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In a Sacramento, California, courtroom, Theodore J. Kaczynski pleads guilty to all federal charges against him, acknowledging his responsibility for a 17-year campaign of package bombings attributed to the “Unabomber.”
Born in 1942, Kaczynski attended Harvard University and received a PhD in mathematics from the University of Michigan. He worked as an assistant mathematics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, but abruptly quit in 1969. In the early 1970s, Kaczynski began living as a recluse in western Montana, in a 10-by-12 foot cabin without heat, electricity or running water. From this isolated location, he began the bombing campaign that would kill three people and injure more than 20 others.
The primary targets were universities, but he also placed a bomb on an American Airlines flight in 1979 and sent one to the home of the president of United Airlines in 1980. After federal investigators set up the UNABOM Task Force (the name came from the words “university and airline bombing”), the media dubbed the culprit the “Unabomber.” The bombs left little physical evidence, and the only eyewitness found in the case could describe the suspect only as a man in hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses (depicted in an infamous 1987 police sketch).
READ MORE: Why It Took 17 Years to Catch the Unabomber
In 1995, the Washington Post (in collaboration with the New York Times) published a 35,000-word anti-technology manifesto written by a person claiming to be the Unabomber. Recognizing elements of his brother’s writings, David Kaczynski went to authorities with his suspicions, and Ted Kaczynski was arrested in April 1996. In his cabin, federal investigators found ample evidence linking him to the bombings, including bomb parts, journal entries and drafts of the manifesto.
Kaczynski was arraigned in Sacramento and charged with bombings in 1985, 1993 and 1995 that killed two people and maimed two others. (A bombing in New Jersey in 1994 also resulted in the victim’s death.) Despite his lawyers’ efforts, Kaczynski rejected an insanity plea. After attempting suicide in his jail cell in early 1998, Kaczynski appealed to U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell Jr. to allow him to represent himself, and agreed to undergo psychiatric evaluation. A court-appointed psychiatrist diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia, and Judge Burrell ruled that Kaczynski could not defend himself. The psychiatrist’s verdict helped prosecutors and defense reach a plea bargain, which allowed prosecutors to avoid arguing for the death penalty for a mentally ill defendant.
On January 22, 1998, Kaczynski accepted a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole in return for a plea of guilty to all federal charges; he also gave up the right to appeal any rulings in the case. Though Kaczynski later attempted to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing that it had been involuntary, Judge Burrell denied the request, and a federal appeals court upheld the ruling. Kaczynski was remanded to a maximum-security prison in Colorado, where he is serving his life sentence.
READ MORE: What Is the Unabomber's Life Like Now?
Did The Unabomber Plead Guilty? Ted Kaczynski Is Serving Life In Prison
The Discovery Channel aired the premiere of its new series, Manhunt: Unabomber, last night. The show provides an account of the FBI profiler who helped track down the infamous mail bomb criminal known as "The Unabomber." In light of much-talked-about show's airing, many people also likely want to know more about the Unabomber, including whether or not he pleaded guilty during his trial.
In fact, the Unabomber did plead guilty and is currently serving life in prison. His trial and sentencing came after a nearly 20-year crime spree in which he targeted people and organizations with bombs placed in mail and packages.
The Unabomber's actual name is Ted Kaczynski. Kaczynski is regarded as a highly intelligent individual, who is Harvard-educated and also received a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, specializing in mathematics. After serving as a university professor for some time in the late 1960's, Kaczynski eventually moved to a remote cabin in Montana, where he, among other activities, seemingly began plotting his bombing crimes (though the first bomb was not actually sent until Kaczynski had moved back to his birthplace of Chicago).
As previously mentioned, Kaczynski's crimes involved sending mail and package bombs to a variety of entities. As demonstrated by the manifesto he sent to several news organizations, Kaczynski initially began his bombing campaign because he was seemingly upset about the supposedly negative impact of modern industrialization on society.
Over a period of 17 years, Kaczynski created 16 bombs that killed three people and injured 23 others. The intended recipients of the bombs were often people or organizations with which Kaczynski took issue. Kaczynski became known as the "Unabomber" because the FBI referred to him as the "University and Airline Bomber," something which the media ultimately shortened to "Unabomber."
After a long search by the FBI, Kaczynski was finally captured in 1996, following a tip-off from his own brother. Kaczynski was charged with three counts of murder and ten federal counts related to transporting and using bombs. In 1998, Kaczynski pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to eight life sentences, without the possibility of parole. As part of his plea agreement, he avoided the death penalty.
Later on, Kaczynski tried to withdraw his guilty plea, saying it was coerced however, multiple courts upheld the plea.
Kaczynski is currently serving out his life sentences at ADX Florence, a "supermax" prison in Colorado. While in prison, the Unabomber has actively corresponded with the outside world, writing to many pen pals over the years. Indeed, one wonders whether or not Kaczynski is aware of the recent airing of the Discovery channel's new show.
Kaczynski pleads guilty, avoids death sentence
During his court appearance, Kaczynski appeared to be alert and aware, and at one point corrected the judge as he read part of the agreement aloud.
Asked what his occupation was, he said, "My occupation, I suppose, is jail inmate." He then explained that he was once a college professor.
The agreement not only spares Kaczynski the death penalty -- the evidence that he was the Unabomber was overwhelming from the beginning -- but also enables him to avoid being portrayed in court as a madman, something he vehemently opposed.
It also allows the prosecution to avoid giving the impression that it was trying to execute a man who is mentally ill.
Kaczynski quit a tenure-track position at the University of California, Berkeley in 1969 to build a shack near Lincoln, Montana, and lived there without running water or electricity for more than 20 years.
It was from his 13-by-13 foot shack that he waged his 17-year "anti-technology" bombing campaign. Along with the deaths and injuries he inflicted, he threatened to blow up airplanes, and placed a bomb on one flight in 1979, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing when a fire broke out in the cargo hold.
At one point, he was able to force newspapers to print his 35,000-word manifesto, which denounced technology and the destruction of the environment. Its similarity to letters he sent to his family alerted his brother, who made the painful decision to turn Kaczynski in.
Kaczynski was arrested at his cabin in April 1996.
Psychiatric report was a factor
A plea bargain had been discussed for months but was repeatedly turned down by the government because Kaczynski insisted on certain conditions -- among them, that he would retain certain rights on appeal and that he would not be put in a federal mental hospital.
The trial had three false starts, and Judge Burrell said Thursday he blamed Kaczynski for manipulating the criminal-justice process.
After an apparent suicide attempt in his jail cell two weeks ago, Kaczynski asked the judge to allow him to fire his attorneys and take over his own defense. He indicated that he wanted to base his defense on his belief that technology is destroying humanity.
Kaczynski agreed to undergo tests by a federal psychiatrist, Dr. Sally Johnson, to prove he was mentally competent to defend himself.
While Johnson concluded that Kaczynski was mentally competent, she also diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic. Those who suffer from the illness are prone to violence and delusions.
Cleary confirmed that the psychiatric report was "a factor," but said "other things" also influenced the decision to reopen plea bargain negotiations. He did not say what those other things were.
Correspondent Greg Lefevre and Reuters contributed to this report.
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The Net: Ted Kaczinski, the CIA and the History of Cyberspace
Directed by Lutz Daumbeck
German (with English subtitles)
This is a fascinating German documentary about the so-called “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski. Between 1978 and 1995 Kaczinski, a former Berkeley math professor, sent a series of letterbombs (killing three people and injuring 23 others) to researchers involved in high profile cybernetics* and related fields. His brother would ultimately identify Kaczynski after the FBI persuaded the New York Times to publish his manifesto “Industrial Society and Its Future.” Following his 1996 arrest, his attorneys negotiated a plea bargain (without his consent) in which he pleaded guilty to all charges and received a life sentence without possibility of parole.
Warning against the future role of computers in absolute mind control and surveillance of all society, Kaczinski’s manifesto also outlines his desire to derail this process by targeting the main scientists responsible. Hard copies of the manifesto are still available various anarchist bookstores and online at Kaczynski the unabomber manifesto
The film intersperses investigation into Kaczynski’s personal history and an examination of the bizarre LSD-laced culture that would result in the personal computer,** the Internet, Esalon,*** and CIA mind control experimentation.
For me the most shocking revelation in the film concerns a CIA experiment Kaczinski participated in while a Harvard student. The lead researcher fed him and 19 other exceptionally gifted students LSD and filmed the bizarre behavior they subsequently engaged in. Although the videos of Kaczinski have “mysteriously” vanished, there is clear written documentation of his participation. It’s also apparent the government failed to inform his defense team of these mitigating circumstances.
Kaczynski, reported to have an IQ of 170, began studying math at Harvard at age 16. He began teaching graduate level math courses at Berkeley in 1965. In 1971, he resigned his job and built himself a cabin in the woods in Montana.
The most interesting segments of the film relate to a lengthy correspondence (in German) between Kaczynski and one of the filmmakers.
*Cybernetics is defined as the interaction between human beings and machines.
**Stewart Brand, known as the father of the personal computer, was a member of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters. The Merry Pranksters’ bus traveled widely during the sixties distributing free LSD and performing with a band that later became the Grateful Dead. As John Potash writes in Drugs as Weapons Against Us, Kesey and Grateful Dead band members were also CIA assets involved with a scheme to promote and distribute LSD among antiwar leftists.
U.S. appeals court rules Kaczynski's guilty plea stands
FILE--Unabomber suspect is shown in this June 21, 1996, file photo. Kaczynski's defense team served notice Monday, Dec. 29, 1997, that it will not call mental health experts as witnesses during the guilt-or-innocence phase of his trial. It did so after making clear in hundreds of pages of pretrial documents that it believes Kaczynski is schizophrenic and could not form the intent to kill anyone. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File) ELAINE THOMPSON
A federal appeals court refused again yesterday to let Theodore Kaczynski withdraw his guilty plea and face a death-penalty trial for the Unabomber murders. A dissenting judge said the ruling treats Kaczynski as "less than human."
The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco denied a rehearing of its 2-to-1 ruling last February that found that Kaczynski pleaded guilty voluntarily to save his life. Kaczynski, who is representing himself from prison, could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The former University of California at Berkeley math professor, who left academic life in 1969 for a remote Montana cabin, pleaded guilty in January 1998 to sending mail bombs that killed three people and wounded 23 over an 18- year period. He was sentenced to life in prison in a plea agreement with the Justice Department, which had sought a death sentence.
Before his plea in a Sacramento federal court, Kaczynski had objected to his court-appointed lawyers' plans to portray him to the jury as mentally ill. He tried to replace them with San Francisco defense attorney Tony Serra, who had agreed to present a defense based on the Unabomber's anti-technology views,
but U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell ruled that it would take too long to bring Serra into the case.
Hours after Burrell ruled that defense lawyers could present psychiatric evidence in the guilt phase of the trial, Kaczynski tried to hang himself in jail. He then sought to fire his lawyers and represent himself -- a right that courts have guaranteed to any mentally competent defendant -- but Burrell refused and said Kaczynski was only trying to delay the trial. He pleaded guilty soon afterward.
After entering prison, however, Kaczynski asked to withdraw the plea, saying it had been coerced, and asked for a trial at which he would again face the possibility of a death sentence.
An appeals court panel upheld the guilty plea in February and said Burrell was justified in rejecting Kaczynski's request to defend himself. The panel majority said Kaczynski had known of the planned psychiatric defense for weeks and tried to fire his lawyers only when the trial was approaching.
Land that belonged to 'Unabomber' for sale
(CNN) -- For 17 years, Ted Kaczynski meticulously prepared his instruments of death from a cabin on a remote piece of property in western Montana.
The former math professor eschewed modern comforts, like electricity or water, in the small wooden building where he made the mail bombs that would make him infamous. He also drew up an angry 35,000-word anti-technology manifesto.
The "Unabomber" killed three people and wounded 23 others in a string of attacks from 1978 to 1995.
The cabin is long gone, housed in the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Kaczynski, 68, is long gone, too. He is serving a life sentence at a federal supermax prison in Colorado.
All that's left in Lincoln, Montana, are the notoriety for about 1,500 townspeople and the 1.4 acres Kaczynski once owned a few miles south of town.
Now the property is for sale, recently reduced from $154,500 to $69,500.
"It's very secluded. Hardly any one goes up there," says John Pistelak, who runs a realty company in town and is handling the sale. "I've had all kinds of calls."
The land is much quieter than it was in the weeks after the arrest as agents scoured it for clues into the Unabomber's diabolic plans and anger.
A few bottles and the remains of a root cellar are still evident, according to Pistelak.
A real estate brochure reads, "Own a Piece of U.S. History: Home of the Unabomber." It also touts the plot's proximity to wilderness areas and "great fishing and hunting."
Pistelak acknowledges the land normally would go for no more than $50,000.
But this wooded patch of land, which is being sold by a friend of his, is different, Pistelak says.
"With the history, it's got to be worth something," he said.
Wendy Gehring, who knew Kaczynski and was a neighbor, said she doesn't buy the man's reputation as a naturalist.
"I have nothing good to say about him," she told CNN Saturday, saying he looked down on her because she is a woman. "The town doesn't really give a rat's ass about Ted Kaczynski."
Gehring and her husband, Clifford, operate a lumber business and saw mill. Kaczynski complained about the noise and said it disturbed his peace, Gehring said.
For a while, the Unabomber lived a hermit's life, later emerging to ride his bicycle to town.
"We thought he was D.B. Cooper," said Gehring, referring to the famous hijacker who disappeared after parachuting from a flight, likely over Washington state, in 1971.
Clifford Gehring identified Kaczynski when agents made the April 1996 arrest on the property.
It has not been inhabited since the arrest. A prospective buyer could run power on the property from a few lots down, Pistelak told CNN Saturday.
Kaczynski quit a tenure-track position at the University of California-Berkeley in 1969 and, soon after, he and a brother built the shack.
Federal agents gave the case the code name "Unabom" because universities and airlines were the early targets.
Along with the deaths and injuries he inflicted, Kaczynski threatened to blow up airplanes, and placed a bomb on one flight in 1979, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing when a fire broke out in the cargo hold.
Agents closed in after his brother noted similarities between his old letters and journals and the bomber's manifesto.
Some areas on the property are surrounded by chain-link fences, vestiges of the federal investigation. Interestingly, Pistelak says, there are no gates in the fences.
In 1999, Kaczynski told Time magazine he "would rather get the death penalty than spend the rest of my life in prison."
In an interview at the federal prison in Florence, Colorado, he also said he is sane.
"I don't get delusions and so on and so forth. I mean, I had very serious problems with social adjustment in adolescence, and a lot of people would call this a sickness. But it would have to be distinguished between an organic illness, like schizophrenia or something like that."
Kaczynski said he pleaded guilty in 1998 only to stop his lawyers from arguing that he was a paranoid schizophrenic, as court-appointed psychiatrists had diagnosed.
Kaczynski wrote a book, "Truth Versus Lies."
In it, he said his brother's decision to turn him in was a way of settling a sibling rivalry. His brother was jealous "over the fact that our parents valued me more highly."
In the Unabomber Manifesto, Kaczynski claimed a moral high ground for his bombing campaign, justifying the attacks in the name of preserving humanity and nature from the relentless onslaught of technology and exploitation.
But in his journals, the government said, Kaczynski scoffed at environmental ideals.
The journals, found by FBI investigators in his Montana mountain cabin, revealed a cynical, apparently sexually confused killer who delighted in his deadly explosions and cared little for the outside world.
"I believe in nothing," Kaczynski wrote. "I don't even believe in the cult of nature-worshipers or wilderness-worshipers. (I am perfectly ready to litter in parts of the woods that are of no use to me -- I often throw cans in logged-over areas.)"
Of his killings, Kaczynski wrote: "My motive for doing what I am going to do is simply personal revenge."
The Unabomber got no sympathy from victims and their families.
Susan Mosser, who lost her husband in a Unabomber attack, urged the federal judge to "make the sentence bullet-proof, or bomb-proof, lock him so far down that when he does die, he'll be closer to hell. That's where the devil belongs."
Artifact of the Month
April 3, 2016, is the 20th anniversary of the arrest of Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, known more widely as the Unabomber. Kaczynski’s first bomb exploded at a Chicago university in 1978. For the next 17 years, he mailed or delivered bombs that killed three people and injured 24 more.
In fact, the name Unabomber was inspired by the case name UNABOM, which is derived from the UNiversity and Airline BOMbing targets. He threatened to blow up airliners, and he worked meticulously to leave no forensic evidence. All Kaczynski’s bombs were made from untraceable scrap material that he could obtain anywhere.
For the FBI’s first Artifact of the Month, we are showing pieces of one of Kaczynski’s bombs.
These pieces stem from the February 1987 bombing at CAAMS Inc., a computer store in Salt Lake City, Utah. The CAAMS Inc. bombing is significant because it gave the FBI its first eyewitness when someone in the vicinity saw a man in a hooded sweatshirt with aviator sunglasses leave the bomb in a bag on the road. In the photo, the middle piece of the bomb shrapnel also bears Kaczynski’s signature inscription—the letters “FC” are etched into one side.
In 1995, the Unabomber sent the FBI a 35,000-word manifesto, which Director Louis Freeh and Attorney General Janet Reno approved to be published. The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Penthouse magazine all published the manifesto. Linda Patrik, wife of Ted’s brother David Kaczynski, recognized the ideas in the writings and convinced her husband to turn in his brother, along with letters and documents he had written, to the FBI. Ted Kaczynski was arrested in 1996 and pleaded guilty in 1998. He is serving a life sentence in a prison in Colorado.
Ted Kaczynski is outed by his family
Wanda Kaczynski continued to believe that her son was never the same after the early childhood experience, and she implored David to be sensitive about Ted's potential feelings of abandonment. David recalled the day she told him, "'You don't ever abandon your brother, David, because that's what he fears the most.' And of course, I am thinking, 'well, I will never abandon Ted. Why would I abandon Ted? I love Ted.'"
But that thought was seriously challenged years later when David's wife was the first to suspect the manifesto was written by Ted, per ABC News. She urged David to read it, and he agreed it sounded like his brother. David and his attorney contacted the FBI, leading them to Ted's arrest at his rural Montana cabin on April 3, 1996. David received assurances that his identity as an informant would be kept secret, according to The Washington Post, but his name was leaked to the press.
It's not clear whether Ted Kaczynski's violent crimes had anything to do with his period in the hospital as a 6-month-old, or other factors — including feeling isolated due to his childhood brilliance. For his part, Ted Kaczynski later pleaded guilty to all 13 counts against him, leading to his conviction. On January 22, 1998, he was sentenced to eight consecutive life sentences, without the chance of parole.
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In a Sacramento, California, courtroom, Theodore J. Kaczynski pleads guilty to all federal charges against him, acknowledging his responsibility for a 17-year campaign of package bombings attributed to the “Unabomber.” Born in 1942, Kaczynski attended […]
Kaczynski Pleads Guilty to Killings / Unabomber trial ends in deal to avoid death
1998-01-23 04:00:00 PDT Sacramento -- The long, tortuous tale of the Unabomber moved to an end yesterday when Theodore J. Kaczynski, the brilliant yet paranoid math professor turned terrorist bomber, pleaded guilty to a series of deadly attacks in return for a sentence of life in prison "without the possibility of release."
After nearly three weeks of courtroom chaos, caused by Kaczynski's mercurial whims about firing his lawyers, hiring other attorneys or even going it alone and representing himself, it was finished. Everyone who has been touched by this case -- from judge to prosecutors to defense attorneys, from victims and their families to Kaczynski's own family -- looked exhausted but relieved.
"The Unabomber's career is over," lead prosecutor Robert Cleary said later. "Justice has best been served by this guarantee of life in prison."
In the front row, Kaczynski's mother, Wanda, looked irredeemably sad that her son will be incarcerated until he is dead but utterly grateful that he had escaped the death penalty sought for more than a year by the government.
David Kaczynski, who had turned in his brother, ending an 18-year, $50 million manhunt that was going nowhere, wept. Afterward, he said, "We feel it is the appropriate, just and civilized resolution to this tragedy, in light of Ted's diagnosed mental illness."
His brother had been diagnosed last week by a government psychiatrist as a paranoid schizophrenic.
Cleary, in addition to thanking the UNABOM Task Force, said in a graceful concession to the linchpin of the investigation, "We are eternally indebted to the heroic actions of David Kaczynski. He is the true American hero."
For David Kaczynski, the plea capped two heart- wrenching years that began when he approached authorities after recognizing similarities between his brother's anti- technological diatribes and the lengthy Unabomber manifesto published in newspapers in September 1995.
When he turned in his brother, David Kaczynski did so with what he thought were assurances that the federal government would not seek the death penalty. Things turned out differently and for several months David Kaczynski campaigned for his brother's life, charging the government had gone back on its word.
Kaczynski's two lead attorneys, Quin Denvir and Judy Clarke, have been praised by attorneys around the nation for their determination to save their client's life, but they were not immediately available for comment after yesterday's hearing.
During the proceedings, Theodore Kaczynski sat unflinching as a prosecutor recited in minute detail the horror of the crimes -- the explosions that killed two men, blew off the arm of a third and caused lifelong injuries to many others.
For the first time, prosecutors read Kaczynski's journal descriptions of the bombs he built and the destruction he wrought. They showed that he eagerly followed newspaper accounts of the attacks.
Connie Murray, the widow of Gilbert Murray, slain by a bomb on April 24, 1995, bowed her head and closed her eyes when her husband's name was mentioned. Later, she said through FBI chaplain Mark O'Sullivan that the family agreed with the plea bargain, but it was clear the deal had left a bitter taste in her mouth.
"Mr. Kaczynski fits the definition of a serial killer," Murray said in her statement, "and this was definitely a death penalty case. He saw loopholes, and his manipulation of the system was very visible. He will never, ever kill again."
The day was filled with drama, beginning when U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell Jr. refused Kaczynski's bid to represent himself. As the session stopped and started, attorneys secretly pounded out a last-minute plea bargain -- so last-minute that the judge had the jury waiting in the wings to hear the case.
In the end, Kaczynski admitted that he had been responsible for the bombs that killed three people and injured 23 others.
Kaczynski also admitted to having planned and executed all 16 Unabomber incidents, ranging from the first crude device, planted at a college campus in Chicago, to the sophisticated bombs that killed Sacramento computer store owner Hugh Scrutton in 1985 and timber lobbyist Murray in 1995.
As part of the deal, Kaczynski admitted to the separate bomb slaying of New Jersey advertising executive Thomas Mosser in 1994. The indictment by a New Jersey grand jury on the Mosser death was folded in with the Sacramento charges of killing Scrutton and Murray and injuring Yale computer scientist David Gelernter and University of California at San Francisco geneticist Charles Epstein with mail bombs in 1993.
The government says the agreement with Kaczynski was "unconditional," which means the 55-year-old ex-mathematician cannot appeal any pretrial rulings and will, indeed, spend the rest of his life behind bars.
It is extremely unlikely that Kaczynski will face any other prosecutions, since the federal charges
in New Jersey were wrapped into the plea, and local and state authorities have shown little inclination to pursue cases against the now-admitted Unabomber.