SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court yesterday ordered the government to sell Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski's writings and other materials seized in 1996 from his Montana cabin, and use the proceeds to compensate his victims.
Kaczynski, who pleaded guilty in 1998 to a nearly 20-year series of bombings that killed three people and wounded 23, wanted to donate his works to the University of Michigan, for its renowned research library of social protest. The US government wanted to keep his autobiography and other writings.
A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously said that the government's plan was untenable and that the property should be sold for whatever it can fetch in the marketplace. The proceeds, the court said, must be used to help pay the $15 million in restitution that Kaczynski's victims were owed.
The government contended that selling his works on the market would allow the so-called Unabomber to profit from his crimes.
But Circuit Judge Michael Daly Hawkins wrote: ''Applying the revenue from the sale of Kaczynski's property, even inflated by his criminal celebrity status, to his restitution debt would benefit not Kaczynski but the victims of his crimes."
The materials Kaczynski wants to donate include journals, letters, and an autobiography. He is also seeking the return of books, clothes, and other belongings.
Kaczynski's attorney, John Balazs, said the government has steadfastly refused a public sale and speculated it may return Kaczynski's works to him rather ''than make a spectacle out of it."
Kaczynski, 62, is serving a life sentence without parole for bombings between 1978 and 1995. He led authorities on the nation's longest, costliest manhunt before his brother tipped off authorities in 1996.
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.