Originally created 01/29/97

Jewell sues newspaper, college



ATLANTA - Richard Jewell suedThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the college where he once worked as a security guard on Tuesday, accusing them of libeling him in stories linking him to the Olympic bombing.

Mr. Jewell's lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, accuses the newspapers of portraying him as a man with "a bizarre employment history and an aberrant personality" who likely was guilty of placing the bomb.

Those stories quoted Piedmont College President Ray Cleere as describing Mr. Jewell as a "badge-wearing zealot" who "would write epic police reports for minor infractions," the lawsuit said.

Lin Wood, a lawyer for Mr. Jewell, called the lawsuit "the first step in what will be a long and hard-fought battle against a billion-dollar corporation that tried and convicted Richard Jewell for a crime he did not commit."

Journal-Constitution publisher Roger Kintzel on Tuesday defended his newspapers' coverage of the bombing as "fair, accurate and responsible."

"Noticeably lacking is any explanation of what is false about what we reported," Mr. Kintzel said at a news conference.

The newspapers will fight the lawsuit, he said. "There has been no discussion of any settlement."

In December, the newspapers refused Mr. Jewell's demand to print a retraction to three stories about him while he was a suspect.

Meanwhile, Mr. Jewell and his mother settled a complaint against CNN for an undisclosed amount, according to a joint statement issued by CNN and Mr. Jewell's lawyers.

"CNN continues to believe that its coverage was a fair and accurate review of the events that unfolded following the Centennial Olympic Park explosion," the Atlanta-based network said in a statement.

Mr. Jewell said Tuesday he was "very satisfied" with the CNN settlement.

"I'm not doing this just for me ... I want them to think about what they did to me and my mother and my attorneys," Mr. Jewell said about the lawsuits filed Tuesday. "I want them to get the story 100 percent before they put it out. I'm doing it so this won't happen to anybody else."

Last month, Mr. Jewell reached a settlement with NBC over comments anchorman Tom Brokaw made on the air about Mr. Jewell shortly after the bombing. The Wall Street Journal reported the settlement was worth $500,000.

Mr. Jewell, 34, was working as a private security guard in Centennial Olympic Park when a pipe bomb exploded before daybreak on July 27, killing one person and injuring more than 100.

Also Tuesday, ABC's World News Tonight interviewed a witness who claims to have seen a man carrying two knapsacks in his hand and one on his back in Centennial Olympic Park before the bombing who resembles a defendant later arrested in a series of bombings in Spokane, Wash.

The witness, an Atlanta architect who did not want to be identified, said he told the FBI twice about the man but never heard back from agents.

The Journal report linking Mr. Jewell to the bombing was leaked by an FBI agent and confirmed by unidentified members of the Atlanta Police Department, the lawsuit said.

Nine reporters or editors of the newspapers and officials of Piedmont College in Demorest also are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Wray Eckl, a lawyer for the college, had no comment.

No one has been charged in the bombing.

He called the Spokesman-Review of Spokane, which also reported on the architect Tuesday, after seeing a television report on three men who are charged with robbing a bank and setting off several bombs last year in Washington state.

"I was just dumbfounded to see one of the people in the photo resembled my sketch quite a bit," he told ABC.

He said the man he saw had a deformed right eye and "dirty blondish-type curly hair."

FBI Deputy Director Weldon Kennedy said he could not comment on any connection between the Olympic bombing and the Washington case "except to confirm that it is being thoroughly explored along with every other possibility."