Unabomber Auction Checks Being Sent to Kaczynski's Victims
Ted J. Kaczynski, aka The Unabomber, was taken into custody at his mountain cabin in Montana as a suspect in a bombing spree. (Photo Lewis and Clark County Jail) (June 16, 2004)
A federal judge in Sacramento ordered the disbursement of the funds, which were raised through an online auction the government conducted.
Bidding on Kaczynski's belongings ended June 2, with his handwritten journals drawing the largest bid: $40,676.
The 69-year-old Kaczynski is serving a life sentence without parole after pleading guilty in 1998 to setting 16 explosions that killed three people and injured 23 others in various parts of the country.
He was arrested in 1996, pleaded guilty in 1998 and is now serving a life term in the federal "Supermax" prison in Florence, Colorado.
A hooded sweatshirt very like the one pictured in the composite drawing, along with several pairs of sunglasses, were among some 60 items belonging to Kaczynski offered for online auction by the federal government, with proceeds to benefit some of Kaczynski's victims.
"His whole life is basically here," said Alfred Najera, U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of California.
Items offered on the website, gsaauctions.gov, include Kaczynski's birth certificate; school records; his diplomas from Harvard University -- where he was accepted at 16 -- along with his diplomas for his master's and doctorate degrees from the University of Michigan; letters to and from him; and original handwritten and typewritten copies of Kaczynski's manifesto, which ultimately led to his capture. The manifesto is among about 20,000 pages of documents up for sale.
Wright retains almost crystalline recall of the bombing. "The only thing I don't remember is flying through the air," he said. He suffered some 200 shrapnel wounds, including nails through his chin and lips. An ulnar nerve in his left arm was severed, leaving him permanently without feeling in some of his fingers.
He recalled spending "a lot of time getting put back together." His insurance did not cover his medical costs, since they resulted from an act of terrorism. Although he received some discounted rates from doctors and hospitals and some help from Utah's crime victim reparations law, he estimates he has spent more than $100,000 on medical care and counseling.
Wright is one of four victims seeking restitution; the others opted not to. The four were awarded $15 million.
"It was very, very difficult to have some of the conversations that needed to be had over this auction," he said Wednesday. But he plans to take the money and "do something good with it ... if you're assigned restitution, pay it."
Not everyone agrees, however. Mark Olshaker, who co-authored a book on the Unabomber with an FBI profiler, said he thinks the auction is a "misguided idea."
"All it can do is help create this cult of notoriety around somebody like Ted Kaczynski, who really doesn't deserve it," he said.
Olshaker compared the items to Nazi memorabilia, and said the auction "can only help but glorify (Kaczynski) and takes the emphasis away from the victims, which is where it belongs."
Najera disagreed, saying the auction is a way to provide Kaczynski's victims with "more justice" in a world where victims rarely receive support from the justice system.
"The glory, if you will, is already there," he said. "... That's part of our societal fabric. Everybody wants to watch the train crash."
"I can see where people claim that it's going to revictimize and stuff, but I don't believe that," said Wright, now 50, who lives in Folsom, California. "The thing that is funny to me, you're always going to have a piece of the population who has a very strong opinion and they've never been affected by it."
The auction is the culmination of a court battle. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals approved the auction plan in 2009, Steve Hirsch, a San Francisco attorney who represented the four victims in the court proceedings regarding the auctions, said last week.