Originally created 07/06/97

Richard Jewell: `I'm angry'



ATLANTA -- Richard Jewell intends for his jokes to cut to the quick.

"Sorry, I don't have a card that says ex-suspect," he said.

Last July, Jewell was just a security guard working a temporary job for low pay. A year later, he is still unemployed and still recognized as the one-time suspect in the bombing of Centennial Olympic Park that killed one person, injured more than 100 others and nearly derailed the Summer Games.

There is little about the past year that the 34-year-old Jewell can forget.

The man who spent 88 days under the microscope of the FBI and the world media - the man who controlled his emotions while recounting his story to those who publicly flogged his reputation - is angry.

During an interview last week at his attorney's office, Jewell's anger shone through the boyish, aw-shucks demeanor seen during interviews with such television luminaries as Oprah Winfrey, Larry King and Ted Koppel.

"I'm angry, yes. And I'm going to stay angry until I make sure they don't do this to someone else," Jewell said.

He alternated between polite answers about the approaching anniversary of the bombing and seething anger toward the FBI and the media.

And then his voice softened when he turned to his goddaughter - bright-eyed, talkative 6-year-old Heather Dutchess - who sat next to him, drawing pictures of houses, flowers and her favorite "uncle."

Jewell was initially credited with saving lives after alerting authorities to a suspicious backpack and for helping to evacuate people shortly before the explosion. Three days later he was a villain when the FBI leaked his name as a suspect. The Justice Department cleared him as a suspect in October.

"There's not a word in the dictionary to describe what I went through," he said.

Reporters staked out the apartment he shared with his mother and followed his every move. The FBI searched his apartment, questioned his friends and family and plucked strands of his hair for DNA tests.

"That's the only time I was really scared was when they took my hairs. I really believed they were going to frame me ... and I was going to the electric chair," he said. "The rest of the time, I really believed it was just a matter of time before all the things they took would prove I didn't do it."

Then there were those who traded on his name: so-called friends and ex-employers who sold stories about Jewell's life, and a woman who went on a date with him, then sold the details to a tabloid.

"Every time somebody walks up to me, I've got to wonder what they want," he said. "Do they want to kill me? Do they want money? Do they want to sell their story?"

Recently, Jewell took his mother to an Atlanta Braves baseball game, only to be heckled by a group of people.

"They yelled, `Are you going to blow up the new stadium, too?"' he said. "What do you do? You keep your head up, you smile and you keep walking."

His attorney and long-time friend, Watson Bryant, says the past year has cost Jewell his "innocence."

"He's cynical and paranoid. He's just not trusting anymore," Bryant said.

Jewell cried publicly the day he received a letter from federal prosecutors telling him he was no longer a suspect.

And now he wants a public apology.

He wants one from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the first news outlet that named him as a suspect. The newspaper says its coverage was fair and proper.

He wants the FBI to say it was wrong. And he's going to fight to get both.

"What's wrong with saying `I'm sorry?"'

Jewell filed a libel lawsuit in January against Cox Enterprises Inc., the parent company of the Journal-Constitution. He also plans to sue the FBI agents - if he can find out who they are - who released his name.

FBI director Louis Freeh testified several weeks ago before Congress that the list of possible leakers has been narrowed to about 500 agents.

"I've got two of the biggest monsters - the FBI and Cox Enterprises Inc. - in the country that I'm dealing with. It's just me and my four (attorneys)," Jewell said. "There's two monsters and I've only got one rock. I'm waiting for the two of them to line up and then I going to bean them as hard I can."

In December, he reached a settlement with NBC over comments anchor Tom Brokaw made on the air shortly after the bombing. The Wall Street Journal has said the settlement was worth $500,000. He also settled with CNN for an undisclosed amount.

But Jewell is losing his patience.

"When they become accountable for what they did to me ... then it will be over," he said.

Jewell has given up hope of ever becoming a police officer and says he will probably take a job in construction.

Until then, Jewell plays basketball three times a week with friends, helps his mother at the condominium he bought her and spends time at his new home, reading the classified ads for job leads.