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Victims to confront bomber at sentencing

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Emily Lyons, critically injured in a 1998 blast outside a Birmingham abortion clinic, has a message for confessed bomber Eric Rudolph: His crimes only made her stronger.

''You did not shut the clinic down. You did not shut me down," said Lyons, who planned to testify today at Rudolph's sentencing to the first of four life terms for deadly bombings in Birmingham and Atlanta.

Rudolph, who remained defiant when he admitted setting the bombs and has only discussed his reasons for the blasts in written statements, will have a chance to speak at today's sentencing. Defense lawyers did not return calls seeking comment on whether Rudolph planned to speak. He also faces sentencing later in Atlanta.

Rudolph, 38, pleaded guilty in April to setting off a remote-controlled bomb that maimed Lyons, a nurse, and killed police officer Robert ''Sande" Sanderson outside the New Woman All Women clinic on the morning of Jan. 29, 1998.

Sanderson's wife and son also could make statements at the hearing today.

Under a plea agreement that let Rudolph avoid a possible death penalty, Rudolph confessed to the Alabama bombing and to the bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics that killed one woman and injured more than 100. He also admitted setting off bombs at an abortion clinic and gay bar in Atlanta in 1997. He was captured in May 2003.

Under the agreement, federal judges in Birmingham and Atlanta will sentence him to four life terms without parole. Rudolph's sentencing in Georgia is set for Aug. 22, and victims of the Atlanta bombings will have a chance to speak then.

In a statement distributed after his guilty pleas, Rudolph portrayed himself as a devout Christian and said the bombings were motivated by his hatred of abortion and a federal government that lets it continue. ''The fact that I have entered an agreement with the government is purely a tactical choice on my part and in no way legitimates the moral authority of the government to judge this matter or to impute guilt," Rudolph said in the statement.

Lyons was wounded by flying nails and other pieces of shrapnel in the bombing. She has undergone 21 operations, lost her left eye, and has scars on her arms and legs. She is no longer able to work.

Face to face with Rudolph in court, Lyons hopes to get some glimmer of feedback from Rudolph, who rarely betrays emotion in public. ''I want to see if it registers with him, or to see if it's just more of that blank look," Lyons said last week.

She also planned to release her book about the bombing today, her 49th birthday. In the self-published ''Life's Been a Blast," Lyons describes how she is moving on now that Rudolph is bound for life behind bars with no chance for parole.

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