Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, July 22, 2005


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Ninth Circuit Panel Rejects Unabomberís Bid for Return of Papers, Orders Sale to Benefit Victims


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Writings and other materials seized from the Montana cabin of convicted Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski in 1996 must be sold in order to pay the $15 million in restitution ordered at the time of sentencing, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.

The panel decision rejects both Kaczynskiís request that the property be returned so that he can donate it to a university and the governmentís request that it be allowed to keep the items rather than be forced to participate in the spectacle of a public sale at which the defendantís celebrity status would inflate the sales prices.

Kaczynski pled guilty in 1998 to a nearly 20-year bombing spree that killed three people and wounded 23. He later attempted to withdraw the plea, which he had offered in exchange for the withdrawal of the governmentís request for the death penalty, but the sentencing judge and the Ninth Circuit both ruled that the plea had been voluntary.

The government opposed† Kaczynskiís motion for return of his property, which he claimed was of negligible monetary value. Prosecutors suggested that the property be appraised based on what it would be worth without any žcelebrityž enhancement. The government would then have distributed an amount equal to the appraised value among the victims and applied that sum to the restitution obligation.

U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell denied Kaczynskiís motion, raising the possibility that the government could proceed with its plan. But Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, writing for the Ninth Circuit yesterday, said selling the property for žnominalž or žgarage salež value would be inconsistent with the purposes of the restitution statute.

ďApplying the revenue from the sale of Kaczynskiís property, even inflated by his criminal celebrity status, to his restitution debt would benefit not Kaczynski but the victims of his crimes.Ē Hawkins also said the court would appoint an attorney to represent the victims as amici in further proceedings on the issue.

The jurist elaborated:

žThe government has held Kaczynskiís property since 1996, and his criminal proceedings ended (with the Supreme Courtís denial of his petition for rehearing) in 2002. Though the government has asserted that it Ždoes not intend to keep Kaczynskiís property without paying for it,í that is precisely what it has done.ž

A Harvard graduate who holds advanced degrees in mathematics from the University of Michigan, Kaczynski argued in his writings that technological advances have reduced human freedom. He has said his bombings were blows against what he regarded as the tyranny of technology.

He said he wanted to give the materials to the University of Michigan for its Labadie Collection of social protest literature and memorabilia. The collection houses a diverse collection of items focusing on anarchism, abolitionism, early labor radicalism, socialism, and communism, among other movements, including several hundred pages of Kaczynski correspondence, although it has agreed to keep the identities of the correspondents secret until 2049.

The case is United States v. Kaczynski, 04-10158


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