Monday Dec 17, 1962 to Wednesday Aug 29, 2007
U.S.Richard Allensworth Jewell (born December 17, 1962 – August 29, 2007) was an American security guard and police officer famous for his role in the events surrounding the Centennial Olympic Park bombing at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. While working as a security guard for AT&T, in connection with the Olympics, he discovered a backpack containing three pipe bombs on the park grounds.
Centennial Olympic Park was designed as the "town square" of the Olympics, and thousands of spectators had gathered for a late concert and merrymaking. Sometime after midnight, July 27, 1996, Eric Robert Rudolph, a terrorist who would later bomb a lesbian nightclub and two abortion clinics, planted a green backpack containing a fragmentation-laden pipe bomb underneath a bench. Jewell was working as a security guard for the event.
On October 26, 1996, the investigating US Attorney, Kent Alexander, in an extremely unusual act, sent Jewell a letter formally clearing him, stating "based on the evidence developed to date ... Richard Jewell is not considered a target of the federal criminal investigation into the bombing on July 27, 1996, at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta".
A Justice Department investigation of the FBI's conduct found the FBI had tried to manipulate Jewell into waiving his constitutional rights by telling him he was taking part in a training film about bomb detection, although the report concluded "no intentional violation of Mr. Jewell's civil rights and no criminal misconduct" had taken place.
In July 1997, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, prompted by a reporter's question at her weekly news conference, expressed regret over the FBI's leak to the news media that led to the widespread presumption of his guilt, and apologized outright, saying, "I'm very sorry it happened. I think we owe him an apology. I regret the leak.".
On July 23, 1997, Jewell sued the New York Post for $15 million in damages, contending that the paper portrayed him in articles, photographs and an editorial cartoon as an "aberrant" person with a "bizarre employment history" who was probably guilty of the bombing.
Richard Jewell, a biographical drama film, was released in the United States on December 13, 2019. The film was directed and produced by Clint Eastwood. It was written by Billy Ray, based on the 1997 article "American Nightmare," and the book The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle (2019) by Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen. Jewell is played by actor Paul Walter Hauser.
Jewell filed suit against his former employer Piedmont College, Piedmont College President Raymond Cleere and college spokesman Scott Rawles. Jewell's attorneys contended that Cleere called the FBI and spoke to the Atlanta newspapers, providing them with false information on Jewell and his employment there as a security guard. Jewell's lawsuit accused Cleere of describing Jewell as a "badge-wearing zealot" who "would write epic police reports for minor infractions".
Jewell sued NBC News for this statement, made by Tom Brokaw: "The speculation is that the FBI is close to making the case. 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". Even though NBC stood by its story, the network agreed to pay Jewell $500,000.
Jewell also sued the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper. According to Jewell, the paper's headline, "FBI suspects 'hero' guard may have planted bomb", "pretty much started the whirlwind". In one article, the Atlanta Journal compared Richard Jewell's case to that of serial killer Wayne Williams.