in trouble

Richard Allensworth Jewell was born Richard White in Danville, Virginia, on December 17, 1962. His parents split when he was four years old, and his mother, Bobi, married insurance executive with the now-familiar surname, before the family moved to Atlanta.

According to profiles in Vanity Fair and Atlanta , Jewell was an earnest, helpful type who worked as a crossing guard and operated the movie projector in the library, but seemingly had few friends in high school. Afterward, he briefly pursued a career as a mechanic, before landing a job as a supply room clerk at the Small Business Administration, where he met lawyer Watson Bryant, who would later serve a crucial role in defending him.

Yearning to enter law enforcement, Jewell was hired as a jailer in the Habersham County sheriff&aposs department, in northeastern Georgia, in 1990. He also took up a side job as a security guard of the apartment complex he called home, and it was here that his zealousness for the job first landed him in trouble: After busting a couple making too much noise in a hot tub, Jewell was charged with impersonating an officer, placed on probation and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation.

Jewell regained his standing in the department and even earned a promotion to deputy sheriff, but after crashing his patrol car in 1995 while allegedly pursuing a suspicious vehicle, he resigned instead of accepting the demotion back to jailer.

In a new job as a campus security officer at nearby Piedmont College, Jewell made enemies within the student body for breaking up parties and reporting offending students to their parents, and angered his superiors for going beyond his jurisdiction to arrest speeding motorists on the highway. He resigned in May 1996, and with his mother scheduled to undergo foot surgery, he returned to Atlanta to live with her and find a new job.

Richard Jewell looks through stairs at his apartment complex while the FBI and local police agents search his apartment on July 31, 1996

Photo: DOUG COLLIER/AFP via Getty Images

A Man's Life Turned Inside Out By Government and the Media

Two days after Richard A. Jewell found the bomb that later exploded during the Olympic Games here, he received a telephone call from a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent whom he considered a longtime friend.

The agent, Tim Attaway, who was assigned to work in Centennial Olympic Park during the Olympics, told Mr. Jewell that he had been off duty when the bomb detonated in the park and was having trouble finding out what had happened. Mr. Jewell, a security guard hired to protect an AT&T sound and light tower in the park, promptly invited his friend to come to his apartment for a lasagna dinner.

For nearly two hours, Mr. Jewell poured out a story, laced liberally with police talk and profanity, about how he had been guarding the tower when he noticed a suspicious green knapsack that was later found to contain the bomb. But it was only weeks later, after Mr. Jewell became a suspect in the July 27 bombing, that he realized that his friend had not called on him purely to satisfy a personal curiosity.

Mr. Attaway was legally wired with a concealed recording device that captured his conversation with Mr. Jewell. The transcript of the meeting, Mr. Jewell's lawyers say, depicts both the naivete and the earnestness of a man who had no reason to believe he was under suspicion.

In the transcript, said G. Watson Bryant Jr., one of Mr. Jewell's lawyers, ''Richard Jewell has got diarrhea of the mouth like you can't even imagine. Attaway, all he gets a chance to say is 'Uh-huh,' now and then.''

State and Federal investigators spared no resources in their efforts to prove that Mr. Jewell was the person who planted a pipe bomb in a crowded park, an act that killed one woman, injured 111 people, and transformed the 1996 Summer Olympics into a symbol of America's vulnerability to terrorism. For a while, at least, the F.B.I. firmly believed it had its man.

But after three months, none of the bureau's investigative tools -- not the surveillance, not the searches, not the polygraphs and the deceptive interviews, not even the hairs plucked from Mr. Jewell's head -- revealed any significant evidence that Mr. Jewell was the bomber.

On Saturday, the Justice Department formally cleared Mr. Jewell by issuing a highly unusual letter announcing that he was no longer a ''target,'' barring the discovery of new evidence.

Mr. Jewell's saga provides a fresh object lesson about the immense power of the Federal Government to disrupt the lives of those it only suspects of misdeeds, even with the thinnest of evidence. And just as damning, it speaks volumes about the capacity of the modern-day news media to cause irreparable damage in a highly competitive business where information -- sometimes questionable information -- can travel across the globe in milliseconds.

The case also raises questions about the tactics used by the state and Federal agents who investigated the park bombing.

In an interview today, Mr. Jewell said he was ''overjoyed'' to receive the letter and an accompanying statement from Kent B. Alexander, the United States Attorney in Atlanta, expressing regret that the investigation had intruded on the lives of Mr. Jewell and his mother, Barbara. But Mr. Jewell said it may never dissolve his worldwide notoriety. Nor can it wash away the three months he spent as a virtual captive in the apartment he shares with his mother on Atlanta's Buford Highway, watching television, playing video games, and agonizing over the distress he was causing his family.

''There will not only always be a shadow, but I think there's going to be a deep hole and river to cross everywhere I go,'' Mr. Jewell said. ''There will be a nonhealing scar that is always affixed to my name. I don't know if that will ever be cleared up.''

Now, Mr. Jewell said, he plans to look for work in law enforcement. But he is not optimistic. '➾tween slim and none,'' he said of his chances. ''I don't know of any police department who would hire an officer who has so much press, negative and positive, as I have.''

Mr. Jewell also plans to sue several newspapers and television networks that he maintains have distorted his life story and his role in the bombing, according to his civil lawyers, L. Lin Wood and Wayne Grant.

After The Atlanta Journal reported on July 30 that Mr. Jewell had become the focus of the investigation into the bombing, a CNN anchor read the article verbatim on the air. Reports about Mr. Jewell led the nightly news and many newspapers the next morning. In each medium, forensic psychologists were enlisted to describe him as a loner type who fit the profile of a bomber.

The news media, Mr. Jewell said today, ''just jumped on it like piranha on a bleeding cow.''

For Mr. Jewell, the ironies surrounding his situation have at times been unbearable, say those who know him.

For most of his hapless career as a security guard and sheriff's deputy, the beefy 33-year-old had dreamed of hitting it big in law enforcement, handling his duties with such zealousness that he often alienated his superiors. But while those qualities may have helped Mr. Jewell find the bomb in Centennial Olympic Park, they also formed the foundation of the suspicions that quickly enveloped him.

After discovering the bomb, and helping to clear park visitors away from it, Mr. Jewell may have momentarily found the respect he had sought. But in characteristic fashion, his moment of achievement quickly dissolved into an unthinkable nightmare.

A Willing Witness, A Question of Tactics

The interview conducted by Mr. Attaway was not the only time that investigators tried to take advantage of Mr. Jewell's eagerness to please the agents he so admired.

On July 30, shortly after The Atlanta Journal had published its story about Mr. Jewell, two F.B.I. agents arrived at Mr. Jewell's apartment and asked him to come to headquarters to help them make a training film on how to interrogate a witness.

Midway through the videotaped session, an agent, Don Johnson, left the room and then returned to tell Mr. Jewell that in order to make the film realistic he was going to start the interview anew and ask him to sign a waiver of his constitutional rights to remain silent and request a lawyer.

''See, what I'm going to do,'' Mr. Johnson explained, according to Mr. Jewell's lawyers, who reviewed a transcript of the interview, ''is I'm going to go right through it like, uh, I'm going to walk up and introduce myself to you, basically tell you who I am, show you my credentials, just like you are doing a professional interview. O.K.? And then, uh, I'll just ask you a couple of questions like your name and your age and what I'll do is I'm even going to go as far as to advise you of your rights. O.K.? Do you understand that?''

As Mr. Johnson handed him the waiver form, known as a Miranda warning, Mr. Jewell became concerned and asked to call a lawyer.

''Richard, do, do, do you feel you need a lawyer?'' asked Diader Rosario, another F.B.I. agent.

Mr. Johnson added: ''Is there something that is bothering you why you think you need an attorney? It is my understanding that you are a hero.''

Mr. Jewell's lawyers are convinced that the F.B.I.'s intent was to use the training film as a ruse to gather a videotaped statement that would give the impression that Mr. Jewell had waived his constitutional rights.

Federal law-enforcement officials describe a different scenario. At the moment that Mr. Jewell was in the F.B.I. interrogation room, officials in Washington and Atlanta were debating the question of whether he should be given a Miranda warning before being interviewed, the officials said.

Some officials, primarily those in Atlanta, believed it was unnecessary because Mr. Jewell was not in custody and because evidence of his culpability had not yet been established. In Washington, however, officials including F.B.I. Director Louis J. Freeh felt strongly that to avoid legal challenge Mr. Jewell had to be informed of his legal rights.

Midway through the interview, Mr. Freeh contacted agents in Atlanta and instructed them to give the Miranda warning, Federal law-enforcement officials said. Some agents felt at the time that the decision cost them an opportunity to get significant admissions from Mr. Jewell.

Mr. Jewell's lawyers consider the F.B.I.'s tactics to be indefensible. ''The fact that they tricked him for a training film when he was not in custody, that's slimy, but legal,'' said Jack Martin, Mr. Jewell's criminal defense lawyer. 'ɻut to try to get him to sign a document which somebody was going to use for some purpose as if it was a real Miranda waiver when it obviously was not, that may be an intentional violation of constitutional rights. Anybody who's been around this business knows that that crossed the line.''

After contacting Mr. Bryant, his lawyer, from F.B.I. headquarters, Mr. Jewell drove home to find a mob of reporters waiting. That night, he and Mr. Bryant watched together in amazement as the story unfolded on television.

''Now we've become conditioned to this, but at the time you can't imagine how astonishing it was to turn on Larry King, when you are just some ordinary Joe that nobody ever heard of, and you've got Daryl Gates and Bill Sessions discussing you with Larry King on national television,'' Mr. Bryant said. ''I just looked at him and said, ⟊n you believe this?' ''

Reports Reinforce Officials' Suspicions

Mr. Jewell apparently first aroused the suspicions of the F.B.I. late on the day of the bombing, when officials at Piedmont College notified agents of their concerns about the security guard who was being portrayed as a hero in television reports.

Mr. Jewell had worked as a security guard at the 1,000-student college in Demorest, Ga., for about 13 months in 1995 and 1996, and had been quietly nudged out of his job because school leaders considered him 'ɺ bit over the top,'' according to Scott Rawles, a college spokesman. Mr. Jewell, according to Piedmont officials, had a habit of stopping motorists on a highway outside of his jurisdiction and of bullying students about minor infractions. ''He was looking for big police responsibilities,'' Mr. Rawles said.

As F.B.I. agents intensified their examination of Mr. Jewell, their suspicions were reinforced by any number of stories they heard about a small-time officer who seemingly wanted to be bigger than he was.

''His heart seemed to be in the right place, but it was the way he went about things,'' said Ronnie James of the Police Department in Cornelia, near Piedmont College. ''He alienated people in the way he went about things. You've heard of a wannabe? Well, that was Richard, more or less.''

Last year, while working as a Habersham County sheriff's deputy in north Georgia, Mr. Jewell had an accident in a department vehicle. It was at that point that people recall Mr. Jewell leaving the department, not so much under a cloud but certainly amid questions. One official in the county called the accident ''the straw that broke the camel's back.''

In 1990, Mr. Jewell had been charged with impersonating an officer, a felony, in connection with an incident at the Atlanta apartment complex where he lived and worked as a security guard. Mr. Jewell subsequently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, was sentenced to 12 months' probation, and was ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation, according to court records.

All of those incidents, and others, presumably led Federal investigators to conclude that Mr. Jewell might be the kind of police officer who would create a crisis in order to heroically save the day.

Shortly after The Atlanta Journal reported that Mr. Jewell had become a suspect, the F.B.I. prepared an affidavit detailing evidence against him in a successful effort to obtain search warrants for his apartment, his truck, and his storage shed.

The affidavit was sealed, but it has been provided under court order to Mr. Jewell's lawyers and they describe it, in Mr. Martin's words, as ''very, very thin.''

It includes, according to Mr. Martin, everything from derogatory comments about Mr. Jewell made by students at Piedmont College to a recounting of a minor inconsistency between Mr. Jewell's description of his actions after the explosion and his actual actions as caught on videotape.

''The subtext of it is here are all these suspicious things about him wanting to be a hero or being the overly aggressive police officer,'' Mr. Martin said.

In the ensuing weeks, other stories emerged. An inmate once incarcerated in the Habersham County jail told the F.B.I. that Mr. Jewell had pulled him aside one day and told him how to make bombs. The prisoner flunked a polygraph, Mr. Martin said.

The F.B.I. also became suspicious, Mr. Martin said, upon learning that Mr. Jewell had disappeared from his post in the park for 15 or 20 minutes several hours before the explosion. After much investigation, agents apparently were satisfied that Mr. Jewell, suffering from intestinal problems, had gone to the bathroom.

Some Questions Begin to Surface

From the beginning, there were reasons to doubt that Mr. Jewell was the bomber.

According to police logs, the knapsack containing the bomb was discovered at approximately 12:57 A.M. Less than two minutes later, a 911 telephone call came into Atlanta police headquarters warning that a bomb would explode in the park in 30 minutes. It detonated at 1:20 A.M.

The 911 call was made from a pay telephone several blocks away from the park, and it was quickly clear to the F.B.I. that Mr. Jewell could not have pointed out the knapsack and then negotiated his way through the crowded park to the telephone in less than two minutes. In addition, law-enforcement officers who worked with Mr. Jewell to clear people away from the knapsack said they did not remember him leaving. That realization, however, did not eliminate the possibility of an accomplice, or that the call was somehow a coincidence.

Questions also were raised about why anyone would plant so dangerous a bomb and then remain within the range of its blast. Some law-enforcement behaviorists apparently speculated that someone with a hero complex might feel the need to create a truly deadly crisis in order to later be hailed as a savior.

On the morning of July 31, carloads of agents arrived at Mr. Jewell's modest apartment and began to haul away virtually all of his possessions, ranging from his guns to rolls of duct tape to his mother's Tupperware. Mr. Jewell watched from the steps outside, and a long line of television cameras recorded the scene from across the parking lot.

But apparently, prolonged testing and tracing of Mr. Jewell's belongings turned up no physical evidence against him.

''I fully expect that when they went out there to Richard's house that they thought they were going to find something terribly damaging and the case would be closed and they would move on,'' Mr. Martin said. ''When they didn't find anything, they were totally baffled.''

Hoping to Return To Normalcy

Throughout the investigation, Mr. Jewell chose to spend most of his time in his apartment to avoid the reporters and F.B.I. agents stationed outside his door. For a time, a consortium of television networks paid $1,000 a day to a tenant in a neighboring apartment complex for the right to use her unit for their stakeouts.

Mr. Jewell said today that he spent his time watching old movies, playing Nintendo video games, and talking on the telephone, ''trying not to say the wrong thing'' because he assumed that his line was tapped. He stayed sane, he said, only because he was trying to remain strong for his mother.

Mr. Jewell's rare ventures outside often devolved into black comedy. A trip to the kennel to pick up his dog instigated a high-speed chase on Atlanta's interstates by unmarked F.B.I. cars and a television van.

When Mr. Bryant took Mr. Jewell to an Atlanta Braves baseball game one night, they watched with glee as the trailing F.B.I. agents had difficulty talking their way into the restricted parking lot used by season ticket holders like Mr. Bryant.

There were moments of encouragement. When walking to lunch one day with Mr. Wood and Mr. Grant, a security guard reached to place a $10 bill in Mr. Jewell's hand. ''I just want you to know how much we support you,'' the guard said, according to Mr. Wood. ''What else was a security guard supposed to do than what you did?''

Now, Mr. Jewell hopes that life may return to some semblance of normalcy. But with the Justice Department's clearance letter thrusting him back into the news, that may take a while.

Asked today how his mother was faring, Mr. Jewell said, ''She's been better. She woke up this morning to find more press in the parking lot. She was not real happy.''


This article originally appeared in our July 2011 issue.

As midnight approached on Friday, July 26, 1996, there were still 15,000 people crowding Centennial Olympic Park. A heat wave that had kept temperatures hovering near 90 degrees for the past week had broken, and there was a cool breeze in the air.

For eight days, ever since Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic cauldron to open the Summer Games, the eyes of the world had been fixed on Atlanta. A stroll through Centennial Park meant overhearing conversations in exotic tongues, or standing in line behind someone from Ireland while standing in front of someone from Nigeria, or swapping pins with a visitor from Australia.

If you were there that evening, you may have passed by twenty-nine-year-old Eric Robert Rudolph, dressed in jeans and a blue short-sleeve shirt. A large pack was strapped to his back. Rudolph had grown up in the mountains of western North Carolina, where he had come under the influence of Nord Davis Jr. Besides being a former IBM executive, Davis was the leader of the Christian Identity movement, which posits that Jews are the children of Satan and that Christ cannot return to Earth until the world is swept clean of the devil’s influences. Davis said often that the movement needed a “lone wolf”—an agent who could plan and execute an attack all on his own, telling no one.

For the past seven years, Rudolph had been a voracious reader of the Bible and of hate-filled propaganda denouncing gays, abortion, the government. He worked odd jobs, always demanding cash payment, and grew marijuana. He filed no tax returns and had no Social Security number. Two months before the Games, he told his family he was moving to Colorado, but actually he stayed in North Carolina. At some point, he decided to plant bombs on five consecutive days at Olympic venues, each one preceded by a warning call to 911. His goal was simple: shut down the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

As the R&B band Jack Mack and the Heart Attack took the AT&T Stage that evening, Richard Jewell, a thirty-three-year-old security guard, kept watch near the sound and light tower. Born in Virginia, he moved to DeKalb County with his mother when he was six, after his parents divorced. He graduated from Towers High School and worked as a clerk at the Small Business Administration. A lawyer he befriended there would describe Jewell as earnest, sometimes to the point of being annoying.

Jewell always wanted to be a cop. In 1990 he landed an entry-level job as a jailer with the Habersham County Sheriff’s Department. While working a second job as a security guard at his DeKalb County apartment complex, Jewell was arrested for impersonating an officer he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was put on probation.

He worked as a deputy sheriff for five years, and he was remembered for his zeal for the job and his tendency to wreck patrol cars. After his fourth crash, Jewell was demoted back to jailer. He chose instead to resign.

He was hired as a campus cop in 1995 at the tiny Piedmont College in Demorest. It was an ill fit. Jewell would write long, detailed reports on minor incidents. He upset college officials when he stopped someone for operating with one taillight. Although the main highway ran past the school, traffic violations were supposed to be handled by the Demorest police. He got into trouble when he made a DUI arrest on the highway and didn’t follow protocol by radioing the police department to handle the case.

He resigned in May of 1996 and moved into his mother’s apartment on Buford Highway. She was about to have foot surgery he wanted to be there for her and also to find a police job in the Atlanta area after the Games. In June he began working for a security firm contracted by AT&T, which was building a stage in Centennial Park. Jewell joked to a friend that if anything happened at the Games, he wanted to be in the middle of it.

Saturday, July 27
Rudolph found an out-of-the-way spot in front of the sound and light tower that faced the AT&T stage. Inside his backpack were three pipe bombs filled with gunpowder and six pounds of 2.5-inch steel nails, stuffed into Tupperware containers. The bombs were powered by an Eveready six-volt lantern battery hooked to a model rocket engine igniter and triggered by a Westclox alarm clock.

Rudolph put the bag on the ground, reached inside, and set the alarm to go off in fifty-five minutes. There were three benches in front of the tower. The one to his left was tucked against a steel barrier that paralleled what is now Centennial Olympic Park Drive, and he stashed the bag under that bench. Michael Cox, who worked for the Turner Associates architectural firm, and some friends were at the bench minutes before Rudolph’s arrival.

Michael Cox: We were sitting on that bench about thirty minutes before the bomb went off, and we saw Eric Rudolph in the park. He really stood out well, it was his backpack that stood out, because it was huge. It wasn’t a hiker’s backpack it was big and boxy. I remember wondering, why in the world would somebody be wearing a backpack like that?

Sometime after midnight, the band took a break. During the lull, a group of seven college-aged men walked up to the three benches in front of the sound tower. Five of them sat on the middle bench the other two sat on the bench above the bomb.

They were drunk and rowdy, which drew Jewell’s attention. He noticed they had two large bags. The one in front of the middle bench looked like a canvas cooler, and he saw them pull fresh Budweisers from it. The other was a large, green, Army-style backpack that was shoved under the bench by the steel wall.

Jewell called over Tom Davis, a GBI agent who was working security in the park.

Tom Davis: [He] flagged me down and told me he’d been having a problem with drunks throwing beer cans into the tower. He said, “They won’t listen to me I need someone in law enforcement to talk to them.”

We walked around the tower and saw a couple of guys picking up beer cans. Richard Jewell said, “That’s a couple of them, but the rest have left.” Then those two left. We’re standing by the tower, and he looks down at this bench and says, “One of them must’ve left that bag.”

Richard Jewell: It was just that casual. Tom turned around and hollered at them, “Did you all leave a bag up here?” And they said, “No, it ain’t ours.”

There were at least a couple hundred people sitting on a grassy knoll in front of the tower. Davis and Jewell quickly asked those closest to the benches if the bag belonged to them. When no one claimed it, Davis followed procedure he declared it a suspicious package and called for the bomb team. Jewell radioed his supervisor.

They then cleared a fifteen-foot perimeter so the bomb team would have room to check out the backpack. It was 12:57 a.m. One minute later, Rudolph called 911 from a pay phone five blocks away from the tower. He announced in a calm, flat voice, “There is a bomb in Centennial Park. You have thirty minutes.” He was wrong they had only twenty-two. While Davis waited for the bomb team, Jewell went inside the five-story sound tower.

Jewell: I went to each floor very quickly and [said], “We’ve got a situation in front of the tower. Law enforcement is on the scene, and they [are] checking it. I don’t know what it is right now, but it is a suspicious package. If I come back in here and tell you to get out, there will be no questions, there will be no hesitation. Drop what you’re doing and get the fuck out.”

After I got to the top, I came back down, and the whole time I was counting people. I wanted to make sure I knew how many people I had in the tower. [There were] eleven people.

By the time Jewell emerged, the bomb team had arrived. So had Jewell’s supervisor, Bob Ahring, an assistant police chief from Blue Springs, Missouri.

Jewell: The guys looked at it from every angle, and then finally one of them took out a penlight and laid down on the ground and crawled under the bench, and then he loosened the bag and shined the light inside. All of a sudden . . . he just froze, and then he crawled out just as slow as molasses in wintertime.

Bob Ahring: I asked one of the guys, “What have we got?” I could see he was shaken. “It’s big,” he said. “How big?” I asked. “Real big,” he said. I said, “Do we need to evacuate?” The guy just vigorously nodded his head.

Davis and Ahring were quickly joined by other officers to help get the crowd away from the tower, and to do it without inducing panic. Jewell hurried back into the tower, which stood to take the brunt of the impact if the bomb exploded.

Jewell: I said, “Get out! Get out now!” Went to the second floor: “Get out! Get out now!” Third floor, nobody was there. Up to the fourth floor. Told the video guy, “Let’s go! Let’s get out of here!” Went up to the [light box], said, “Let’s get out of here! Let’s go now!” They were wanting to cut their spotlights out. I grabbed both of them and pushed them down the stairs.

I came down to the video floor. The guy’s putting videocassettes in his briefcase. I reached over there and grabbed him by the arm and just drug him down the stairs with me. Came down to the third floor. It was clear. Went down to the second floor. Everybody had cleared out of there. Went down to the first floor. Checked it again. I was the last one out of the building.

One of the troopers walked up, “Is the tower clear? Is the tower clear?” I said, “Yeah, it’s clear, 100 percent clear.”

If we’d had three more minutes, we’d have [cleared the area]. All these benches were still full of people. They wouldn’t move. Every one of them had four and five people on them. The [officers] lined theirselves up with the benches. When that thing went off, they took all the shrapnel that those people would have took.

Davis: I know exactly where I was standing when it went off I was eighteen steps from where it detonated. It was very loud, and it was very forceful. The vacuum it created was immense and shoved me forward. I remember the heat from it on my back.

Ahring: I was just ten yards away. The concussion knocked me forward six feet, and I wound up on the ground. There was smoke everywhere, the smell of gun­powder. There was a sudden deathly quiet throughout the whole park, and I could hear the whistle of shrapnel whizzing through the air. It was the eeriest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.

Jewell: I’d been out of the tower maybe a minute and “kabang!” It knocked me forward, and I fell down on my hands and knees. As I pushed myself back up, I looked to my right because that’s where the blast come from. Those troopers that had been lined up with those benches were flying through the air. It had knocked them that far. I started running to those—hell, they’re my buddies. I get to the first guy and I’m helping him lay down. I’m telling him, “Just lay flat, man. We’ll get you some help, man.”

Every one of these guys is a bigger fucking hero than I am. If I’m a hero, there ain’t a word to describe these guys right here. I mean, it wells me up every time I think about it.

Alice Hawthorne, forty-four, who had driven from Albany, was killed by shrapnel. Hawthorne was hit six times, including a fatal wound to the head. Melih Uzunyol, a Turkish news cameraman, died of a heart attack while rushing to the scene. In total, 111 others were injured. Ahring was hit in his left shoulder and lower left leg. Davis was hit as well, in the buttocks. But the GBI badge holder in his back pocket blocked the shrapnel.

Among the injured was John Fristoe, a stagehand who heard about the bomb threat from security and was walking toward the tower to warn a friend inside. The force of the blast caused a whiplash that collapsed a disc in his neck, an injury that almost paralyzed him.

John Fristoe: Ms. Hawthorne, I saw her. She was coming down the hill [head over heels]. Seriously. It was horrible, man. [begins to weep] I’m sorry. I’ve never witnessed a murder before.

Davis: It was utter chaos. We had troopers down and agents down. There was screaming and hollering. I remember checking on Ms. Hawthorne. She had already expired. A man beside her was bleeding profusely from the stomach area where shrapnel hit him.

The Centennial Park bombing put the city into a state of shock. The immediate question was whether the Games would continue—was it even safe for the Games to continue? Ed Hula covered the Atlanta Games for WGST-AM. Today he is editor of Around the Rings, a web-based publication considered an authoritative media source of Olympic news.

Ed Hula: There were questions: Is this an isolated instance? Will there be more of these? How can we go on with the Olympics with a couple of people dead? Some said the Games shouldn’t continue, but they did. There was precedent—the Munich Games in 1972. That was more dastardly, more consequential, and much more of a significant event than the Centennial Park bombing. And those Games continued.

Nancy Geery: During the Olympics, I worked at a recruiting firm. Everyone was caught up in the spirit of the Games, and I wanted to be involved, so I worked nights in a Swatch kiosk selling watches. I was in the park the night of the bombing. It was very festive, a lot of camaraderie. Afterwards there was fear in the back of your mind. I was twenty-six at the time. I had tickets to the track and field finals, really fantastic seats, and I went. At that age, I was not as afraid of things. Now? Oh no, I would’ve never gone back there.

Cox: The city had been on a euphoric high because of the Olympics for weeks and weeks. The bombing was a sucker punch to the gut. I was outraged that someone would do that to the Olympics in my hometown.

Late Saturday morning, officials held a press conference and credited a security guard with discovering the bomb before it exploded, which had enabled officials to move a large number of people out of harm’s way.

CNN was the first news organization to get an interview with the guard who found the bomb. Bryant Steele, who handled media relations in the Southeast for AT&T, met Jewell outside the CNN Center around 7:30 that evening and escorted him inside. Jewell wore one of the security firm’s black polo shirts and a black cap. He had barely slept in the past twenty-four hours.

Jewell: [My mother and I] got there late because we couldn’t park anywhere near Downtown. They literally ran us straight to the control room, sat me down, put a mic on me, and said, “Be ready in about five seconds.” I told them I’d never done anything like that before, and I was very nervous about it. They told me to be myself and just go tell what happened.

Bryant Steele: I said to [Jewell] that there would be more of these interview requests coming up and you need to think about your willingness to do them.

Jewell: I told them that I would do whatever they wanted me to do. They would call me up and say, “Do you mind doing this?” And I would say, “No, that’s fine if that’s what you all want me to do.” I worked for them. I felt obligated that I needed to do what they asked me to do.

Sunday, July 28
CNN aired the Jewell interview over and over in its coverage of the Centennial Park bombing. He was heralded as a hero of the Summer Games.

That morning Steele drove Jewell to a ninety-minute session with the FBI to go over everything he’d seen the night before. Steele then took Jewell back to CNN to tape a more in-depth interview. While they were there, USA Today paged Steele. Then the Boston Globe. They wanted interviews with Jewell.

Because they were in Downtown, Steele decided to call the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He said he considered it a courtesy to the hometown paper.

Steele: I told them that both CNN and USA Today were interviewing the security guard who found the knapsack that contained the bomb in Centennial Park. I told them I was accompanying him to his interviews, and if they would like to also interview him, I would be glad to bring him over.

One person who watched the CNN interview was Ray Cleere, the president of Piedmont College. According to a Justice Department audit of the FBI’s CENTBOM investigation, Cleere called the FBI Sunday afternoon and expressed concern that Jewell may have been involved in the bombing. Cleere also said the college had information concerning “improper conduct,” as he phrased it, by Jewell—a reference that turned out to be nothing more than Jewell’s practice of stopping cars on the highway that went past the campus.

Cleere and Dick Martin, the chief of the campus police, contended in their depositions that the intent was simply to tell the FBI the college would cooperate if the FBI did a due diligence background check on Jewell.

Ray Cleere: We agreed that the investigation would begin with anyone that might have been in the area [of the bombing], including the officers involved. We felt that we would soon be contacted by law enforcement. We agreed that we should cast the institution in the proper light by agreeing to cooperate in any way [that] we were called upon.

Dick Martin: We had no belief that Richard Jewell was involved in this bomb. We said that clearly. I said that the first time I called, that we were only volunteering what information we had about his employment. That was it.

I think I did use the word “with a slightly erratic work record” or something to that effect. [And one of my officers] told me, “Richard did have a little knowledge of bombs. Me and Richard talked about bombs several times.” That caught me by surprise. My feelings were, “Gosh, I wish I hadn’t heard that.” I had a feeling that this was going to kind of muddy things up.

The pressure on the FBI in the wake of the bombing was intense. This was the Olympic Games. The entire world was watching and wanted to be reassured that the FBI would catch the bomber before he struck again.

There was little to go on. No radical group claimed the bombing. There was only preliminary forensics there were no eyewitnesses who saw the bomb being planted and no information from inside extremist groups.

Eric Rudolph had played the lone wolf to perfection. He had abandoned his plan to set off four more bombs and was already back in North Carolina.

FBI Director Louis Freeh participated in a twice-daily conference call between Washington and the Atlanta FBI field office. According to the Justice Department audit, Richard Jewell’s name arose for the first time Sunday, July 28, during the 5 p.m. call.

Aside from Cleere’s phone call, there were two factors that elevated Jewell’s name as a potential suspect. A recent spate of fires in Southern California turned out to have been set by a volunteer firefighter so he could extinguish them and become a hero. And at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, a security guard had planted a fake bomb on a bus in order to discover it later.

FBI headquarters agreed to begin a “preliminary investigation” into Jewell’s background.

Monday, July 29
FBI agents arrived at Piedmont College and Habersham County early in the morning. They found out Jewell had owned a green backpack similar to the one used in the bombing, that Jewell had access to a bomb-making “cookbook,” that he had told someone he wanted to be “in the middle” of anything that might happen at the Olympic Games.

They learned Jewell had been on a task force that handled bombs, and that Jewell had told a fellow officer he’d dealt with homemade pipe bombs that had a closed chamber, contained shrapnel, and were set off with blasting caps. One person who knew Jewell told the FBI he thought Jewell was capable of placing a bomb if he thought no one would be hurt by it. He said Jewell might have believed that this could make him appear heroic and help him get a job as a police officer again. He said Jewell had been “blackballed” from law enforcement because of his history as a deputy sheriff. The agents also learned he had once been arrested for impersonating a police officer.

Jewell was discussed during the FBI’s 9 a.m. conference call between Washington and Atlanta. They learned that behavioral specialists in Quantico, Virginia, had watched Jewell’s CNN interviews and decided he “fit the profile of a person who might create an incident so he could emerge as a hero.” That afternoon the possibility of interviewing Jewell was discussed but was tabled for twenty-four hours.

In the evening, the AJC’s Kathy Scruggs—who then covered the Atlanta Police Department—caught wind of the FBI’s interest in Jewell from a source.

Kathy Scruggs: He said, “But you can’t do anything with this until I say so, because it might screw up the investigation, might ruin the investigation.” So I said, “Okay, unless I get independent corroboration. And then, that changes the rules. I am in a different ball game.” And he said, “Okay.”

Ron Martz, then AJC reporter: After Kathy told us that her sources were telling us that Mr. Jewell was the prime suspect, there was a discussion about whether we had sufficient information or sufficient time to get that story into the newspaper the next morning. And we quickly came to the realization that we did not.

We decided to dispatch [reporter] Maria Fernandez to Habersham County. Meanwhile I would be working my sources to try to get confirmation of what Kathy’s sources were telling her.

Scruggs: From the beginning, we knew that he fit the alleged profile and that his former employer called to turn him in. I also knew that they had information, which I don’t know at this point that they verified or not, that he had been involved with someone else in making a bomb before . . . Apparently Jewell’s handler had approached the paper about doing a story about him being a hero.

Someone at AT&T had given Jewell tickets to an Olympic baseball game, and he spent Monday afternoon with his mother at Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium. Around 8 p.m. he received a call from Tim Attaway, a GBI agent he knew from North Georgia who also was working security in the park. Attaway sounded homesick, and Jewell invited him over for some home-cooked lasagna.

Attaway had an ulterior motive. At the request of the FBI, he wore a Nagra tape recorder strapped to his back. Jewell talked about the bombing until 1 a.m., even though he had to be awake at 5:30 Tuesday morning. Centennial Park was to reopen, and he was to be interviewed by Katie Couric on the Today show.

Jewell made the appearance Tuesday, then went home. He wanted to catch a few hours of sleep before he went back to work that evening.

Tuesday, July 30
The FBI held its conference call at 9 a.m., and Freeh told the Atlanta office to conduct a non-confrontational interview with Jewell late that afternoon, then follow it up on Wednesday with a confrontational interview and possibly a polygraph.

They faced two significant problems in building a case against the security guard. First, agents had yet to turn up any direct evidence that implicated him. Second, the FBI had just learned that the 911 call was placed at almost the exact same time Tom Davis radioed for the bomb squad that meant Jewell was standing next to Davis in Centennial Park when the 911 call was made from a phone booth five blocks away.

Around midmorning an even bigger issue came into play.

Martin: On Tuesday, when [FBI agent] Don Johnson left my office, he said, “If we could just have one more day, one more half day even, without the press, this young man will be able to go on with his life without anybody even knowing about [this].”

Scruggs: I was coming in to work, and I got a beep from the Atlanta police. When I called them, they said they are looking at the security guard. I said, “How did you know that?” He said, “Well, we are over here talking about it. Everybody knows it.”

My feelings were that once this had gotten to the Atlanta Police Department, that it would be pretty much common knowledge. I came into the office and told them, “I think we need to go with the story.”

The AJC story—cowritten by Scruggs and Martz—was printed in the paper’s daily “extra” edition that hit the streets around 3:30 Tuesday afternoon. Within minutes a CNN anchor raised the front page headline to the camera: “FBI Suspects ‘Hero’ Guard May Have Planted Bomb.” He then read the story aloud word for word:

“The security guard who first alerted police to the pipe bomb that exploded in Centennial Olympic Park is the focus of the federal investigation into the incident that resulted in two deaths and injured more than 100.

“Richard Jewell, 33, a former law enforcement officer, fits the profile of the lone bomber. This profile generally includes a frustrated white man who is a former police officer, member of the military or police ‘wannabe’ who seeks to become a hero.

“Jewell has become a celebrity in the wake of the bombing, making an appearance this morning at the reopened park with Katie Couric on the Today show. He also has approached newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, seeking publicity for his actions.”

Lin Wood, civil attorney for Jewell: Bobi Jewell and Richard were watching the Olympic broadcast that night. And here’s Tom Brokaw telling the world—Tom Brokaw—that they probably have enough to arrest him, probably enough to prosecute him, but they want to fill in a few more holes in the case. But the only name you’re hearing tonight is Richard Jewell.

And Bobi Jewell, whose favorite news anchor was Tom Brokaw, turned to Richard and said, “Son, what have you done?”

The Aftermath
In the days that followed, television news crews and reporters swarmed the parking lot in front of Bobi Jewell’s Buford Highway apartment. The day after the AJC story hit, the FBI searched the apartment while Richard Jewell sat outside in view of the media.

The AJC’s follow-up stories said that Jewell fit the profile of an overzealous “police wannabe” who planted the bomb in order to be a hero and then sought the limelight. That he had a reputation “as a badge-wearing zealot.” That he was a “bad man to cross on his beat.” The paper had one handicap: Scruggs’s original source stopped speaking to her.

In a column that ran on August 1, AJC columnist Dave Kindred evoked convicted killer Wayne Williams, suspected of murdering more than twenty children in Atlanta between 1979 and 1981. “Once upon a terrible time, federal agents came to this town to deal with another suspect who lived with his mother,” Kindred wrote. “Like this one, that suspect was drawn to the blue lights and sirens of police work. Like this one, he became famous in the aftermath of murder. His name was Wayne Williams. This one is Richard Jewell.”

Wood: You read all that in the newspaper, what are you going to think except that Jewell’s some weirdo who bombed the park? You say, “That son of a bitch, he did it.”

Except it’s not true. He never contacted the AJC. He never contacted any newspaper. He never contacted any media organization. There’s no profile of the lone bomber in the FBI parlance. Those statements were totally without attribution, in the voice of God, saying that Richard Jewell fit this profile. No one ever said that about Richard.

The problem is that Richard was the sexy one. He was the hero they could now argue was the killer. That had such sex appeal with the media, they couldn’t resist it.

Peter Canfield, lawyer for the AJC: At the time of the Journal-Constitution’s story, reports on the hero guard were in the local and world news daily, and Richard Jewell was continuing to make appearances on national talk shows. That he was the FBI’s prime bombing suspect was not just news—it was stunning news.

When the Journal-Constitution’s reporters were tipped to this fact, they confirmed that Richard Jewell was the prime suspect—and why he was the prime suspect—and accurately reported that to readers. Should the Journal-Constitution have questioned the FBI’s theories as to Richard Jewell’s guilt? Yes, and it did, with more determination and effect than any other news organization.

Bert Roughton (then Olympic news editor): I don’t accept the assertion that the newspaper was less than accurate, nor do I think we were moved improperly by competitive desires. I know that Mr. Jewell, or somebody representing Mr. Jewell, had contacted our newspaper offering him to be interviewed, in fact, promoting the story. There was a general impression at the time that he was making the media rounds, talking to a number of other news organizations.

John Walter (then managing editor): [Our] story is blatantly true. Everything we said became even more visible in the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours.

The majority of the press—including the New York Times and the Washington Post—took a much more conservative approach to the bomb investigation.

Jewell was a focus of the FBI’s efforts, but he was far from the only focus. On July 31, the Associated Press and CBS News reported the investigation was moving away from Jewell. That same day, ABC News reported that the FBI had failed to turn up physical evidence linking Jewell to the bombing, and that there were questions about whether Jewell could have placed the 911 call.

As late as August 4, the AJC stated that “investigators have said they believe Jewell, a security guard in the park who was originally credited with finding the bomb, planted the bomb and phoned in a warning to 911.”

Scruggs: That’s what I was told at the time. You have to rely on what police tell you. We don’t have the tools that they have, the pieces to the puzzle.

Wood: The AJC was the only news organization in the world to report that investigators believed Jewell planted the bomb, and that investigators believed Jewell placed the 911 call himself. No one else reported that. No one else even republished that statement.

The media’s obsession with Richard Jewell was a blessing and a curse for the FBI. As the Games continued, it meant the public was reassured that the FBI had their guy and everyone could feel safe again. It also boxed the FBI into a corner. They had no choice but to continue to let Jewell twist in the wind. If they cleared him now and something turned up later to implicate him, they’d look like fools.

For nearly three months, everywhere Jewell went—to the grocery store, to a Braves game, to his lawyer’s office—he was trailed by a convoy of FBI vehicles.

When Mike Wallace met with Jewell in September with a 60 Minutes crew, he asked for proof of the spectacle. One of Jewell’s lawyers, Watson Bryant, told him the agents were downstairs in the parking lot.

Watson Bryant, Jewell’s lawyer and long-time friend: So Mike Wallace gets a cameraman, and we all go downstairs, out the front door. And now I know how to get rid of FBI agents: You just come at them with a news camera, and they’re like roaches, they just disappear.

Wood: Everybody wanted that interview, and we decided to go with Mike Wallace because he had the reputation of being the toughest newsman in the business. We felt that if we had Richard answering any question that Mike Wallace might throw at him, then the public would understand that Richard Jewell was an innocent man.

The 60 Minutes story was broadcast on September 22 and portrayed Jewell as the hapless innocent, his life turned upside down by the media and the FBI. It showed several shots of Jewell being followed by the parade of dark-colored SUVs and sedans, and Wallace ridiculed the heavy-handed approach. That story, coupled with a press conference Bobi Jewell gave in August, convinced Attorney General Janet Reno to tell the FBI to review the Jewell investigation.

On October 6, the FBI interviewed Jewell for nearly six hours. At the conclusion, assistant U.S. Attorney John Davis told Jewell the government didn’t think he planted the bomb. Twenty days later, U.S. Attorney Kent Alexander hand-delivered a letter to Jewell’s defense lawyer that made it official. After eighty-eight days, the hounding of Richard Jewell was over.

Richard Jewell sued and/or reached settlements with Tom Brokaw and NBC News, CNN, the New York Post, Time magazine, and Piedmont College.

He filed a lawsuit against the AJC in 1997, which was dismissed by a Fulton County judge in 2007. Jewell appealed that decision to the Georgia Court of Appeals oral arguments were heard in February. The AJC stands steadfast in its assertion that the coverage of Richard Jewell was “fair, accurate, and responsible.” Kathy Scruggs said in a 1997 deposition that her sources still believed Jewell was involved in the bombing.

After the Games, Scruggs was promoted to cover federal law enforcement. She died in 2001 John Walter died in 2008. Bert Roughton is now managing editor at the AJC. Ron Martz took a buyout when the paper was downsized
in 2007.

Six months after the Olympics, a pipe bomb was set off in Sandy Springs outside an abortion clinic. A month later, on February 21, 1997, another bomb exploded behind the Otherside Lounge, a lesbian bar in Atlanta. Only then were federal investigators able to forensically link the three bombings in the Atlanta area. In 1998 Eric Robert Rudolph was seen fleeing the scene of a bombing outside an abortion clinic in Birmingham that killed an off-duty police officer. Once he was identified, Rudolph disappeared into the mountains of North Carolina and eluded capture for nearly five years.

On April 13, 2005, Rudolph pleaded guilty to the bombing in Centennial Park and three other bombings. He was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences without the chance of parole.

In 2006, on the tenth anniversary of the Games, then Governor Sonny Perdue honored Richard Jewell for his heroism on the night of the bombing. Just over a year later, Jewell died in his Meriwether County home at the age of forty-four of complications from diabetes. He was working as a deputy sheriff. Bobi Jewell still lives in the Atlanta area through her lawyer, she declined to be interviewed.

Fristoe, the stagehand who had been injured in the blast: On the day Eric Rudolph was sentenced, I was there in the courtroom. They called me up to the stand to address him. I told him, “I can’t understand why you did what you did. But I’ve prayed for you.” He didn’t react, but I know he heard me. I got some closure because of that.

Richard Jewell, God rest his soul. When we were building that sound tower, it was close to a hundred degrees. He was working security, and he brought me iced water time and time again. He was really a courteous guy. He’s so misunderstood.

Geery: All I remember is Richard Jewell. I don’t even remember the guy who did it

Bryant: He was always just a decent guy. In the fall of ’96, I had him coach [Northside Youth Organization] football, and there was a lot of trepidation from the parents. He’s out there with the team, and one of the kids asks about the men standing over to the side of the field. Richard said, “Well, those are FBI agents, and they’re here to keep an eye on me, make sure everything’s okay.” These were nine- and ten-year-old boys, and they were excited: “Really? FBI? Really?” He says, “Come on, let me introduce you to them.” He took the team over, and these agents, they showed them their badges and their guns and they answered these kids’ questions. The parents, they figured it out quickly enough.

He was a good man. I miss him.

About This Story
For this oral history, Scott Freeman relied on both archival and fresh interviews. He also reviewed nearly 20,000 pages of legal documents compiled from Richard Jewell’s lawsuit against the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Most of the AJC editors and reporters involved have never spoken publicly about the paper’s coverage, so Freeman drew from portions of their sworn depositions. The court file also contains interviews concerning the bombing coverage that an AJC reporter conducted for a story that was never published. Quotes from Richard Jewell come from FBI files and depositions. Freeman drew additional information from the FBI case file and interviews, as well as from a Justice Department audit of the Jewell investigation. Eric Rudolph discussed the Olympic Park bombing in a manifesto posted on the Army of God website. Some quotes have been edited for clarity. Disclosure: AJC lawyer Peter Canfield represents Freeman in a lawsuit filed over one of his books, and Bryant Steele was Freeman’s city editor at the Macon Telegraph in 1983.

Richard Jewell – Depositions, FBI files
Michael Cox – Interview with author
Tom Davis – Interview with author
Bob Ahring – Interview with author
John Fristoe – Interview with author
Ed Hula – Interview with author
Nancy Geery – Interview with author
Bryant Steele – Deposition, interview with author
Ray Cleere – Deposition
Dick Martin – Deposition
Kathy Scruggs – Deposition
Ron Martz – Deposition
Lin Wood – Interview with author
Peter Canfield – Interview with author
Bert Roughton – Deposition
John Walter – Deposition
Watson Bryant – Interview with author

Richard Jewell, 44, Hero of Atlanta Attack, Dies

ATLANTA, Aug. 29 — Richard A. Jewell, whose transformation from heroic security guard to Olympic bombing suspect and back again came to symbolize the excesses of law enforcement and the news media, died Wednesday at his home in Woodbury, Ga. He was 44.

The cause of death was not released, pending the results of an autopsy that will be performed Thursday by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. But the coroner in Meriwether County, about 60 miles southwest of here, said that Mr. Jewell died of natural causes and that he had battled serious medical problems since learning he had diabetes in February.

The coroner, Johnny E. Worley, said that Mr. Jewell’s wife, Dana, came home from work Wednesday morning to check on him after not being able to reach him by telephone. She found him dead on the floor of their bedroom, he said. Mr. Worley said Mr. Jewell had suffered kidney failure and had had several toes amputated since the diabetes diagnosis.

“He just started going downhill ever since,” Mr. Worley said.

The heavy-set Mr. Jewell, with a country drawl and a deferential manner, became an instant celebrity after a bomb exploded in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta in the early hours of July 27, 1996, at the midpoint of the Summer Games. The explosion, which propelled hundreds of nails through the darkness, killed one woman, injured 111 people and changed the mood of the Olympiad.

Only minutes earlier, Mr. Jewell, who was working a temporary job as a guard, had spotted the abandoned green knapsack that contained the bomb, called it to the attention of the police, and started moving visitors away from the area. He was praised for the quick thinking that presumably saved lives.

But three days later, he found himself identified in an article in The Atlanta Journal as the focus of police attention, leading to several searches of his apartment and surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and by reporters who set upon him, he would later say, “like piranha on a bleeding cow.”

The investigation by local, state and federal law enforcement officers lasted until late October 1996 and included a number of bungled tactics, including an F.B.I. agent’s effort to question Mr. Jewell on camera under the pretense of making a training film.

In October 1996, when it became obvious that Mr. Jewell had not been involved in the bombing, the Justice Department formally cleared him.

“The tragedy was that his sense of duty and diligence made him a suspect,” said John R. Martin, one of Mr. Jewell’s lawyers. “He really prided himself on being a professional police officer, and the irony is that he became the poster child for the wrongly accused.”

In 2005, Eric R. Rudolph, a North Carolina man who became a suspect in the subsequent bombing of an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Ala., pleaded guilty to the Olympic park attack. He is serving a life sentence.

Even after being cleared, Mr. Jewell said he never felt he could outrun his notoriety. He sued several major news media outlets and won settlements from NBC and CNN. His libel case against his primary nemesis, Cox Enterprises, the Atlanta newspaper’s parent company, wound through the courts for a decade without resolution, though much of it was dismissed along the way.

After memories of the case subsided, Mr. Jewell took jobs with several small Georgia law enforcement agencies, most recently as a Meriwether County sheriff’s deputy in 2005. Col. Chuck Smith, the chief deputy, called Mr. Jewell “very, very conscientious” and said he also served as a training officer and firearms instructor.

Mr. Jewell is survived by his wife and by his mother, Barbara.

Last year, Mr. Jewell received a commendation from Gov. Sonny Perdue, who publicly thanked him on behalf of the state for saving lives at the Olympics.

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Jewell was one of about 30,000 police and guards, the largest peacetime security force in US history, enlisted to protect the Atlanta Olympics. He’d been hired as a temporary contractor by the security firm Anthony Davis Associates and had been on duty for nearly seven hours in Centennial Park when he spotted the unattended pack beneath a bench near the tower at 12.58am. Nine minutes later a 911 call from a nearby phone booth told dispatchers: “There is a bomb in Centennial Park. You have 30 minutes.”

At 1.15am, a team of security officers including Jewell began clearing the area. The contents, three pipe bombs surrounded by masonry nails, detonated roughly 10 minutes later before all spectators could be removed. Among the fallen were Alice Hawthorne, a 44-year-old cable TV company receptionist from Georgia who died of “multiple penetration injuries” from the flying metal fragments, and Turkish cameraman Melih Uzunyol, 40, who died of a heart attack while rushing to film the scene.

Bill Clinton decried the Olympic Park bombing as a “pure act of terror” in the hours after the explosion.

Olympic officials called a 5.15am press conference to say the Games would continue just as they had in Munich 1972, when Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli team members. Around 10am, President Bill Clinton condemned the bombing as a “pure act of terror” and an “act of cowardice which stands against the courage of the athletes”. He praised the security who spotted the package, called it in and prevented severe loss of life.

Behind the scenes Jewell was interviewed by the secret service, the GBI and the FBI. That night CNN reported that he was the first to catch sight of the suspicious bag and he was lauded as a hero in the next day’s papers. But when Piedmont College president Ray Cleere phoned the FBI the following afternoon to suggest that Jewell, a former campus security guard at the school with a reputation for overzealousness, might have planted the bomb himself in order to play the hero, the FBI looked further into his background.

A postmortem later filed by the justice department’s internal watchdog unit indicates that by Monday morning, Jewell had emerged as the FBI’s “principal (though not the only) suspect in the Centbom investigation”, saying that he fit the profile of a wannabe cop who believed that making himself a hero at the Olympics would help him land a permanent job in law enforcement. Sometime over the next day, an FBI source leaked Jewell’s name as a person of interest in the case.

At 4.50pm on Tuesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a special edition led by a 10-paragraph, 365-word story with no attribution that stated Jewell was the “focus of a federal investigation”. The banner headline screamed: FBI suspects ‘hero’ guard may have planted bomb.

Lin Wood, Jewell’s attorney, holds a copy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution extra edition that branded his client as a suspect. Photograph: Doug Collier/AFP/Getty Images

Seven minutes later CNN broadcast the story, holding the Journal-Constitution up to the camera. At 5.11pm, the Associated Press released a wire story attributed to its own sources. Shortly after, NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw said on air: “The speculation is that the FBI is close to ‘making the case’, in their language. They probably have enough to arrest him right now, probably enough to prosecute him, but you always want to have enough to convict him as well. There are still some holes in this case.”

A second-day opinion piece in the Atlanta newspaper only doubled down on the scoop: “Like this one, he became famous in the aftermath of murder. His name was Wayne Williams,” columnist Dave Kindred wrote, referencing the serial child murderer. “This one is Richard Jewell.’’

Over the next few weeks information exonerating Jewell came to light. Ten days after the bombing it was confirmed that Jewell could not have placed the 911 call given his established whereabouts. An exhaustive search of his mother’s apartment where he stayed turned up nothing. On 20 August, the Journal-Constitution reported that Jewell passed an polygraph test denying any involvement. “He didn’t do it,” retired FBI polygraph expert Richard Rackleff told the paper. “There’s not any doubt in my mind. He had no knowledge about the bomb . The tests show he absolutely was not involved.”

On 26 October – nearly three months after that fatal night in the Olympic Centennial Park – US attorney Kent Alexander sent Jewell’s legal team a letter formally confirming that he was no longer a target of the investigation.

Six years later Eric Rudolph, a former US Army explosives expert, was convicted of the bombing – and the bombing of three abortion clinics across the south and – sentenced to four life terms without the possibility of parole at Colorado’s ADX Florence supermax prison.

The settlements Jewell won in subsequent years from NBC, CNN and the New York Post failed to grab a fraction of the headlines. The only law enforcement jobs he could land were $8 per hour jobs in tiny Georgia towns – Luthersville, Senoia, Pendergrass. He died of heart failure in 2007. He was 44.

'The Suspect' Re-Examines The Story Of Richard Jewell And The Centennial Olympic Park Bombing

On Tuesday, July 30, 1996, Richard Jewell was praised as a hero on NBC’s Today Show. The security guard hired for the Summer Olympics in Atlanta spotted a suspicious knapsack at Centennial Olympic Park, where tens of thousands of visitors gathered.

Two people died and 111 were injured when the bomb inside the knapsack exploded. Jewell’s vigilance and the evacuation that followed likely saved hundreds of lives. But less than 12 hours after chatting with Katie Couric, Jewell was being questioned by the FBI as the primary suspect in that bombing.

The Suspect is a new book about how law enforcement – and the media – turned a hapless, innocent man into a presumed bomber. Authors Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen unite their two unique perspectives in their retelling of one of the biggest stories of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Alexander served as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, and Salwen was editor for the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. They both joined On Second Thought to share their reflections on the story behind Richard Jewell's dramatic rise to infamy.

“I think Richard was very human,” Salwen shared. “The fact that two of the largest institutions in our country – the FBI and the media – make the mistake, and essentially join forces to ruin his life, makes this an American tragedy.”

“I just love Richard Jewell,” Alexander added. “What happened to him in tragic, but he’s the person who really saved the Olympic Games in a lot of ways.”

Salwen and Alexander both also consulted on the film, Richard Jewell, from director Clint Eastwood. The film will be released in December. Both authors will speak at the Atlanta History Center on Nov. 12.


On July 30, 1996, the media identified Richard Jewell as the F.B.I.'s prime suspect in the Olympic Park bombing. For the first time, the 34-year-old security guard tells his extraordinary story, to MARIE BRENNER: his brief moment as a national hero, his hounding by the Feds and the press, and his eccentric friendship with the unknown southern lawyer who helped him through his public torment

AMERICAN NIGHTMARE: The Ballad of RICHARD JEWELL Marie Brenner February 1997

On July 30, 1996, the media identified Richard Jewell as the F.B.I.'s prime suspect in the Olympic Park bombing. For the first time, the 34-year-old security guard tells his extraordinary story, to MARIE BRENNER: his brief moment as a national hero, his hounding by the Feds and the press, and his eccentric friendship with the unknown southern lawyer who helped him through his public torment

T he search warrant was short and succinct, dated August 3, 9:41 A.M. F.B.I. special agent Diader Rosario was instructed to produce "hair samples (twenty-five pulled and twenty-five combed hairs from the head)" of Richard Allensworth Jewell. That Saturday, Atlanta was humid the temperature would rise to 85 degrees. There were 34 Olympic events scheduled, including women's team handball, but Richard Jewell was in his mother's apartment playing Defender on a computer set up in the spare bedroom. Jewell hadn't slept at all the night before, or the night before that. He could hear the noise from the throng of reporters massed on the hill outside the small apartment in the suburbs. All morning long, he had been focused on the screen, trying to score off "the little guy who goes back and forth shooting the aliens," but at 12:30 the sound of the telephone disturbed his concentration. Very few people had his new number, by necessity unlisted. Since the F.B.I. had singled him out as the Olympic Park bombing suspect three days earlier, Jewell had received approximately 1,000 calls a day&mdashsomeone had posted his mother's home number on the Internet.

"I'll be right over," his lawyer Watson Bryant told him. "They want your hair, they want your palm prints, and they want something called a voice exemplar&mdashthe goddamn bastards." The curtains were drawn in the pastel apartment filled with his mother's crafts and samplers A HOME WITHOUT A DOG IS JUST A HOUSE, one read. By this time Bryant had a system. He would call Jewell from his car phone so that the door could be unlatched and Bryant could avoid the questions from the phalanx of reporters on the hill.

Turning into the parking lot in a white Explorer, Bryant could see sound trucks parked up and down Buford Highway. The middle-class neighborhood of apartment complexes and shopping centers was near the DeKalb Peachtree Airport, where local millionaires kept their private planes. The moment Bryant got out of his car, the reporters began to shout: "Hey, Watson, do they have the murderer?" "Are they arresting Jewell?" Bryant moved quickly toward the staircase to the Jewells' apartment. He wore a baseball cap, khaki shorts, and a frayed Brooks Brothers polo shirt. He was 45 years old, with strong features and thinning hair, a southern preppy from a country-club family. Bryant had a stern demeanor lightened by a contrarian's sense of the absurd. He was often distracted&mdashfrom time to time he would miss his exits on the highway&mdashand he had the regional tendency of defining himself by explaining what he was not. "I am not a Democrat, because they want your money. I am not a Republican, because they take your rights away," he told me soon after I met him. Bryant can talk your ear off about the Bill of Rights, ending with a flourish: "I think everyone ought to have the right to be stupid. I am a Libertarian."

At the time Richard Jewell was named as a suspect by the F.B.I., Watson Bryant made a modest living by doing real-estate closings in the suburbs, but Jewell and his lawyer had formed an unusual friendship a decade earlier, when Jewell worked as a mailroom clerk at a federal disaster-relief agency where Bryant practiced law. Jewell was then a stocky kid without a father, who had trained as an auto mechanic but dreamed of being a policeman Bryant had always had a soft spot for oddballs and strays, a personality quirk which annoyed his then wife no end.

T he serendipity of this friendship, an alliance particularly southern in its eccentricity, would bring Watson Bryant to the immense task of attempting to save Richard Jewell from the murky quagmire of a national terrorism case. The simple fact was that Bryant had no qualifications for the job. He had no legal staff except for his assistant, Nadya Light, no contacts in the press, and no history in Washington. He was the opposite of media-savvy he rarely read the papers and never watched the nightly news, preferring the Discovery Channel's shows on dog psychology. Now that Richard Jewell was his client, he had entered a zone of worldwide media hysteria fraught with potential peril. Jewell suspected that his pickup truck had been flown in a C-130 transport plane to the F.B.I. unit at Quantico in Virginia, and Bryant worried that his friend would be arrested any minute. Worse, Bryant knew that he had nothing going for him, no levers anywhere. His only asset was his personality he had the bravado and profane hyperbole of a southern rich boy, but he was in way over his head.

For hours that Saturday, Bryant and Jewell sat and waited for the F.B.I. From time to time Jewell would put binoculars under the drawn curtain in his mother's bedroom to peer at the reporters on the hill. Bryant was nervous that Jewell's mother, Bobi, would return from baby-sitting and see her son having hairs pulled out of his head. Bryant stalked around the apartment complaining about the F.B.I. "The sons of bitches did not show up until three P.M.," he later recalled, and when they did, there were five of them. The F.B.I. medic was tall and muscular and wore rubber gloves. He asked Jewell to sit at a small round table in the living room, where his mother puts her holiday-theme displays. Bryant stood by the sofa next to a portrait of Jewell in his Habersham County deputy's uniform. He watched the F.B.I. procedure carefully. The medic, who had huge hands, used tiny drugstore tweezers. "He eyeballed his scalp and took his hair in sections. First he ran a comb through it, and then he took these hairs and plucked them out one by one."

Jewell "went stone-cold," but Bryant could not contain his temper. "I am his lawyer. I know you can have this, I know you have a search warrant, but I tell you this: If you were doing this to me, you would have to fight me. You would have to beat the shit out of me," Bryant recalled telling the case agent Ed Bazar. Bazar, Bryant later said, was apologetic. "He seemed almost embarrassed to be there." As he counted out the hairs, he placed them in an envelope. The irony of the situation was not lost on Bryant. He was a lawyer, an officer of the court, but he had a disdain for authority, and he was representing a former deputy who read the Georgia law code for fun in his spare time.

It took 10 minutes to pluck Jewell's thick auburn hair. Then the F.B.I. agents led him into the kitchen and took his palm prints on the table. "That took 30 minutes, and they got ink all over the table," Bryant said. Then Bazar told Bryant they wanted Jewell to sit on the sofa and say into the telephone, "There is a bomb in Centennial Park. You have 30 minutes." That was the message given by the 911 caller on the night of the bombing. He was to repeat the message 12 times. Bryant saw the possibility of phony evidence and of his client's going to jail. "I said, 'I am not sure about this. Maybe you can do this, maybe you can't, but you are not doing this today.'"

All afternoon, Jewell was strangely quiet. He had a sophisticated knowledge of police work and believed, he later said, "they must have had some evidence if they wanted my hair. . I knew their game was intimidation. That is why they brought five agents instead of two." He felt "violated and humiliated," he told me, but he was passive, even docile, through Bryant's outburst. He thought of the bombing victims&mdash Alice Hawthorne, the 44-year-old mother from Albany, Georgia, at the park with her stepdaughter Melih Uzunyol, the Turkish cameraman who died of a heart attack the more than 100 people taken to area hospitals, some of whom were his friends. "I kept thinking, These guys think I did this. These guys were accusing me of murder. This was the biggest case in the nation and the world. If they could pin it on me, they were going to put me in the electric chair."

I met Richard Jewell three months later, on October 28, a few hours before a press conference called by his lawyers to allow Jewell to speak publicly for the first time since the F.B.I. had cleared him. Jewell's lawyers also intended to announce that they would file damage suits against NBC and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It was a Monday, and that weekend the local U.S. attorney had delivered a letter to one of the lawyers stating Jewell was no longer a suspect. "Goddamn it," Bryant had told me on the phone, "the sons of bitches did not even have the decency to address it to Richard Jewell."

I had been instructed to come early to the offices of Wood & Grant, the flashy plaintiff lawyers Bryant had pulled in to help him with Jewell's civil suits. When I arrived, I was alone in the office with Sharon Anderson, the redheaded assistant answering the phones. "Wood & Grant . . . Wood & Grant . . . Wood & Grant"&mdashthe calls overwhelmed her. Lin Wood and Wayne Grant were rushing from CNN to the local NBC and ABC affiliates, working the shows. "Everyone has theories of who the real bomber is," Sharon said. "I just write it all down and give it to the boys."

When Lin Wood arrived, he was still in full makeup. Movie-star handsome with green eyes and styled hair, Wood has the heated oratory of a trial lawyer. "It's a war! Why in this bevy of stories does not anyone point out the fact that Richard was a hero one day and a demon the next? They have destroyed this man's life!"

Watson Bryant had worked with Wood and Grant years before in a local law firm. He admired Wayne Grant for his methodical sense of detail Grant, a New Yorker, had once forced the city of Atlanta to pay large damages to a man injured while illegally digging for antique bottles in a park. But Lin Wood's suppressed rage was a marvel to Bryant. "He is so tough he could make people cry in depositions when we were kids," Bryant told me. Wood possessed the smooth style of a member of the Atlanta establishment, but he had a hardscrabble past. He was a boy from "the wrong side of the tracks" in Macon who at age 17 discovered his mother's body after his father had murdered her. His father went to jail, and Wood wound up as a lawyer. He went through college and law school on scholarships and with part-time jobs. I could hear Wood on Sharon's telephone: "He's more than innocent. He's a goddamn hero. . . . Everyone is going to pay who wronged Richard Jewell. Besides NBC and The A.J.C., we are going to look into suing CNN and Jay Leno."

Through the large picture window, I had a clear view of the remains of the Centennial Olympic Park, where the bomb had exploded on the night of July 26. Where the sound-and-light tower had once been, there was now a flattened dirt field. It was possible to see the Greek commemorative sculpture that Richard Jewell used to describe for tourists at the AT&T pavilion, where he worked as a security guard.

S uddenly, Jewell was in the room. "Hi. I'm Richard. I'm a little late. I don't want you to think I am rude. I am not like that." He had an open face, a bland pleasantness, an eagerness to please. "Can I get you a Coke?" he asked me. "How about some coffee?" Jewell wore a blue-and-white striped shirt and chinos. He occupied physical space like a teenager he sprawled, he lumbered, he pawed through Sharon's candy bowl. On TV his face had a porcine blankness he appeared suspicious. In person, Jewell has a hard time disguising his emotions.

We were alone in the conference room I noticed that Jewell avoided looking out the window toward the park. He shifted his glance nervously away from the view. He often awakens in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, thinking of the events in the park in the early morning hours of July 27. "It took me days before I could even come in here," he said anxiously.

When Jewell noticed a local ABC reporter outside near Sharon's desk, his face darkened. "I don't want to be around reporters right now. I guess I am a little nervous. What is he doing here?" The atmosphere was now filled with tension the reporter was escorted out.

Moments later, we gathered in the hallway. Wood was steely: "We are going in two cars. Richard, you drive with me. Your mother will go with Wayne. As we walk down the hall right now, if the ABC people are outside, I will tap you on the shoulder and I will say, 'How are you doing?' You will say, 'Fine.' Is that understood?" "O.K., Lin. I understand," Jewell said quietly, head bowed.

As Jewell walked down the hall, an ABC cameraman photographed him looking grim. Seconds after the elevator doors closed, Jewell exploded: "What are they doing here, Lin? Did you invite them? They are animals. Why didn't you get them out of here?"

"ABC has been good to you. How do I get them out of the office on the day of your press conference?"

"That is what security is for!" Jewell said, quivering with rage. "Where is Watson?" he asked in the garage. "I told you: he's at a real-estate closing. He will meet you at the press conference," Wood said. Jewell moved to his mother's side, as solicitous as a child. "Are you all right, Mother?" he asked. "It is all I am going to be able to do not to do something!" she said angrily.

W hen we arrived at the Marriott hotel on 1-75, there was another discussion in the parking lot, about who would walk with whom in front of the cameras. Jewell turned to his close friend Dave Dutchess: "Are you all right, man?" Dutchess, a truckdriver who worked with Jewell years ago, has long hair and a tattoo of a panther on his forearm. "Richard and I are like brothers," he told me. "I would die for him." As the cameras closed in on them, the group fled to a private room in the Marriott. The auditorium was filled with reporters. "Showtime! Showtime!" the cameramen yelled when Jewell, his mother, and all the lawyers took the stage.

"I hope and pray that no one else is ever subjected to the pain and the ordeal that I have gone through," Jewell said, his voice breaking. "The authorities should keep in mind the rights of the citizens. I thank God it is ended and that you now know what I have known all along: I am an innocent man."

After the press conference, Bobi and Richard Jewell remained in a private room. The bookers from Good Morning America and the Today show pressed Jewell to step before their cameras, and when Watson Bryant told them no, Monica, the G.M.A. booker, began to cry, "I'll lose my job." Then Yael, the Today-show booker, cornered Nadya Light: "Is Richard doing something with G.M.A.?'

Upstairs, Jewell and his mother were being filmed by a CBS camera crew for a 60 Minutes news update. "Well, Bobi, did you get your Tupperware back?" Mike Wallace asked by phone from New York. "Richard, you need to lose some more weight." Despite Wallace's festive spirit, the atmosphere was curiously flat. Bryant urged Jewell to talk to a USA Today reporter. Jewell balked: "They can all go suck wind."

Back at the office, she sat on the sofa and listened as Bryant negotiated with Yael for a flight to New York&mdash Delta, first-class, 9:30 P.M. Jewell was scheduled to appear on three shows in New York, visit the American Museum of Natural History, and then fly to Washington, D.C., for Larry King Live. "I would like to go home, put on my outfit, and walk in the woods," Bobi said. "Richard, we are leaving."

O ne hour later, a telephone call came in to the offices of Wood & Grant. The lawyers had the call on speaker, and it blared through the room. "Goddamn it, Lin. When will this be over?" In the background, you could hear Bobi sobbing. "What in the world?" Wood asked. Jewell explained that a sound truck from ABC had been waiting in the parking lot when the Jewells got home. There had been words and threats, and Dave Dutchess had taken his stun gun off his motorcycle and waved it at the ABC van. The cameraman yelled: Stop harassing us! Dave yelled back: You are harassing us! Now get your ass out of here!

Wood shouted into the speakerphone: "Do not meddle! You cannot jeopardize where you have gotten to and what you want to do! All you have to do is put up with this for one more day and the damn thing is over. Bobi, there is nothing you can do about it you have to stay cool." Bobi cried back, "They are going to destroy me!"

The moment they hung up, Wood turned to Bryant. "New York is canceled. No Katie Couric. No Good Morning America. They are losing it. You better call Yael." "No," Bryant said, "they have lost it. All of the above: their patience, their temper and heart."

That evening a very testy Katie Couric tracked Bryant down at Nadya Light's apartment, where we had gone to watch the news. "I want you to know that I canceled interviewing Barbra Streisand in L.A. for Richard Jewell. Don't think he is always going to be a news story. No one will care about him in three days," she said, according to Bryant. "Look, Katie, I am sorry. But Richard is in no condition to talk to the press. He is worn out," Bryant told her.

Later, Jewell would tell me that that day, which should have been one of his most satisfying, was actually his worst. His notoriety had tainted the triumph everything positive had become negative. "I was in despair," he said. As he had for most of the previous 88 days, he spent the night confined in the Buford Highway apartment, a prisoner of his circumstances, with his mother, Dave Dutchess, and Dave's fiancee, Beatty, eating Domino's Pizza and watching himself lead the newscasts on NBC, CBS, and ABC.

'T his case has everything&mdash the F.B.I., the press, the violation of the Bill of Rights, from the First to the Sixth Amendment," Watson Bryant told me in one of our first conversations. It has become common to characterize the F.B.I.'s investigation of Richard Jewell as the epitome of false accusation. The phrase "the Jewell syndrome," a rush to judgment, has entered the language of newsrooms and First Amendment forums. On the night of Jewell's press conference, a commentator on CNN's Crossfire compared Jewell's situation to "Kafka in Prague." The case became an investigative catastrophe, which laid bare long-simmering resentments of many F.B.I. career professionals regarding the micromanagement style and imperious attitude of Louis Freeh and his inner circle of former New York prosecutors, who have worked together since their days at the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District. Within the bureau, the beleaguered director now has a new nickname: J. Edgar Hoover with children. Like Freeh, those near him have also acquired a nickname: Louie's yes-men. Two of Freeh's closest associates, F.B.I. general counsel Howard Shapiro and former deputy director Larry Potts, have been severely criticized, respectively, for advising the White House of confidential F.B.I. material and for an alleged cover-up of the mishandling of the 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge, where F.B.I. agents killed the wife and son of Randy Weaver, a white supremacist.

In November and December, the Office of Professional Responsibility conducted an exhaustive investigation into the Jewell affair. Responding to an attempt by headquarters and certain officials to distance themselves, according to F.B.I. sources, several agents, including a senior F.B.I. supervisor in Atlanta, have provided the O.P.R. with signed statements insisting that Freeh himself was responsible for "oversight" during the crisis. These agents "shocked the investigators" because they reiterated, when asked who was in charge of the overall command of the investigation, that it was the director himself.

What happened to Richard Jewell raises an important question central to Freeh's future tenure: in the midst of a media frenzy, does the F.B.I. have any responsibility to protect the privacy of an innocent man? Over the last year, this concept was broached with Bob Bucknam, Louis Freeh's chief of staff. During the long Pizza Connection trial in the 1980s, it was Bucknam who handed Freeh files at the prosecutor's table. According to highly placed sources in the bureau, Bucknam's answer was immediate: the F.B.I. has no responsibility to correct information in the public domain.

Richard Jewell had a reverence for authority that blinded him to the paradox of his situation. He idealized the investigative skills of the F.B.I. and could not understand that he had become ensnared in a web fraught with the weaknesses of a self-protective bureaucracy. Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter has invited Jewell to Washington to testify at congressional hearings on the F.B.I.'s conduct in the Atlanta bombing. Ironically, the bungling of the investigation might lead to the reshuffling of personalities at the top of the bureau and threaten Freeh's reputation. In October, according to The Washington Post, Freeh sent an unusual memo to all 25,000 F.B.I. personnel: He would not be abandoning his post amid reports of problems with the Jewell case and Filegate, and of a growing dissatisfaction inside the bureau. "I am proud to be the F.B.I. director," Freeh wrote.

F rom the beginning, Jewell was perceived in the public imagination as a hapless dummy, a plodding misfit, a Forrest Gump. On one of the first days he worked as a security guard at the AT&T pavilion, he noticed that his co-workers were covering the steps inside the sound tower with graffiti. On one step Jewell scrawled with a flourish two bromides: IF YOU DIDN'T GO PAST ME, YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE and LIFE IS TOUGH. TOUGHER WHEN YOU ARE STUPID. Soon after he was targeted as a suspect in the Olympics bombing, the F.B.I. confiscated the step. Analysts appeared to believe that the graffiti contained a clue to his character. "They told the lawyers the statement was an obvious taunt," Jewell said. In fact, the second line was an expression he had cribbed from one of his favorite actors, John Wayne.

"To understand Richard Jewell, you have to be aware that he is a cop. He talks like a cop and thinks like a cop," his criminal lawyer, Jack Martin, told me. The tone of Jewell's voice drops noticeably when he says the word "officer," and his conversation is filled with observations about traffic patterns, security devices, and car wrecks. Even the vocabulary he uses to describe the 88 days he was a suspect is out of the lexicon of police work, and he continues to talk about his situation then in the present tense: "This is an out-and-out ambush, and I am a hostage."

Jewell has a need to accommodate. He can be startlingly opaque. On the afternoon of July 30, Jewell answered the door of his mother's apartment to Don Johnson and Diader Rosario from the F.B.I. "We need your help making a training film," they told him. "I never questioned it," he told me. The next day Rosario appeared again with a search warrant. "The weird thing was that when they were searching my apartment I was, like, 'Take everything. Take the carpet. I am law enforcement. I am just like you. Guys, take whatever you are going to take, because it is going to prove that I didn't do anything.' And a couple of them were looking at me like I was crazy."

Leaving the apartment on one occasion, he told the agents, "I am wearing a bright shirt so y'all can see me easier." He recalled feeling anger when he read descriptions of himself as a child-man, a mama's boy, and "a wannabe policeman," but he said, "If I was in the place of everybody else and I saw a 34-year-old guy living with his mother, I would have reservations about that, too. I would think, Why is he doing that?"

T he December issue of Atlanta magazine reported that there was no record of a Jewell family in Danville, Virginia, where Richard Jewell was born. Atlanta referred to an article in the Danville Register & Bee which asked, "Did Richard Jewell ever sleep here?" "This is a part of my life Richard and I do not like to speak about," Bobi Jewell told me one night at dinner. Richard was born in Danville, but his name was Richard White his father was Bobi's first husband, Robert Earl White, who worked for Chevrolet. According to Bobi, Richard's father, who died recently, was "irresponsible and a ladies' man." When Richard was four, the marriage broke up. Bobi found work as an insurance-agency claims coordinator and soon met John Jewell, an executive in the same business. Shortly after John Jewell married Bobi, he adopted Richard.

From the time Richard was a child, he and his mother were a unit. Bobi, a woman of intelligence and disciplined work habits, is both tender and tough on the subject of her son. She still calls Richard "my boy," but she has a peppery disposition. Richard was brought up in a strict Baptist home. "If I didn't say 'Yes, ma'am' or 'No, ma'am' and get it out quick enough, I would be on the ground," he said. When he was six, the family moved to Atlanta. Richard was the boy who helped the teachers and worked as a school crossing guard, but he had few friends in high school. "I was a wannabe athlete, but I wasn't good enough," he said. He ran the movie projector in the library. A military-history buff, he liked to talk about Napoleon and the Vietnam War and read books on both World Wars.

Jewell's ambition was to work on cars, so he enrolled in a technical school in southern Georgia. On his third day there, Bobi discovered that her husband had packed a suitcase. "He left a note saying that he was a failure and no good for us," Jewell said. Almost immediately, Richard moved back home and took a job repairing cars. "My mom and I tried to take care of each other," he said. "I think I handled it pretty much better than she did." Richard took the brunt of his father's abandonment Bobi pulled even closer to her son. "She hated all men for about three years after that, and she became overly protective of me. She looked at it that I was going to do the same thing that my dad did. I was 18 or 19. I was working. She never liked my dates, but I never held that against her. We have always been able to lean on each other."

Richard managed a local TCBY yogurt shop and once stopped a burglary in progress. At the age of 22, he was hired as a clerk at the Small Business Administration, and he impressed Watson Bryant and the other lawyers in the office with his personable nature. They called him Radar because of his efficiency. "You could say, 'I'm hungry,' and suddenly this kid would be by your side with a Snickers bar," Bryant recalled. When Jewell's contract with the S.B.A. ran out, he moved on to be a Marriott house detective. In 1990 he was hired as a jailer in the Habersham County Sheriff's Office, and in 1991 he became a deputy. As part of his training, he was sent to the Northeast Georgia Police Academy, where he finished in the upper 25 percent of his class. He finally had an identity he was a law-enforcement officer.

J ewell was unlucky in love. He presented one woman with an engagement ring, and later, in Habersham County, he would give another a large wooden key with a sign that read, THIS IS THE KEY TO UNLOCK YOUR HEART, but both relationships came apart. In northern Georgia, Jewell worked nights and became wedded to his job. By his own description, he was methodical. "I am the kind of person who plans everything. I like to go from A to B to C to D. This going from A to D and arguing over everything&mdashI say no." Habersham County, a scenic part of the piney woods in Georgia's Bible Belt, was for Jewell like "leaving the 1990s and going into the 1970s in terms of law enforcement." Many rich Atlantans have country houses in the mountains, but the small towns of Demorest and Charlottesville are relatively undeveloped, reminding one of Jewell's lawyers of the scenery in the movie Deliverance. "If you get lost up there, you might find a guy with a bow and arrow," the lawyer said.

Recently, Jewell and I took the 90-minute drive from Atlanta to Habersham County, which has acres of apple orchards. The leaves were turning, and the roads were mostly deserted. In the towns, however, were stores, apple stands, and even a good Chinese restaurant. As Jewell's blue pickup truck turned into the parking lot of a shopping center, several people came out to greet him.

Jewell had lived in a small yellow house up a steep rocky driveway. On the day we visited, the current resident's Halloween decorations were still up, as were faded white satin ribbons hanging from many trees, remnants of a campaign to clear Richard Jewell organized by area friends. Jewell had lived 50 yards from the Chattahoochee River near a kayak-and-canoe tourist concession on a main road&mdashnot in a "cabin in the woods," as several reports stated after the bombing. He worked the night shift, and when he would arrive home at dawn, he told me, he could look up and "see a sky filled with stars."

He was not a loner he made friends with several local families. He would often leave a box of Dunkin' Donuts on friends' porches at four A.M. During the O. J. Simpson trial, he and the other deputies would meet in the turnaround on Highway 985 in the middle of the night and review the day's events and the bungling by the Los Angeles Police Department. Jewell would later be annoyed that the F.B.I. confiscated his copy of former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi's account of the trial. Jewell dated a local girl, Sheree Chastain, and had a close relationship with her family.

Jewell had a complex history working at the Habersham County Sheriff's Office. When he was still a jailer, he arrested a couple making too much noise in a hot tub at an apartment building where he did part-time security work. He was arrested for impersonating an officer and, after pleading guilty to a lesser charge, was placed on probation on the condition that he seek psychological counseling.

By his own estimation, Jewell's strength as a cop was "working car wrecks." He had his mother's diligence he worked 14 hours a day and organized a safety fair. Later in 1995 he wrecked his patrol car and was demoted to working in the jail. Rick Moore, a local deputy, advised him to accept the job, but Jewell despised the jailhouse atmosphere. He told me, "It was a small room filled with cigarette smoke. I couldn't take it." He resigned, and in a short time he moved to a police job at Piedmont College, a liberal-arts school with approximately 1,000 students on the main road in Demorest. The college police had jurisdiction only on campus and in an area extending out 500 feet. Jewell chased cars speeding down the highway and had arguments over turf with other officers. He was instrumental in several arrests, including that of a suspected burglar he discovered hiding at the top of a tree. For his work on a volunteer rescue squad, he was named a citizen of the year.

According to Brad Mattear, a former resident director, Piedmont was a school of "P.K.'s"&mdashpreachers' kids. It was 80 percent Baptist with a strict no-drinking rule. The college had many rebellious students, according to Mattear, kids who were "away from home for the first time and wanted to party and drink." Mattear knew Jewell well and recalled his good manners and playful nature. "It was always 'Yes, sir' and 'Yes, ma'am.'" Jewell would tell students, "I know y'all are going to drink. Don't do it on campus."

Jewell felt confined by his boundaries and could be heavy-handed when it came to writing out reports on minor infractions. Once when we were driving by the campus, he pointed to a small brick dormitory. "That was where all the partying would go on," he told me. Jewell would raid dorm rooms and report drinking violations. "I did not hesitate to tell the parents&mdashin no uncertain terms&mdashwhat their kids were up to," he said.

He soon made enemies at the school. "Three or four times a week," Mattear said, Piedmont students were in the office of Ray Cleere, the president of the college, complaining about Jewell and other Piedmont police. After Jewell was admonished for a number of controversial arrests, he resigned.

J ewell had an out: his mother was going to have an operation on her foot. He would go home to Atlanta for the Olympics and look for a new job. He called his mother: "Is it all right with you if I stay with you while you have your surgery?" He hoped he might get a job with the Atlanta police or, failing that, work security at the Olympics. "I thought, Working at the Centennial Olympic Park will look really good on my resume."

At the age of 33, back in his mother's apartment, he was at first treated like a wayward teenager. Bobi was sharp with him about his slovenly habits, his weight, and his driving. Bobi had carved out a life for herself she arrived at work by eight A.M. each morning and had many friends. Trim, with short-cropped hair, Bobi Jewell is the kind of woman who labels her clothes and spices and spends much of her spare time baking cakes and babysitting for extra money. She carries on telephone friendships with claim adjusters at other companies. It was somewhat unsettling for her, she told me, to have Richard at home after she had grown used to living with only her dog, Brandi, and her cat, Boots. Bobi was annoyed that he had wrecked a patrol car, and worried about his safety. "Every time he leaves the apartment, I'll say, 'Richard . . . ' And he'll say, 'Yes, ma'am. I know. The person that I am going to see will be there when I get there,'" she said. On one occasion Bobi talked about Richard's return to Atlanta. "What is wrong with trying to revamp your life?" she asked me. Her eyes filled with tears. "Why does everyone in the media think it is so strange?"

O n Friday, July 26, Bobi Jewell was home waiting for her niece to arrive from Virginia for the Olympic softball competition the following week. In preparation, she had stocked her apartment with food. It was a clear Georgia evening, not as hot as had been expected. As usual, Richard left for the park at 4:45 P.M. and arrived at the AT&T pavilion about 5:30. His stomach was bothering him he was convinced that he had eaten a bad hamburger the day before. Lin Wood and Wayne Grant had arranged to take their children to Centennial Park that night. The park, in downtown Atlanta, stretches over 21 acres. There were air-conditioned tents, concerts on the stage, and hot-dog and souvenir stands. Downtown Atlanta was usually deserted in the oppressively hot, humid summer, but this year thousands of tourists filled the sidewalks, or sat on benches in the shade of some crape-myrtle trees, or cooled off by a fountain. Tour buses clogged the main arteries, and everyone complained that it took hours to get anywhere stories were traded about athletes' getting to their competitions late because of the poor planning of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.

As always, Jewell was working the 12-hour night shift near the sound-and-light tower by the stage. He was pleased because one of his favorite groups&mdashJack Mack and the Heart Attack&mdashwas going to perform at 12:45. Jewell had a routine: he would check in and fill the ice chest he kept by a bench at his station. Jewell liked to offer water and Cokes to pregnant women or policemen who stopped to rest.

After he arrived at the park, his stomach cramps grew worse and he had a bout of diarrhea. At approximately 10 P.M. he took a break to go to the bathroom. The closest one was by the stage, but the security staff was not allowed to use it. "I really have to go," Jewell says he told the stage manager. "And he said, 'Well, O.K. this time.'"

When Jewell came out, he noticed that it was "real calm" and there wasn't much wind blowing. At that time of night, the crowd from Bud World became a little more raucous. Jewell was annoyed when he saw a group of drunks near his bench and beer cans littering the area beside the fence nearby. As he went to report the trash and the group that was carousing, he spotted a large olive-green military-style backpack, known as an Alice pack, under the bench. There had been a similar bag found the week before. Jewell later told an F.B.I. agent that he was annoyed that one of the drunks had tried to get into the lens of a camera crew. Jewell had told them to cut it out. "They were running off at the mouth," Jewell would later tell Larry Landers of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (G.B.I.).

"I was light about the package at first," he told me, "kidding around with Tom Davis from the G.B.I.: 'Well, are you going to open it?' At that point, it was not a concern. I was thinking to myself, Well, I am sure one of these people left it on the ground. When Davis came back and said, 'Nobody said it was theirs,' that is when the little hairs on the back of my head began to stand up. I thought, Uh-oh. This is not good.

"I never really had time to be frightened. My law-enforcement background paid off here. What went through my head was like a computer screen of this list I had to do. I had to call my supervisor. I have to tell people in the tower that something was going on. I have to be firm with them, stay calm, and be professional."

Almost immediately, Jewell and Tom Davis cleared a 25-foot-square area around the backpack Jewell made two trips into the tower to warn the technicians. "I want y'all out now. This is serious."

T wo blocks away on Marietta Street, approximately 300 editors, copywriters, and reporters from Cox newspapers around the country had taken over the extra desks in the new eighth-floor newsroom at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to prepare the special Olympics edition they put out each afternoon. The paper had gone "Olympics-crazy," according to one reporter. The editor, Ron Martin, and the managing editor, John Walter&mdash"WalMart," as they were called&mdashhad let it be known that no expense would be spared. Ann Hardie, who normally covers science, had been sent around the world to master the fine points of beach volleyball Bill Rankin, officially on the federal-court beat, was assigned table tennis. The paper intended to set new standards in its hometown during the games, but in addition there was a hint of redemption in the air.

Since Cox newspaper executives had forced the resignation of the distinguished editor Bill Kovach in 1988, the paper had suffered a severe loss of reputation. "We all felt just kind of beaten down," one reporter said. Kovach had been brought to Atlanta from The New York Times to elevate The A.J.C. into being the definitive paper of the New South, but eventually he irritated the local powers. Atlanta was inbred, a city of deals, and he resigned in a blaze of press outrage. Kovach now ran the Nieman journalism-fellowship program at Harvard, and the movie rights to his turbulent years in Atlanta&mdashreported in these pages by Peter J. Boyer&mdashhad been sold to Warner Bros.

Within the profession, The A.J.C. had become something of a joke. More and more, its emphasis was on what John Walter called "chunklets"&mdashshort bits in a soft-news style known as eye-candy. The paper published features on couples massage and how mushrooms grow in the rain. Walter had fired off several terse memos to ensure that there would be no more jumps of news stories to back pages and no more unsourced news stories, except on rare occasions. "I don't see any reason why you can't report hard news in a short form," one editor told me.

The A.J. C. style of reporting in declarative sentences had a name, too: the voice of God. It was omniscient, because it allowed no references to unattributed sources. Subjects such as AIDS, which often required confidentiality, could not be covered properly in the paper, in the opinion of several reporters. The A.J.C. picked up news stories with unnamed sources from The New York Times, however, and reporters groused about the hypocrisy of the double standard.

On Saturday morning, July 27, Bob Johnson, the night metro editor, left the newsroom at one A.M. The sidewalks were still crowded Johnson sat on a wall outside waiting for an A.J.C. shuttle bus to pick him up. About 1:25 he heard a strange noise. "It sounded like an aerial bomb at a fireworks show," he said. He recalled thinking, Damn, that is sort of foolish. Then he heard screams and saw people running. Johnson rushed back upstairs to the almost deserted sixth-floor newsroom. Lyda Longa, a night police reporter, was still there. Johnson sent her down to the park and turned on the news, but nothing had moved across the wires. Just after two A.M., Longa called from the park. She told Johnson that one person had been killed and dozens were down&mdashit was absolute chaos. Johnson could hear the sirens and the screams through the telephone he began to type into his computer. "We were trying to get a bullet into the street edition," Johnson recalled. In the crisis, it took only minutes for reporters to return to the newsroom several had been at the park when the bomb went off. Rochelle Bozman, an Olympics editor, appeared and took over for Johnson. Soon John Walter was there, as was Bert Roughton, who would assist him in supervising the A.J.C. coverage of the bombing.

A t the park, Jewell spoke with the first F.B.I. agents to arrive on the scene. The smell and the noise, he remembered, were overwhelming, and sensations blurred together. "It was hard to describe the sound," he said. "It was like what you hear in the movies. It was, like, KABOOM. I had seen an explosion in police training. We had ear protection when it went off. It smelled like a flash-bang grenade. The sky was not filled with black smoke, but grayish-white. All the shrapnel that was inside the package kept flying around, and some of the people got hit from the bench and some with metal."

Bobi Jewell had just gone to sleep when the telephone rang. It was Richard. "Mom, they had a bomb go off down here, but I am O.K. regardless of what the TV says." He could hardly speak he seemed paralyzed. Jewell did not mention to his mother that he had found the backpack and alerted Tom Davis. Bobi was perplexed. "I thought, What does he mean?"

All night long she stayed on the foldout sofa watching the news reports. She was frightened by the ambulances, the noise, the bodies in the park.

S oon veteran homicide detectives in the Atlanta police arrived at the bomb site. One sergeant was trying to make his way through the crowd when an Olympics official stopped him. "Tell these cops to get the hell out of here," he said, according to a captain in the homicide division. "Well, you get the fuck out of here. Who are you?" the sergeant demanded. Agents from the Atlanta F.B.I. office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were in a shouting match over jurisdiction. "We are handling this!" one said. "No, this is ours!" an F.B.I. agent snapped.

In the command center at F.B.I. headquarters in northeastern Atlanta, there was complete pandemonium. The Olympics were a national convention for law enforcement. Some 30,000 security personnel were on hand. Over the next few days, there would be an internal debate: Who was going to be in charge of the bombing investigation? In Atlanta at that time were three veteran investigators with executive experience: Tom Fuentes, who is credited with helping to bring John Gotti to heel Barry Mawn, who has worked extensively in organized-crime probes and Robin Montgomery, the head of the critical-incident unit at Quantico, who at Ruby Ridge in 1992 questioned the disastrous "rules of engagement" which led to tragedy.

In the early-morning hours, F.B.I. agents picked up several suspects, including one referred to as "the drunk in the bar." According to F.B.I. sources, Louis Freeh himself got on the telephone to Barry Mawn. Freeh, a former F.B.I. agent, was personally monitoring the initial investigation by means of a series of conference calls from the command post at F.B.I. headquarters. He focused on "the drunk in the bar," who had been making threats the night before, and within hours the information was leaked that the F.B.I. had a suspect. From Atlanta, Barry Mawn contacted his superiors in Washington. "This suspect is not the bomber," he reportedly said, according to a former highlevel F.B.I. executive. Freeh allegedly lost his temper and belittled Mawn's professional abilities. He is said to have told Mawn that he "had handled this all wrong." The words one hears characterizing Freeh's telephone calls to the agents on duty in Atlanta are "abusive," "condescending," and "dismissive." A story went around the command center that Freeh was already saying, "We have our man," according to a source in the bureau.

Freeh made a decision: however experienced Montgomery, Fuentes, and Mawn were, this investigation would be run by Division 5 of the F.B.I., the National Security Division, a former counterintelligence unit that has been looking for a purpose since the Cold War ended. Trained in observation, division members rarely made a criminal case&mdashtheir strength was intimidation and manipulation rather than the deliberate gathering of evidence to be presented in court. The F.B.I. promptly declared the bombing a terrorism case and placed it under the authority of Bob Bryant, head of the division. David Tubbs of Division 5 was sent to Atlanta to be the spokesman and to augment Woody Johnson, the Atlanta special agent in charge (S.A.C.), who had been trained in hostage rescue and who was awkward in press briefings. Tubbs was not as experienced in criminal cases as Mawn or Montgomery, who returned to Newark and Quantico, respectively, "to get out of the line of fire," according to numerous F.B.I. sources. But Bryant and Freeh were reportedly micromanaging the S.A.C.'s and, later, the case agents Don Johnson and Diader Rosario.

O n the morning of the bombing, Watson Bryant's alarm went off at six A.M. He was going to the Olympic kayak competition on the Ocoee River with Andy Currie, a friend from his Vanderbilt University days. He learned of the bombing on the radio as he was getting ready to go to Currie's house. "Whoever has done this should be skinned alive," he told Currie. He spent the day in the country, and on Sunday he went out to run errands. When he got home, there was a message on his answering machine: "Watson, this is Richard Jewell. You may have heard that I found the bomb and people are calling me a hero. Somebody told me I might get a book contract." It had been years since Bryant had spoken to Jewell, but he did not immediately return the call he was busy finishing up some contracts so that he could take a few days off to enjoy the Olympics.

In addition, Bryant was annoyed with Jewell. After Bryant had befriended him in their days at the Small Business Administration, Jewell had borrowed his new, $250 radar detector and never returned it. He had promised to pay him $100 for it, but he never had. In the meantime, Bryant's life had changed he had set up an office as a solo practitioner. Bryant despised corporate politics and had no gift for them. His penchant for taking on pro-bono work for friends annoyed his wife, however. Bryant believed that Richard Jewell had attached himself to him years earlier because he lacked a father, but nevertheless Jewell could get on his nerves. By the summer of 1996, Bryant was preoccupied his marriage had come apart two years earlier, and he was trying to sort out his life.

When he finally returned Jewell's phone call, he said, "Well, damn it, where's my $100?" Jewell laughed uneasily and told him about discovering the green backpack that contained the bomb. "Didn't you see me on the news?" Bryant reminded him that he rarely watched TV. "I am proud of you, Richard," he said. "About this book contract, I think it's far-fetched, but don't sign anything unless I see it first."

In the Newsweek cover story detailing the bombing, published Monday, July 29, there was no mention of Richard Jewell. It said only that "a security guard" had alerted Tom Davis of the G.B.I. that no one had claimed the backpack under his bench. By the time Newsweek was on the stands, however, Jewell had been interviewed on CNN. The AT&T publicity department had booked him on TV and told him to wear the shirt with the AT&T logo. Jewell reluctantly agreed. "The idea of going on TV made me nervous," he told me. "I was not the hero. There were so many others who saved lives."

In Demorest, Ray Cleere, the president of Piedmont College, was home on Saturday, July 27, watching CNN. Cleere had at one time been Mississippi's commissioner of higher education, but he was now posted at the rural Baptist mountain school. He was said to feel that he had suffered a loss of status in the boondocks, where he was out of the academic mainstream. He called Dick Martin, his chief of campus police. Shouldn't they call the F.B.I. and tell them about Richard Jewell? he asked. Cleere had had a strong disagreement with Jewell when one of the students was caught smoking pot. Jewell wanted to arrest him Cleere said no. Cleere, Brad Mattear recalled, "worried constantly about the image of the college." According to Mattear, "Cleere loved the limelight. He wanted public attention"&mdashthe very trait he reportedly ascribed to Richard Jewell.

Dick Martin, who was fond of Jewell, suggested a compromise, according to Lin Wood: he would call a friend in the G.B.I. Cleere then called the F.B.I. hot line in Washington himself. Wood says Cleere later complained that no one had seemed to want to listen to what he had to say about Richard Jewell. But his telephone call would trigger a complex set of circumstances in Habersham County, where F.B.I. investigators fanned out over the hills, attempting to uncover evidence that could lead to Jewell's arrest. "The F.B.I. took his word, and what it actually did was get them both in a bunch of trouble," Mattear said. (Cleere has declined to comment.)

F or Richard Jewell, Tuesday, July 30, would become a haze in which his life was turned upside down. "The hours of the day ran so fast it is hard to remember what all happened," he told me. He started the day early at the Atlanta studio of the Today show. He was tired the evening before he had had his friend Tim Attaway, a G.B.I. agent, for dinner. He had made lasagna and had drawn Attaway a diagram of the sound-and-light tower. Jewell had talked into the night about the bombing only later would he learn that Attaway was wearing a wire.

Despite the late evening, Jewell was excited at the thought of meeting Katie Couric and being interviewed about finding the Alice pack in the park. His mother asked him to try to get Tom Brokaw's autograph. "He was a man my mom respected a great deal," he said.

When he got back to the apartment, he was surprised to see a cluster of reporters in the parking lot. "Do you think you are a suspect?" one asked. Jewell laughed. "I know they'll investigate anyone who was at the park that night," he said. "That includes you-all too." Jewell did not turn on the TV, but he noticed that the group outside the door continued to grow. At four that afternoon, Jewell received a phone call from Anthony Davis, the head of the security company Jewell worked for at AT&T. "Have you seen the news?" Davis asked. "They are saying you are a suspect." Jewell said, "They are talking to everybody." According to Jewell, Davis said, "They are zeroing in on you. To keep the publicity down, don't go to work."

Within minutes, Don Johnson and Diader Rosario knocked on Jewell's door. They exuded sincerity, Jewell recalled. "They told me they wanted me to come with them to headquarters to help them make a training film to be used at Quantico," he said. Johnson played to Jewell's pride. Despite the reporters in the parking lot and the call from Anthony Davis, Jewell had no doubt that they were telling the truth. He drove the short distance to F.B.I. headquarters in Buckhead in his own truck, but he noticed that four cars were following him. "The press is on us," Jewell told Johnson when they arrived. "No, those are our guys," Johnson told him. This tactic would continue through the next 88 days and be severely criticized: Why would you have an armada of surveillance vehicles stacked up on a suspected bomber?

It was then that Jewell started to wonder why he was at the F.B.I., but he followed Johnson and Rosario inside. Rosario was known for his skills as a negotiator he had once helped calm a riot of Cuban prisoners in Atlanta. Johnson, however, had a reputation for overreaching. In Albany, New York, in 1987, he had pursued an investigation of then mayor Thomas Whalen. According to Whalen, the local U.S. attorney found no evidence to support Johnson's assertions and issued a letter to Whalen exonerating him completely, but Whalen believed it cost him an appointment as a federal judge.

As Jewell sat in a small office, he wondered why the cameraman recording the interview was staring at him so intently. After an hour, Johnson was called out of the room. When he returned, he said to Jewell, "Let's pretend that none of this happened. You are going to come in and start over, and by the way, we want you to fill out this waiver of rights."

"At that moment a million things were going through my head," Jewell told me. "You don't give anyone a waiver of rights unless they are being investigated. I said, 'I need to contact my attorney,' and then all of a sudden it was an instant change. 'What do you need to contact your attorney for? You didn't do anything. We thought you were a hero. Is there something you want to tell us about?'" Jewell grew increasingly apprehensive and later recalled thinking, These guys think I did this.

When the agents took a break, Jewell asked to use the phone. "I called Watson four times. I called his brother. I told his parents that I had to get hold of Watson&mdashit was urgent. I was, like, 'I have to speak to him right now.' What was going on was that Washington was on the phone with Atlanta. The people in Washington were giving them questions." Jewell said he knew this because the videotapes in the cameras were two hours long and "Johnson and Rosario would leave every 30 minutes, like they had to speak on the phone." The O.RR. report, however, would assert that no one at headquarters knew about the videotaping or the training-film ruse. Lying to get a statement out of a suspect is, in fact, not illegal, but clearly Johnson and Rosario were not making decisions on their own. Even the procedure of having a fleet of cars follow a suspect was an intimidation tactic used by the F.B.I. Later, according to Jewell, Johnson and Rosario would both tell him privately that they believed he was innocent, but that the investigation was being run by the "highest levels in Washington."

Within the bureau, the belief is that during one of the telephone calls Freeh instructed Johnson and Rosario to read Jewell his Miranda rights. Freeh is said to have learned of Johnson's history from a member of his security detail, who had worked in Atlanta. He told Freeh that "Johnson had a reputation for being obnoxious and a problem." In addition, a week after Jewell's interview, Freeh reportedly received a call from Janet Reno, who had learned about the ruse from Kent Alexander, the local U.S. attorney, and Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick. Freeh wondered aloud how it was that, of all the agents in Atlanta, Johnson had been selected to work on the Jewell case. Like Jewell, Johnson had wound up in Atlanta because of his overzealous behavior&mdashaccording to an F.B.I. source, the Whalen episode had resulted in a "loss-of-effectiveness transfer," an F.B.I. euphemism. (Johnson declined to respond.)

O n that same Tuesday, Watson Bryant and Nadya Light closed the office early and went to Centennial Park. Light, 35, a pretty Russian immigrant, had never met Radar, Bryant's old friend, and wanted to buy him a celebratory meal. Killing time until Jewell came on duty, they went into the House of Blues and then bought some hot sauce. Walking toward his car, Bryant saw newsboys hawking the afternoon edition of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "It was like out of a cartoon. They were all yelling!" he recalled. "I caught the headline out of the corner of my eye." The headline read: FBI SUSPECTS 'HERO' GUARD MAY HAVE PLANTED BOMB.

Bryant borrowed 50 cents from Light to buy the paper and began to read: '"Richard Jewell, 33 . . . fits the profile of the lone bomber.' I could not believe it."

At that moment, Bryant's brother, Bruce, who was on his way to the diving competition, got a call from Jewell. "Where is Watson?" As Bruce Bryant walked past a Speedo billboard with a TV screen, he saw Richard Jewell's face filling the screen. "Oh, my God," he said to his wife. At the same moment, Watson was in his car a block away on Northside Drive when he too noticed the Speedo screen. He could not get back to his house&mdashthe streets were blocked off for the cycling competition. From his car he called F.B.I. headquarters and demanded to speak to Jewell. "He is not here," the operator said. From his home phone, he picked up his messages and heard Jewell's low, urgent tones. "He didn't leave a number," Bryant told Light. "Call Star 69," she said. The number came back: 679-9000, the number for F.B.I. headquarters, which he had just dialed. Within minutes, Bryant had Jewell on the phone. Jewell told him he was making a training film. "You idiot! You are a suspect. Get your ass out of there now!" Bryant told him.

B efore The Atlanta Journal-Constitution broke the story of Richard Jewell, there had been a debate in the newsroom over whether or not to name him. One block away, CNN's Art Harris and Henry Schuster had alerted the network's president that Jewell was targeted, but they held the story, because they understood its potential magnitude. At The A.J.C., Kathy Scruggs, a police reporter, who had allegedly gotten a tip from a close friend in the F.B.I., got a confirmation from someone in the Atlanta police. According to the managing editor, John Walter, the first edition of the paper that Tuesday had a brief profile of Jewell. It was dropped in later editions as Walter questioned whether the paper had enough facts to support the scoop. Because of the voice-of-God style, the paper ended up making a flat-out statement: "Richard Jewell . . . fits the profile of the lone bomber."

When I asked John Walter about the lone-bomber sentence, he said, "I ultimately edited it. . . . One of the tests we put to the material is, is it a verifiable fact?" One editor added, "The whole story is voice-of-God. . . . Because we see this event taking place, the need to attribute it to sources&mdashF.B.I. or law enforcement&mdashis less than if there is no public acknowledgment." John Walter indicated that he had not seen a lone-bomber profile. I asked him, "Whose profile of a lone bomber does Richard Jewell fit? Where is the 'says who' in this sentence?" Walter said that he felt comfortable with the assertion.

The page-one story had a double byline: Kathy Scruggs and Ron Martz. Walter had told these two early on that they would be the reporters assigned to any Olympic catastrophe. Martz, who had covered the Gulf War, had been assigned the security beat for the Olympics Scruggs routinely covered local crime. Scruggs had good contacts in the Atlanta police, and she was tough. She was characterized as "a police groupie" by one former staff member. "Kathy has a hard edge that some people find offensive," one of her editors told me, but he praised her skills. Police reporters are often "dictation pads" for local law enforcement recently the American Journalism Review sharply criticized The A.J. C. for the scanty confirmation and lack of skepticism in its coverage of Jewell.

The newsroom atmosphere resembled that at F.B.I. headquarters there was a frenzy to be first. Kent Walker, a newsroom intern, published a story in the same edition, with a glaring mistake in the headline: BOMB SUSPECT HAD SOUGHT LIMELIGHT, PRESS INTERVIEWS. Since Ray Cleere's tip to the F.B.I., the "hero bomber" theory had been circulating among Atlanta law enforcement officers. Maria Elena Fernandez, a reporter, was sent to Habersham County on July 29. By coincidence, William Rathburn, the head of security for the Olympics, had been at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 when a fake bomb was found on a bus&mdashleft by a policeman who sought attention.

On the surface, the story had an irresistible newsroom logic: Jewell was clearly looking for recognition. Bert Roughton, the city editor, had answered the telephone when a representative from AT&T called to ask if the paper would like a Jewell interview. According to Walter, Roughton himself typed a sentence in the Scruggs-and-Martz piece: "He [Jewell] also has approached newspapers, including The Atlanta JournalConstitution, seeking publicity for his actions." But he hadn't. Walter explained, "There was nothing wrong with that sentence. That's journalistically proper. It is not common practice, to my knowledge, to ask someone you are interviewing . . . 'Are you here of your own free will?'" Jewell had not contacted the paper&mdasha fact which would have been easy enough to check. Walter became snappish when I described the sentence as "a mistake." "It was not a mistake," he said angrily. Scruggs and Martz quoted Piedmont College president Ray Cleere as backup. According to Cleere, Jewell had been "a little erratic" and "almost too excitable."

There was no doubt raised by The A.J.C. about the value of Cleere's information or the fragility of the F.B.I.'s potential case. On Tuesday morning, July 30, Christina Headrick, a young intern on the paper, was sent to Buford Highway to stake out Richard Jewell's apartment. She phoned in that there were men doing surveillance. By deadline, John Walter had made a decision: he would tear up the afternoon Olympics edition and lead with Jewell.

S everal states away, Colonel Robert Ressler was watching CNN when the A.J.C. extra edition was shown. Ressler, who was retired from the behavioral-science unit of the F.B.I., had, along with John Douglas, developed the concept of criminal-personality profiling. He was the co-author of the Crime Classification Manual, which is used by the F.B.I. He had interviewed Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Wayne Gacy, and as he watched the TV report, he was mystified. "They were talking about an F.B.I. profile of a hero bomber, and I thought, What F.B.I. profile? It rather surprised me." According to Ressler, the definition of "hero homicide"&mdasha person looking for recognition without an intent to kill&mdash perhaps emerged as "hero bomber." "There is no such classification as the hero bomber," he told me recently. "This was a myth." Later he said, "It occurred to me that there was no database of any bomber who lived with his mother, was a security guard and unmarried. How many hero bombers had we ever encountered? Only one that I know of, in Los Angeles, and his bomb did not go off." Ressler knew that something was off profiles are developed from a complex set of evidence and facts derived only in part from a crime scene. The bomb had been deadly, which was not consistent with the "hero complex." Furthermore, he wondered, where did they get the information to put the profile together that fast? He asked himself, What came first here, the chicken or the egg? Was the so-called profile actually developed from the circumstances, or was it invented for Richard Jewell?

W hen Jewell returned home from F.B.I. headquarters just before eight P.M., NBC was showing special Olympic coverage. He sat on the sofa and watched Tom Brokaw say, "They probably have enough to arrest him right now, probably enough to prosecute him, but you always want to have enough to convict him as well. There are still holes in this case."

Jewell knew that Brokaw was his mother's favorite newsman he looked at her and noticed "the color and the blood flow out of her face when she heard that." Bobi turned to him and asked, "What is he talking about?" Jewell later recalled, "Brokaw was talking about her son as a murderer. . . . She started crying, and what am I going to say to her? 'Mom, Watson is going to fix this'? What do you say? She doesn't hear anything anyway&mdashshe was in hysterics." At that point, Jewell said, he broke down as well.

T he day Watson Bryant inadvertently became the lead lawyer for Richard Jewell, he was an attorney whom almost no one in the Atlanta legal establishment had ever heard of. "Who the hell is Watson Bryant?" a caption in the daily legal sheet, the Fulton County Daily Report, would read after he had appeared on the Today show. Bryant understood Jewell's vulnerability and decided on a strategy: he would treat him as a member of his own family. In Atlanta, the Bryants were a clan: Watson's father, Goble Bryant, had been a West Point tackle, on the 1949 college all-star team his grandfather had invented a process for putting handles on paper bags. Watson had partied through Vanderbilt University and had barely gotten accepted to law school at the University of South Carolina. He had a close relationship with his brother, Bruce, and their sister, Barbara Ann, and if he lacked staff at his office, he knew he could count on his family to pick up the slack. Bruce enlisted Jewell to help coach his junior football team Watson had a picnic for Richard and Bobi at his parents' house at the Atlanta Country Club.

When Bryant arrived at the Jewells' apartment that night, he pushed his way through the crowd standing outside in the spongy Atlanta humidity. Microphones were shoved in his face. "What is happening, Watson?" Bobi asked him. Bryant asked Jewell to speak to him alone. "I want to know if you can tell me, without any hesitation at all, if you had anything to do with the bombing," he said. "I didn't," Jewell told him. "I said, 'I am going to ask you again.' He would not look me in the eye. I said, 'Don't give me this "sir" shit.' I said, 'Richard, these people want to kill you. I cannot help you unless you tell me the absolute, unequivocal truth.' I was in his face. He said he did not have anything to do with it." Jewell was bewildered and numb, said Bryant, who left at 10:30 P.M. At midnight, Jewell called him to say, "They are massing outside the apartment, Watson."

The next morning, Bryant went from talk show to talk show, starting with NBC. With the notable exception of The New York Times, virtually every newspaper in the country had picked up the A.J.C. story and run it as front-page news. There were 10,000 reporters in Atlanta the Los Angeles Times would later call the squad bearing down on the Jewells "a massive strike force . . . Tora! Tora! Tora!" Bryant was in a daze, but he held his own. "Is it true that Jewell was at some time ordered to seek psychological counseling?" Bryant Gumbel asked him. "I know a lot of people that ought to have psychological counseling," Watson Bryant replied.

By 10 A.M. he was back at the Jewells' apartment, studying a search warrant that had been delivered that day. The F.B.I., Jewell recalled, said that he could not be inside the apartment during the search. Bryant called F.B.I. headquarters: "What the hell is this? Why can't he be there?" Within an hour, at least 40 members of the F.B.I. had arrived, with dogs. "There was a physical-evidence team. There was a scientific team. There was a team for the bomb-squad people, and then the A.T.F. . . . They all had different-color shirts. Light blue for bombs, dark blue for evidence protection, red and yellow." Bryant could not believe what he was seeing. "This is like damn Six Flags over Georgia," he told them.

"I kept saying to Watson, 'I didn't do this.' And he said, 'Hey, kid, I believe you&mdashwe are doing what we can.'" Jewell was a gun collector. Bryant was sharp with him: "You get all those guns out of your closets and put them on your bed. We don't want any trouble."

For seven hours, Jewell sat outside on the staircase in what has become one of the most famous images of last summer. Bryant had to take his daughter, Meredith, to the Olympic equestrian competition, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her. As he left, he said, "Don't do anything stupid. Just shut up and let them do what they have to do." Hours passed as Jewell sat in the heat. "Finally I decided I would ask them if I could go in and use the rest room. They said, 'We got the order a couple of hours ago you could come in you just can't get in our way.'" Jewell was told he had to wear rubber socks and gloves in order not to contaminate the site. The Jewell apartment is small&mdashtwo bedrooms with a bathroom in between, a living room, an alcove dining room that has been turned into a den. As Jewell sat on the sofa, he thought he heard a crash in his bedroom. "I thought my CD player was on the floor, and I said, 'What are you-all tearing up?' and they said, 'You can't go in there right now we are searching.' I said, 'I want to know what you-all just broke.'" One search warrant listed some 200 items the F.B.I. could confiscate, including "magazines, books . . . and photographs which would include descriptive information such as telephone numbers, addresses, affiliations and contact points of individuals involved in a conspiracy to manufacture, transport and . . . detonate . . . the explosive device used in the bombing at the Olympic Centennial Park on July 27, 1996."

"They had all my pictures, all the stuff that was in the drawers. My personal things. How would you like to know that 12 different guys had been in your underwear, laid it out on the floor, probably walked on it and then folded it back up like nothing ever happened and put it in your drawer? So then Mom got to go and watch it on TV: 'Live from the Jewell house, the search continues. . . . We are expecting an arrest any minute.'"

When Bobi Jewell returned home, the apartment appeared neat, until she walked into her kitchen. She looked down at her counters, where all her condiments, dog biscuits, spices, and crackers had been taken out of their Tupperware containers and placed in Ziploc bags. She began to cry. And then she went into the bedroom and "immediately started washing clothes," Jewell said.

Driving home from the equestrian events, Bryant heard the live coverage of the search on the radio. "Why are you helping this guy if he's guilty?" Meredith asked.

The next morning, Bryant received a copy of the F.B.I. inventory of articles confiscated in the apartment. On the list he was stunned to see "one hollowed-out hand grenade, ball-shaped" and "one hollowed-out hand grenade, pinecone-shaped." "What the hell is this?" he asked Jewell. "They were paperweights," Jewell said. "I bought them at a military store." "Oh, shit," Bryant said.

F or the first few days, the Jewells lived on ham omelettes a neighbor had brought them half a ham from the Honey Baked Ham Company on Buford Highway. Bobi Jewell had a vacation scheduled, so she remained at home, lying on the bed and "listening to the ball game if it was on." For two weeks, she cleaned out her bureau drawers. Richard would spend the day watching CNN or movies such as Backdraft and Midnight Run. "I would look out the window and see about 150 to 200 press people. Then it would drop to five or six on the hill. They had one person sitting up there at all times with their binoculars." Richard believed they were being monitored. "They heard everything that was going on. They were over there with high-intensity zoom lenses. They had people over there who could read lips. They had a sound dish. They could hear everything that we said. They had a person writing down everything we said. I saw them."

Once, Bobi's cat jumped on the window ledge under the curtain and the photographers began frenetically shooting pictures, believing that one of the Jewells was in the window. Sound trucks and boom microphones prevented the neighbors from getting near the apartment. Three F.B.I. agents were usually sitting near the tiny swimming pool each time Jewell or his mother left the house, a cavalcade of unmarked cars would follow. Richard soon began to write a speech describing the horror he felt at being falsely accused. He ate grilled-cheese sandwiches, huge pans of lasagna, and can after can of Campbell's tomato soup.

"If my mom and I had something we wanted to talk about that we didn't want anyone to hear, we wrote it on pieces of paper. When she left to go to work the next day, she would take it with her, tear it up, and put it in the trash! That is how I kept my mother informed about what was going on with the case." The notes were specific: "What the Justice Department was saying, what my attorneys were hearing through the grapevine that I could tell my mom that was not privileged. It was mainly stuff like 'Keep the faith' and 'Can I borrow $10 for gas in the truck?' "

Jewell described how, when his mother would walk out the door, "they would holler obscenities at her. They would yell, 'Did he do it? Did he blow those people up?' They would yell, 'You should both die.'" According to Jewell, "The cameramen were just trying to get us aggravated so they could get it on camera. You don't know how hard it is when they are saying stuff about my mother and me. . . . All she was trying to do was walk her dog. And she cannot do that without hearing that yelling. When someone did that to my mother, I would want to be up on the hill calling the police, because I would want them arrested. I was going to say, 'Mom, tell me which one said that!' And I was going to walk up to that person and introduce myself and say, 'Hi, my name is Richard Jewell. What is yours? Who do you work for? Who is your supervisor?' And I was going to go home and call 911 to get a warrant."

By disposition, Jewell is a night person, but he would get up early when his mother went back to work and make her breakfast. By 11 A.M. he would be playing Mortal Kombat II and listening to 96 Rock on the radio, where one of his friends is a disc jockey. Four days into his period of captivity, he called the DeKalb County police. He recalled telling a Mr. Brown, "'This is Richard Jewell. I am sure you are aware of my situation over on Buford Highway.' He said, 'Yes, Richard, I know.' I said, 'I just want to tell you my situation. Number one: I did not do this. Number two: I am here and I am not leaving the apartment for any reason at all.' I said that all the press was doing right now was aggravating my mother and disturbing my neighbors, and I would really appreciate it if the neighbors could return to a normal life."

O n Saturday, August 3, as Bryant stared at the F.B.I. agent plucking Jewell's hair, he had already made a decision. "It was, like, screw it. I had had it." The next day was the closing ceremony of the Olympics Bryant imagined that that would be the day the government might choose to arrest Jewell. "Who is the best criminal lawyer in Georgia?" he asked a state lawyers' association. Within a day, he had brought in Jack Martin, an expert on the federal death penalty and a Harvard law school graduate with close ties to the local U.S. attorney, Kent Alexander. "Let me tell you something about myself," Jewell told him in their first meeting. "I hate criminal lawyers." "Well, Richard," Martin said, "I don't much like cops, but sometimes I need one, and this is a time you sure need a criminal lawyer."

That weekend, watching the Olympic basketball finals, Bryant had an idea: he wanted to be prepared with his own polygraph test of Jewell if the F.B.I. arrested him. From the game, Bryant called a close friend who was a former federal prosecutor. "Try Richard Rackleff," he said. "We worked together on the Walter Moody bombing case." Rackleff had recently set up a private practice, and he agreed to test Jewell the next day. On Sunday morning, Bryant was up early, unable to sleep. He drove around town, making calls from his cell phone. He dialed 679-9000&mdashthe F.B.I. "This is Watson Bryant. I am going to pick up Richard Jewell. I just want you to know that. I don't have a white Bronco. I don't have a wig, and I don't have cash in my car. We are just going to my office."

Watson had coordinated an elaborate plan with his brother to dodge reporters he would use a decoy and snake through a parking garage. Rackleff had been instructed to park blocks from Bryant's office, because his car could be identified easily, since he was well known in Atlanta law enforcement.

When Rackleff sat down with Richard Jewell in the conference room, he later told me, he sensed almost immediately that Jewell was innocent. Rackleff had tested many bombers before, including Walter Moody, who was convicted of killing a federal judge. "They are strange ducks&mdashthey leave their attorneys cold," Rackleff said. Although no one knew Rackleff was in the building, more than 100 reporters gathered outside to get a look at Jewell. Inside, Jack Martin, Bryant, Nadya Light, and Jewell spent 12 hours in Bryant's office. Rackleff asked Jewell a series of questions, but the test was inconclusive. "Richard is tormented. He is exploding on the inside," Rackleff said. While he was testing him, CNN's Art Harris was visible through the window of Bryant's office, but he could not see inside. Bryant was thoroughly deflated, close to despair. "You have got to try to buck Richard up," Rackleff told him. "Who is going to buck me up?" Bryant asked.

'W e are not in missile range of arresting Richard Jewell, but we want him to take our own polygraph," Kent Alexander told Bryant and Jack Martin in their first meeting on the case. In the meantime, Rackleff had tested Jewell again, and he had passed with "no deception," the highest rating. By this time, it was clear that there was no damning evidence against Jewell discovered at the apartment or in his old house in Habersham County.

Alexander was only 38, but he had been groomed for politics in a fancy local family. His father was a senior partner in a good Atlanta law firm, and he had worked as an intern for Senator Sam Nunn. Bryant worried about Alexander's lack of experience, but Alexander told colleagues that he was disturbed by the lack of substantial evidence against Jewell. He was trying to operate with decency, but he was cautious and had to check every detail with Washington.

Bryant, however, didn't trust Alexander he had had a bad experience with Alexander's predecessor. In 1990, Bryant had almost been put out of business in a tussle with the then U.S. attorney. The local Small Business Administration accused a bank Bryant represented of improper use of funds the bank blamed Bryant, who was brought before a grand jury and over the next two years almost lost his practice. He spent $50,000 defending himself, and Nadya Light had to take another job, but eventually the case was settled with Bryant's agreeing not to do business with the S.B.A. for 18 months. Bryant had always felt that he had been manhandled by the office. "I learned everything I needed to know about dealing with this office in 1990," Bryant recalled telling Alexander. "No polygraph for Richard."

At the meeting, Alexander told Bryant and Martin, "This is all off-the-record. This is a request that is strictly confidential." Weeks later, Louis Freeh came to town to address a breakfast of former F.B.I. agents. Almost immediately, the polygraph request was reported on CNN. "Kent, I thought we had an agreement," Bryant told him. "I cannot control Washington," Alexander said.

W hen two of the bomb-blast victims sued Richard Jewell, Bryant brought in Wood and Grant to handle the civil litigation. Martin opposed the move. He believed in the cone of silence: "Circle the wagons and don't speak." He said that Wood and Grant had a different perspective: Attack, attack, and if you give any quarter, it is a sign of weakness. Martin had been reassured in private by Kent Alexander that Jewell was not in any immediate danger of being arrested, but the team disagreed about press tactics. Martin worked through the Atlanta-establishment back channels Lin Wood was a rhetoric man. He favored "one big newsbreak a week." "You know who wrote the book Masters of Deceit? J. Edgar Hoover! And that was about the Communist Party in America. So now they have gone from masters of investigation to masters of deceit!" he would routinely tell reporters who called.

T hree days after Wood and Grant surfaced as the two new civil lawyers, a Ford van with a tinted bubble-shaped window appeared on the top level of the Macy's parking garage which faced the conference-room windows of their offices. According to Wood, the van did not move for 10 days. "We used to sit there and wave at it." Then the lawyers placed a camera in the window, and the next day the vehicle was gone. "For sure that van had laser sound-detecting equipment," Wood said.

Jewell was annoyed that press descriptions of him always emphasized his "overzealousness" he considers himself a man of details. Often, when he's watching movies at home, he freeze-frames in order to study props in scenes. The second weekend he was considered a suspect, he told me, "I walked in and I noticed white powder all over the telephone table in the conference room." It was a Saturday morning, and Jewell had been with his lawyers until late the night before. He told me he was convinced that the F.B.I. "had lifted a ceiling tile," and that the white powder was "dust that came down." Bryant and Jewell made light of it and did not sweep their phones, believing that any tap the F.B.I. would use would be of a laser or satellite variety and impossible to trace. "In the beginning of every conversation, Watson would curse for about a minute and tell them what lowlives they were. And then he would say, 'By the way, this is Richard's lawyer. Y'all can cut your tape players off,"' Jewell said. "I would call them dirty scumbags," said Bryant. But the local U.S. attorney, Kent Alexander, insisted that their phones were not tapped. "There are no wiretap warrants," he said.

The F.B.I. did turn up one bit of potentially troublesome evidence in the Jewells' apartment&mdashfragments of a fence that had been blown up in the explosion. After a telephone conversation with Watson Bryant, Kathy Scruggs quoted him saying, "Yes, he did have a sample of the blown-up bomb." Bryant accused her of egregiously misquoting him. He remembered saying to her, "Yes, Richard had souvenirs of the bombing." Scruggs had not taped their conversation. "She cut the 'ing' off of 'bomb,'" Bryant later told me, but Scruggs strongly denies this. The day the story broke, Bryant criticized Scruggs on local radio. That afternoon she appeared at his office to attempt to clear up the misunderstanding. "I don't like your reporting," Bryant recalled telling her. "I'm human, too," she said. The next day, Ron Martz inserted a quote from Bryant in an unrelated news story: "Oh, man, it's not even a scrap of the bomb&mdashit's a piece of damned fence, for God's sake." But the quote would have little impact. Scruggs's version had been picked up gathering force, it was eventually related by Bill Press on Crossfire on the evening of October 28: "The guy was seen with a homemade bomb at his home a few days before." (The next day CNN would be forced to apologize for the mistake.)

By this time Bryant had grown enraged by the media coverage. The New York Post had called Jewell "a Village Rambo" and "a fat, failed former sheriff's deputy." Jay Leno had said that Jewell "had a scary resemblance to the guy who whacked Nancy Kerrigan," and asked, "What is it about the Olympic Games that brings out big fat stupid guys?" The A.J. C. s star columnist, Dave Kindred, had compared Jewell to serial murderer Wayne Williams: "Like this one, that suspect was drawn to the blue lights and sirens of police work. Like this one, he became famous in the aftermath of murder."

Television journalism was also a revelation to Bryant he felt he had "landed on Mars," and spent hours channel-surfing. On CNN, one criminologist said "it was possible" that Jewell had a hero complex. Bryant told his brother, Bruce, "I know I am going to sue someone. I just don't know who." Bruce Bryant searched for Jewell's name on the Internet three weeks into his ordeal and found 10,000 stories. The tone many of the journalists took was accusatory and pre-determined, with a few rare exceptions, such as that of CBS correspondent Jim Stewart. "Don't jump to any conclusion yet," he said sharply in a broadcast at the height of the frenzy.

In his first week as Jewell's lawyer, Bryant went to the CNN studio to be interviewed by Larry King. After the broadcast, he was asked to stop in at the office of CNN president Tom Johnson. "They wanted to know what I thought of their reporting so far." Art Harris was in the room. "I turned around and I said to Art Harris, 'Who the hell are you and the rest of the media to make fun of how Richard Jewell and his mother live? Who are you to make fun of working people who live in a $470-a-month apartment? Is there something wrong with that? Who are you to say that he is a weirdo because he lives with his mother?' "

A ccording to Jack Martin, the F.B.I. spent weeks on one erroneous early theory&mdashthat Richard Jewell was an enraged homosexual cop-hater who had been aided in the bombing by his lover. Jewell had purportedly planted the bomb the lover then made the 911 phone call warning that it would go off in Centennial Park. The rationale behind this idea was that Jewell was "mad at the cops and wanted to kill other cops," Martin told me.

The rumor began at Piedmont College, perhaps invented by several of the students Jewell had turned in for smoking pot, but it had a chilling consequence. In mid-August, three agents appeared at the Curtis Mathes video store in Cornelia, where Chris Simmons, a senior at Piedmont, worked part-time. Simmons, a friend of Jewell's, who was engaged to be married, was a B student, but he displayed the same porcine blankness as Jewell and spoke in a slow drawl. He had a deep distrust of the government and carried a card in his pocket that read: CHRISTOPHER DWAYNE SIMMONS-CAMPAIGN SUPPORT FOR CONSERVATIVE CANDIDATES.

The agents questioned Simmons in the store for one and a half hours. "They asked me if I was a homosexual. They asked me if I had accessed the Internet. . . . They later wanted to wire me. They said, 'If he is really a hero, we will find out, and if not, he has killed someone and injured a lot of people.' " Simmons was short with the agents and denied everything. They accused him of lying and said they could take him to Atlanta. The agents told someone Simmons had once worked with that Simmons might be involved in the bombing. "They kept wording questions differently. They kept saying: Do you think Richard Jewell could have done this if he believed that he could get people out in time and nobody would get hurt?" Simmons later called one of the F.B.I. agents and said, "I hear you don't believe my story." He recalled their conversation: " 'I think you are sugarcoating your answers,' he said. I said, 'Next time I talk with you, it will be with a lawyer.' And he asked me if I was threatening him. Then he hung up on me." Ultimately, Simmons volunteered to take a polygraph, which he says he passed. "I was a nervous wreck," he said. "I had only seen this on TV."

What was not known outside a small circle of investigators was how deadly the Centennial Park bomb really was. It was well constructed, with a piece of metal shaped like a V, and inside, it had canisters filled with nails and screws. Jack Martin, who had spent time in Vietnam, compared its construction to that of a claymore mine, a sophisticated and lethal device. The bomb weighed more than 40 pounds. It was "a shaped charge," F.B.I. deputy director Weldon Kennedy would announce in December. It could blast out fragments from three separate canisters, but only one of the canisters exploded on July 27. Someone had moved the Alice pack slightly before the bomb detonated, causing most of the shrapnel to shoot into the sky. The composition of the bomb did not suggest the work of an amateur, Kathy Scruggs would ironically later report, after interviewing an A.T.F. chemist.

A s the weeks went by, Richard Jewell withdrew into a state of psychological limbo he began to try to analyze what the agents might think of his behavior within the small apartment. "I would be watching a spy show on TV or something like a John Wayne movie. Someone would be talking about blowing something up, and I would think to myself, My God, that is going to sound really bad if they think I am listening to that." He worried that "they would think I was some kind of a nut," and often, when he could not sleep, he would find himself consciously switching to exercise videos and soap operas.

Over Labor Day weekend, he drove up to Habersham County for a picnic with his ex-girlfriend's family, the Chastains. As usual, three F.B.I. cars followed him, but he had gotten adept at picking out the unmarked vehicles. As Jewell drove into town, he noticed that white ribbons hung from hundreds of trees the Chastains had organized a campaign in his behalf. On the way home, Jewell drove with his friend Dave Dutchess. For the first time, he did not see an F.B.I. car following him, but he noticed an airplane flying low overhead. He drove another 20 miles, and the plane was still on him. "I said, 'Dave, do you think the F.B.I. would be following us in an airplane? It wouldn't be that hard to do, if they put some kind of beeper on the car.'" The plane followed them through Gainesville all the way to Atlanta&mdashan hour's drive. "Just to make sure, we got off on an exit ramp and went about five miles back north. And I got out and took a picture. They followed us all the way back to the apartment! And they circled the apartment for about 15 minutes, until the F.B.I. car showed back up. I got very emotional. My cheeks got beet red. And Mom came home and said, 'What is going on? What is the matter?' It just destroyed the whole day."

O n September 2, Dave Dutchess and his fiancee, Beatty, were driving to their house in Tennessee. It was raining hard, and they noticed they were being followed by several F.B.I. cars. The storm grew worse, and they stopped at a hotel for the night. The next day, while getting coffee at a McDonald's, they were surrounded by F.B.I. agents. "We just want to talk to you. We are trying to be discreet." One agent, Dutchess recalled, spoke into his radio: "We have the suspect in hand." As they walked back toward their car, Dutchess said to Beatty, "They think I am his accomplice. I heard on the news they were looking for his accomplice!"

After the interview, which lasted several hours, Dutchess spoke to Watson Bryant. "What did they ask you that concerns you?" Bryant asked him. "Well, I decided that I had to tell them the truth. Me and one of my friends used to set off pipe bombs for fun," Dutchess told him. "What?" Bryant exclaimed, incredulous. "Yeah, I told them we liked to throw pipe bombs down gopher holes when we lived out in West Virginia."

"Did Richard know this friend?" Bryant asked apprehensively. "Hell, no. He never met him," Dutchess said, but Bryant knew that this could prolong the F.B.I.'s investigation perhaps by months. "I hung up and I was thinking, I cannot believe that I even know anyone who throws pipe bombs into gopher holes."

A s part of their strategy, Wood and Grant decided to mount a strong counterattack against the government. Wayne Grant had come up with the idea: Bobi Jewell should hold a press conference during the Democratic convention and make a direct plea to Bill Clinton. The day before she was to appear, Grant rehearsed her. It was difficult to work with Bobi she was exhausted and could not stop crying. Confined under siege for almost a month, she could not see an end to it, since every day brought a new humiliation. The resident manager had threatened to take away their lease, and the manager's son was out selling pictures he took of them. A close friend from church was dying, Bobi said, and Richard could not go to see him, because of the swarm of F.B.I. agents and reporters who followed him everywhere. All of it came out in a rush in the conference room with Wayne Grant: Bobi had even had to give Bryant and Nadya Light the Olympic-basketball tickets she had won as colleague of the year, and every night she and her son were stuck together, staring at each other across the kitchen table. They were often irritable, and Richard sometimes lost his temper. "Mother, just shut up," he would tell her when she nagged him about the case. Then, Bobi later recalled, she would go into her bedroom and lie on the four-poster bed hoping that the photographers who rented an apartment across the way for $1,000 a day had no way of knowing what was going on.

Grant kept careful notes on the session. Bobi was terrified about appearing in front of cameras. She sobbed and told him, "If I go on TV Monday, I'll be embarrassed. It will be, like, whenever I go anywhere, people will be looking at me: 'Did he do it or didn't he do it?' "

"If you talked to the person who is in charge of the investigation, what would you say?" Grant asked her calmly. Bobi's voice was halting, but she was firm: "He is innocent. Clear his name and let us get back to a life that is normal."

A few weeks later, Wayne Grant went to a party for a Bar Mitzvah, and a guest cornered him. She asked him if he had told Bobi Jewell to cry at the end of her press conference, and then added coldly, "Nice touch."

T he lawyers' strategy worked: after Bobi's press conference, the Jewells were deluged with interview requests. Bryant often received 100 phone calls a day. Bobi soon developed a system: letters from Oprah Winfrey, Sally Jessy Raphael, and TV producers were stacked on the console in the living room flowers and baskets of Godiva chocolates and cheese and crackers from the networks were sent to the offices of Wood & Grant and then on to a children's hospital.

A t the U.S. Attorney's Office, it had become increasingly clear to Kent Alexander that something had to be done about Richard Jewell. Janet Reno had seen Bobi Jewell on TV and was moved by her sincerity. Privately, Reno and Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick were said to be concerned about the heavy-handed tactics of the F.B.I. "The case had become a total embarrassment," a Justice Department official told me, but Alexander was in a complicated situation. He was working closely with the F.B.I., and there was no sign that the bureau was ready to let go, despite growing consternation among the local agents that the Washington command center had mishandled the case. And there was another problem: Alexander did not trust Lin Wood.

By late September, there was a tremendous strain within the team Bryant had hastily assembled. The other lawyers accused Jack Martin of cutting private deals with his friend Kent Alexander, pulling focus, and not being tough enough. For his part, Alexander, according to Martin, admired Bryant even though he believed he was a loose cannon, but he was fed up with Lin Wood.

"Alexander would say something fairly candid to me, and I would report it to the attorneys, and the next day he would see it on TV," said Jack Martin. "Alexander had checked out Lin, and he knew that he was a take-no-prisoners guy." The lawyers often argued among themselves. Wood insisted on a full-blowout press-attack strategy. Bryant had mastered his sound bite: "The F.B.I. is a 500-pound gorilla who will kick the shit out of anyone." Martin wanted the lawyers to ease up on the hyperbole: "I would say, 'We do not need to do this.' And Lin would say, 'Let's go public with this.' He was manic about it." In one argument, Wood told him, "Goddamn it, Martin, you're like my ex-wives. There isn't anything you can say I won't object to."

T here was an atmosphere of extreme apprehension between Bryant and Jewell as they drove to F.B.I. headquarters on the afternoon of October 6. They were on their way to what would seemingly be a session with conclusional overtones, but Jewell was worried: What if this meeting was a trick? It was difficult to believe that the bureau was really ending its two-month-long investigation into his life. For weeks, Jack Martin and Bryant had been going back and forth with Kent Alexander. Finally, Jewell had agreed to an unusual suggestion: if he submitted to a lengthy voluntary interview with the bureau, and if Division 5 was satisfied, then perhaps the Justice Department could issue a letter publicly stating that he was no longer a suspect. Jewell tried to imagine the questions he would be asked. "I wanted to look at everything from their angle," he told me, "trying to assess it and reassess it in my head."

Kent Alexander had set a firm ground rule: Only one lawyer representing Jewell could be in the room. It had been agreed that Jack Martin, the criminal specialist, would be the man, which enraged Lin Wood. "You could really see how these guys did not like each other," Jewell said.

"I am not comfortable with the one-lawyer agreement," Wood told John Davis, Kent Alexander's second-in-command, when they were assembled. "We have an agreement. If you attempt to renegotiate it, I will have egg on my face," Davis said, adding, "You are not a man of your word." With that, Wood recalled, he rose from his chair and started screaming, "You are not going to say that to me, you son of a bitch!" Kent Alexander interrupted, saying, "This is deteriorating. We aim to stop this. Let's just regroup."

When Jewell, Davis, and Martin finally sat down for the interview, Larry Landers, a special agent with the G.B.I., and F.B.I. special agent Bill Lewis had lists of questions with blank space for answers in front of them. On the wall of the windowless room, there were extensive aerial photographs of the park and, as a prop, an actual park bench was later brought in. Martin believed that the agents intended to resolve areas in the affidavits and other questions: Had Richard ever accessed Candyman's Candyland for information on the Anarchists' Cookbook? Had Richard picked up any pieces of pipe when the park was under construction? Had he told anyone, "Take my picture now, because I am going to be famous"? None of this had happened, Jewell said. All he could remember telling someone was that he was off to Atlanta and "going to be in that mess down there," meaning the traffic jams. They pressed him about seemingly inconsistent statements he had made on the morning of the bombing: Why had he told Agent Poor everything was normal when he checked the perimeter of the fence? Jewell explained that he had been walking the "inside of the fence." He once again explained that he had wanted to work the sound-and-light tower so that he could watch the entertainment he had arranged for his mother to hear Kenny Rogers four days before the explosion.

The area, he told Landers, was "a sweet site" and a great place to look at girls. During a break, Martin asked about all his references to women. Jewell said he wanted them to know he wasn't gay. On several occasions, Landers became annoyed: Why couldn't Jewell pin down the times? Had he seen the drunks on the bench between 10:30 and 11 or between 11 and 11:30? Why hadn't he looked at his watch? Jewell later recalled, "I said, 'I don't go through my life looking at my watch. I don't care about time. When the bomb went off, I did not look at my watch.' They were wanting to know what time I went to the bathroom and stuff like that. When you have the runs, you are not really concerned about what time it is. You are concerned with getting to the bathroom."

On the day after the F.B.I. meeting, Jack Martin dictated a 27-page account of everything that had been said during the six-hour interview. In the last moments, Davis said, "he wanted to give Richard the opportunity once and for all to say that he didn't do it." Jewell, Martin wrote, "unequivocally and fortunately said that he had nothing to do with the bomb and didn't know anything about the bomb and if he did he would be the first to deliver the bastard to their door." When Martin walked out, he thought to himself, This really was a formality. They had nothing.

I n November a rumor swept through the newsroom of The A.J.C. that Cox newspaper executives were rethinking their news policies. According to one reporter, "The sloppiness of the Jewell reporting and the lack of sources was the last straw." A reporter named Carrie Teegardin was assigned to write a piece examining how the media spotlight was turned on Richard Jewell. In large part, her article wound up being an examination of the role of The A.J.C. After Wood and Grant threatened to sue, the article was killed. "We didn't get through the editing of it," John Walter said. "The Jewells' attorney began saying, 'We're thinking lawsuit' . . . and that made us more cautious." Meanwhile, Lin Wood and Wayne Grant were busy holding meetings with lawyers from NBC and Piedmont College. At NBC, Tom Brokaw's carelessness reportedly cost the network more than $500,000 to settle Jewell's claims, although Jewell's lawyers would not confirm a figure, BROKAW GOOFED AND NBC PAID, the New York Daily News would later headline. In talks with Ray Cleere, the figure of $450,000 by way of settlement was first suggested, then withdrawn when Piedmont College learned that it had insurance. "This will cost them millions now," Lin Wood believes.

O n one occasion I asked Richard Jewell if he had any theories about who might have placed the bomb. Jewell said he had popped "two or three theories off the top of my head" on the night he was interviewed by the F.B.I. "I have gone over that night hundreds of times in my head. You try to think, What type of person would do that? I know it is someone who wanted to hurt people. It is someone who is sick. I hope they find him so he can get the help he needs. Because I am totally torn up about what happened. Every day I think about it, and I will think about it for the rest of my life."

Jewell often speaks with Bryant three times a day. As Jewell searches for a new job, he hangs around Bryant's office, and he recently studied handwriting analysis at the police academy. He has been offered several security jobs with Georgia companies, but he is hoping he will be hired as a Cobb County deputy. In the meantime, Bryant, Wood, and Grant have become sought-after speakers on the First Amendment.

At F.B.I. headquarters in late October, Bobi Jewell broke down and cried as she identified their possessions&mdashthe Disney tapes, the Tupperware, Richard's AT&T uniforms, address books. It was a tableau of ordinary middle-class life, laid out on brown paper on a long conference-room table. "I just don't fucking believe this," Watson Bryant said angrily as he packed Bobi's videos into packing crates. "The agents tried to shake my hand," Bobi told me. "I wouldn't touch them." It took 10 hours to remove their possessions, Bobi recalled, and four minutes to return them.

T he F.B.I. is working on a new and elaborate theory of who did place the bomb in Centennial Park. There is an informed opinion that the backpack discovered a week earlier had in fact been a test run to check F.B.I. procedures, and that the bomber&mdashperhaps a member of a militia group&mdashwas quite experienced and had struck before. After a torrent of criticism in the press, Louis Freeh announced that the F.B.I. had arrested Harold Nicholson, an alleged spy for Russia, and he used the opportunity to appear on the Today show and Good Morning America, hyping his role in what was a minor arrest, according to one former F.B.I. agent.

In Australia in November, Bill Clinton was asked about his campaign contributions from Indonesia. "One of the things I would urge you to do, remembering what happened to Mr. Jewell in Atlanta, remembering what has happened to so many of the accusations . . . that have been made against me that turned out to be totally baseless, I just think that we ought to . . . get the facts out." When Jewell learned of his comment, he pulled up the transcript from the Internet and became angry: "The president is just using me, like everyone else."

What rights does a private citizen have against the government? The legal precedent for suing the F.B.I., Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents, focuses on the behavior of individual agents. Wood believes that Jewell has a strong case against Johnson and Rosario. When Wood learned of Colonel Ressler, he hired him as a possible trial expert. In December, the F.B.I. announced that it would pay up to $500,000 to anyone who could lead it to the Olympic Park bomber.

As Jewell and I drove back from Habersham County in November, he went over the early-morning hours of July 27: "I remember all of the people who were my responsibility. I remember the guys' faces who were flying through the air. I remember people screaming. The sirens going off. I don't think I will ever forget any of that. You just kind of wish sometimes. You think, Could I have done something else? . . . What if we only had five more minutes? Then maybe nobody would have been hurt. But you are what-if-ing. I have been over it a thousand times. I think we could not have done it any better. I think that is something I will always be wondering."

He said he was not sure if he would ever get a job in law enforcement again, particularly since he had been held up as a cartoon figure. On the day of Jewell's exoneration, Jay Leno apologized for having called him a Unadoofus, and said, "If Jewell wins his lawsuit with NBC, he will be my new boss." He later said that this was "the greatest week in trailer-park history." The Atlanta radio station 96 Rock had put billboards of Jewell all over town "Freebird," they said, a reference to the Lynyrd Skynyrd song. Jewell would later file suit against the station, but the billboard's message was clear. Jewell knows that for many people in America there will perhaps always be a subtle doubt: What if, after all, Richard Jewell really did do it? What if the government let him go simply because it could not make its case? Then he becomes not the innocent Richard Jewell, but the Richard Jewell who may be innocent. "You don't get back what you were originally," he told me. "I don't think I will ever get that back. The first three days, I was supposedly their hero&mdashthe person who saves lives. They don't refer to me that way anymore. Now I am the Olympic Park bombing suspect. That's the guy they thought did it. "

Eastwood’s Richard Jewell Movie Powerful Case Against Big Government and Big Media

Only a year after the infamous 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City Alfred P. Murrah Building, the bomb explosion in 1996 at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park understandably created great fear in the general public of continued domestic terrorism, along with a frantic desire to capture the person or persons who could commit such an evil act.

Unfortunately, such zeal can lead to injustice, as director Clint Eastwood’s movie Richard Jewell expertly dramatizes.

Richard Jewell was the security guard falsely accused of placing a bomb in a backpack at Centennial Park during the 1996 Olympics. (The 1996 Olympics was the 100 th anniversary of the 1896 restoration of the ancient Greek games). Jewell is now credited with saving hundreds of lives when he discovered the backpack with the bomb. But soon after the explosion, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), intent on capturing the person who planted the bomb, targeted Jewell himself as the suspect, or as they put it, “a person of interest.”

Rather than playing the needed watchdog role of the government, one media outlet after another mostly joined the FBI with multiple stories that Jewell was the likely culprit.

Using the power of the big screen, director Clint Eastwood makes the case that an innocent man can be falsely accused in the atmosphere of fear found in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Of course, Eastwood does not accomplish this by himself — Paul Walter Hauser turns in a sterling performance as the falsely accused Richard Jewell, while Kathy Bates does likewise in playing Jewell’s mother. (She has earned a nomination for a Golden Globe award.)

The movie takes us back 10 years before the bombing, with Jewell in his position as a clerk for the Small Business Administration. There, Jewell becomes friends with one of the lawyers, Watson Bryant, after Jewell not only keeps Bryant well-stocked with office supplies, but even leaves some Snickers candy bars on the attorney’s desk. (Jewell is observant — he had noted some empty candy wrappers in Bryant’s trash.)

Jewell wants to work as a law-enforcement officer and knows quite a bit about police procedures. Eventually, Jewell fulfills his dream when he takes a job as a deputy sheriff.

Sadly, Jewell loses the deputy’s job, and is shown working as a security officer at a local Baptist college, Piedmont. But he loses that job, too, when some college students complain that he is being too aggressive in his enforcement of campus rules against drinking.

Finally, Jewell is depicted working security at Centennial Park in 1996, living with his mother, after his latest job loss.

Jewell’s work is rather uneventful until he has to confront some drunks breaking bottles behind a tower where cameras are recording an outdoor concert. As Jewell gets the young men to leave, they knock over a backpack, which falls under a bench.

He almost immediately suspects that the backpack contains an explosive, but at first, police officers ridicule his concern. Jewell is persistent, and a bomb specialist is called in, who discovers three pipe bombs are in the backpack. The expert’s face is drawn of color and he tells the other law-enforcement people that it is the largest pipe bomb he had ever seen.

Jewell and other police officers begin clearing the crowd away from the backpack, but before everyone can get away safely, the bombs detonate. One person is killed, and over a hundred more are injured. No doubt, without Jewell’s actions, many more would have died. Before the bomb exploded, he even bravely runs up into the AT&T tower to warn the workers there that they needed to get out immediately

At first, Jewell is hailed as a great hero — a designation that he rejects. But as the FBI puts together its lone-wolf profile (Jewell is a single white male and he owns guns, after all), they remember another bomb case (at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics) in which the bomber turned out to be the man who supposedly discovered the bomb. Unfortunately, a reporter (played by Olivia Wilde) for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution learns from the lead FBI agent that Jewell has become their most likely suspect.

Fortunately, Jewell’s lawyer friend (played by Sam Rockwell) saves Jewell from being tricked into confessing. FBI agents even tried to convince Jewell to sign a form to waive his constitutionally protected rights with the lie that he was part of a “training film” about bomb detection. Jewell, who has studied police procedures, protests, “This is a real document. I don’t think I would feel comfortable signing something like this.” He then calls his lawyer friend Bryant. Bryant, who earlier in the film had denounced the maltreatment of small business owners by the SBA that he worked for, is a libertarian. No comment is ever made in the film directly about Bryant’s political beliefs, but on his wall are posters of the Bill of Rights and a simple statement: “I fear government more than I fear terrorists.”

Still, Bryant is somewhat reluctant to take the case, until his assistant, Nadya, whose Russian accent indicates she had lived under communism, bluntly tells him, “In the country I come from, if the government says you are guilty, you are actually innocent.”

Bryant asks his client whether he has ever been involved in any anti-government extremist activities, to which Jewell answers no. In fact, one of Jewell’s biggest problems is that he has too much implicit trust in the FBI. When Bryant asks him if he has ever been a member of a religious cult, Jewell responds, “Not unless you consider being a Baptist part of a religious cult.”

Not everyone is pleased with the film, particularly the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It argues that its role in the affair has been unfairly characterized in the film, particularly the actions of reporter Kathy Scruggs, who, the movie implies, offered sex to the lead FBI agent in exchange for the story.

Eastwood has rejected the newspaper’s objections, accusing them of trying to “rationalize” their portrayal of Jewell in news articles.

Some suspect that Eastwood is making a link to contemporary events involving collusion between the FBI and the left-wing national media. Certainly, neither the FBI nor much of the media come across well in this dramatization of the events of 1996. Obviously, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was told by someone inside the FBI that Jewell was the most likely culprit, and the newspaper’s reporting (along with other major media outlets) almost railroaded an innocent man. Eventually, the actual culprit is captured and confesses to the crime, but not before much of the public was convinced by the media and the FBI that Richard Jewell was a terrorist.

After days of being overly deferential to the FBI, Richard Jewell finally tells his tormenters, “I used to think federal law enforcement was the highest calling…. I don’t think that anymore.” He then asked them what will the next security guard do the next time he sees a backpack? One could add, or any other private citizen, considering the nightmare that Jewell experienced at the hands of the government agents and the national media.

He also noted the irony of the three words underneath the FBI logo on the door: “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.”

This powerfully demonstrates the danger inherent in blindly trusting the media or the FBI. After all, what happened to Richard Jewell could very well happen to anyone else, given the right circumstances.

Steve Byas is a university instructor of history and government and the author of History’s Greatest Libels. He can be reached at [email protected]

Correction: As originally published, the article incorrectly stated that the three words underneath the FBI logo on the door were: “Liberty, Bravery, Integrity.” They are: “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.”

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