ATLANTA - A tearful Richard Jewell lashed out Monday against federal agents and the media for the "88 days in hell" he spent as the chief suspect in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing.
The 33-year-old former security guard - who was assured by prosecutors over the weekend that he is no longer a target of their investigation - insisted that he acted to save lives in the July 27 pipe-bomb blast, not take them.
"While the government can tell you that I am an innocent man, the government's letter cannot give me back my good name or my reputation," Jewell said at a news conference. "In their mad rush to fulfill their own personal agendas, the FBI and the media almost destroyed me and my mother."
His attorneys were even more forceful, saying they may sue federal law enforcement agencies after what they called a weak and inadequate apology letter from U.S. Attorney Kent Alexander, Atlanta's chief federal prosecutor.
"They don't have the guts to apologize. They are not that kind of people. They are more interested in saving face and covering their own rear ends," attorney G. Watson Bryant said at an hour-long news conference with Jewell.
Bryant said federal agents used "scummy" tactics to entrap Jewell, including getting one of his friends to wear a bug to dinner at the suspect's home, and luring Jewell to an interview at the FBI under the pretense of making a training film.
"I am more afraid of the FBI than I am of being blown up by some explosion by some lone bomber. These are the people who scare the hell out of me," Bryant told reporters.
The FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office declined to respond to Monday's criticisms.
A former North Georgia sheriff's deputy, Jewell was hailed in initial media reports as a hero after the Olympic Park blast, which resulted in two deaths and 111 serious injuries.
But the accolades turned to suspicion - and non-stop scrutiny by the world's media - after FBI sources began telling the Atlanta media that Jewell fit the profile of a loner with law enforcement training capable of planting the explosives.
Jewell and his mother, Barbara, were held under siege in their Northeast Atlanta apartment as FBI agents confiscated Jewell's possessions and searched his home, storage shed and pickup truck for clues. All the while, TV crews kept a vigil outside the home.
"I felt like a hunted animal, followed constantly, waiting to be killed," Jewell said. "After 88 days of hell, it's hard to believe it is finally over."
The former Habersham County sheriff's deputy said he hopes to get back into police work, but is fearful no agency will hire him after the months of bad publicity.
As the investigation wore on, media reports portrayed Jewell as an overzealous cop who was forced to take a security job at the park after his reckless conduct - including totaling a police car - sidetracked his career.
His lawyers said they are preparing defamation lawsuits against The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as well as NBC-TV and anchor Tom Brokaw, for branding Jewell as the suspect. The Atlanta paper - which had earlier saluted Jewell for helping evacuate the park - put out a rare "extra" edition three days after the blast, citing police sources that fingered Jewell.
The Journal-Constitution released a statement Monday, defending news coverage of Jewell as "accurate and appropriate."
Although Jewell's attorneys received written notice that he is no longer under active investigation, documents unsealed under court order by the U.S. Attorney's Office leave some mysteries unanswered.
The records, which show how federal agents obtained a magistrate's clearance to search Jewell's car and home, cite unnamed security officers questioning Jewell's account of where he was and what he did around the time of the explosion.
According to one account, Jewell was seen talking on his radio near a lighting tower at Olympic Park just before the blast.
When another officer approached, according to court documents unsealed Monday, Jewell told the officer, "It's a bomb. I've already called law enforcement. Let's get out of here." Within 10 seconds, a knapsack at the foot of the lighting tower exploded, the officer told investigators.
Most of the evidence gathered by FBI investigators in the newly released reports is indirect, and none directly incriminates him in building or placing the bomb.
One acquaintance described Jewell as "an adrenaline junkie" who craved action, and another said that Jewell expressed hope he would be "right in the middle of it" if police were needed during the Games.
A former law enforcement colleague - also unnamed in the documents - told the FBI Jewell was "blackballed" from police work because of his troubled record, and speculated Jewell might have seen Olympic heroism as a way of getting another police job.
Jewell's attorneys ridiculed the evidence that led to the search warrants as meager.
"I think every American should be scared to death at how little it takes for the government to search you and seize your property," Bryant said.
"I thank God that it has now ended, and that you now know what I have known all along. I am an innocent man." - Richard Jewell.
"His first desire would be to return to law enforcement. He's got to find out if that's feasible. If it is, good. If it's not, then he has got to face that." - Lin Wood, one of Jewell's attorneys.
"They don't have the guts to apologize. They're more interested in saving their own hides." - G. Watson Bryant Jr., one of Jewell's attorneys, referring to the government.
"Jewell was always reading and talking about `cop stuff.' ... (He) was totally engrossed in his job, he ate, slept and breathed it. ... He didn't have a girlfriend, just the job."
"Jewell lives and breathes police stories, spy stories and SWAT. ... Jewell had discussed bombs in the past with (name deleted) and (name deleted) got the impression that Jewell had gone to a continuing education course concerning bombing matters."
"He worked the (Olympic park) sound tower seven days a week for 12 hours a day and did not want any days off. Jewell put up significant argument to stay at the tower where the explosion subsequently occurred."
"It is likely that Richard Jewell will attempt to destroy and conceal existing evidence as soon as he can."
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