CLOSING THE BOOK ON KACZYNSKI
May 4, 1998
Today was the final sentencing for unabomber Theodore Kaczynski. Phil Ponce is joined by David Jackson, San Francisco Bureau Chief for Time magazine, in a discussion of the day's proceedings.
PHIL PONCE: Today's sentencing in Sacramento officially closes the book on Theodore Kaczynski's 18-year bombing campaign. He mailed 16 bombs, killing three people and injuring twenty-eight. Under a plea bargain agreement Kaczynski acknowledged responsibility for all the bombings and was sentenced to four life terms with no possibility of parole. Prosecutor Robert Cleary spoke to reporters after the hearing.
ROBERT CLEARY, Kaczynski Prosecutor: This day belongs to the men, women, and children whose lives have been forever changed by the heartless choices of Theodore Kaczynski. Today they can leave this courthouse knowing that this tragedy--this tragic phase of their life--is over. Theodore Kaczynski will spend the rest of his life behind bars. Justice has been served. And the case is finally concluded. The victims and survivors of this case, who has suffered in silence and with dignity, for so many years, finally had their day in court. We hope and pray that that brings some measure of closure to them for this most painful chapter in their lives. Kaczynski's reign of terror interfered with and jeopardized the lives and safety of scores of innocent people and installed fear in the hearts of many, many others. On behalf of the unabomb task force, which consists of the FBI, the ATF, and the postal inspection service, and also on behalf of the Department of Justice, I can honestly say that whatever we have lost as a result of Kaczynski's cowardly acts, we have regained by bearing witness to the courage, the dignity, and the bravery of the families that we have been so honored to serve. They were an inspiration to us and to all Americans. Our thoughts, our prayers, and our gratitude will be with them forever. And we thank them from the bottom of our hearts for their friendship. Thank you.
PHIL PONCE: Now, for more on today's proceedings we're joined by David Jackson, San Francisco Bureau Chief for Time Magazine. Welcome, Dave. Dave, people were not exactly sure whether or not Theodore Kaczynski was going to be testifying. What did he say?
DAVID JACKSON, Time Magazine: Well, that was the big question. Kaczynski was asked if he had a statement, and he said he had only a brief one. He went on to criticize the government for releasing the sentencing memorandum last week, which, of course, was not only embarrassing for him but very incriminating. Kaczynski called it a purely political document filled with false statements and distorted statements, and he said that he was going to at a later time issue another statement that would explain his views on it. And he asked people to withhold their judgment of him and the case. That became difficult to the testimony that followed.
PHIL PONCE: Dave, by way of background, what were some of the points that came out in that sentencing memorandum that prosecutors put out?
DAVID JACKSON: Probably the biggest impact of that statement was it really shattered the image that Kaczynski had of being a champion of environmentalism or of anti-technocracy. It contained many old memos and diary statements by Kaczynski in which he essentially said I don't believe in anything. He sort of disparaged the environmental movement. He talked about a life-long hatred of people that even with all the memos that were released it's still hard to tell just what he's angry about, the vengefulness that he feels and was so strongly expressed, it's still unclear why he's so mad at everybody.
PHIL PONCE: And during his statement today was there any reaction from any of the victims or families of the victims?
DAVID JACKSON: Most of what we heard from the victims today was really called victim impact statements, talking about the impact on their families of the death of their loved ones or the injury of their loved ones. There was a lot of disdain, not surprisingly, by the victims both in the courtroom and from afterwards for a few who spoke to reporters outside the courtroom. About Kaczynski, they--many of them feel that they wished he had been put to death, although most people said that they felt comforted by the fact of knowing that no matter what happens he will never be released from prison.
PHIL PONCE: I understand Susan Mosier, the wife of one of the victims who was killed, gave a particularly emotional statement. What did she say?
DAVID JACKSON: Yes. It was very moving. She spoke for about 15 minutes, and she began with a detailed description of the day that her husband, Thomas Mosier, died in New Jersey. She described how the explosion shook the house. She ran to chase their small daughter into another room moments before the bomb exploded. It was a very touching and horrifying scene that she described, and she went on to tell how--in a frequently shaky voice--the impact on her children, the father that they lost, and how they really never will get over it.
PHIL PONCE: Did Theodore Kaczynski have any reaction or show any reaction while she was giving her statement?
DAVID JACKSON: No. Kaczynski appeared emotionless throughout the day. There was no visible reaction from him to any of the testimony. I asked Nick Sweno, one of the victims of the bombings, relatively minor injuries in his case, I asked him later whether Kaczynski reacted when Sweno walked past him to return to his seat, as all the victims did as they stepped down from the witness stand, and Sweno said that Kaczynski not only didn't react, he said, he saw the--in his words--the same cold dead look that he saw every time he looked at Kaczynski. There just did not seem to be any reaction at all.
PHIL PONCE: And some of the victims and some of the family members made some statements about David Kaczynski, Theodore Kaczynski's brother. What did they say?
DAVID JACKSON: Yes. The families of the victims and some of the victims, themselves, have frequently thanked David Kaczynski for coming forward and telling authorities about his concerns about his brother possibly being the unabomber. And in one or two situations today we saw family members go over and mutter a few words to David Kaczynski to shake his hand, to let him know that they were grateful for what he did. And once again today the prosecutors outside the courtroom again thanked David Kaczynski and, in fact, called him a hero for what he did.
PHIL PONCE: Dave, how airtight is this sentence? Is there a possibility that Theodore Kaczynski could down the road say that he was suffering from mental illness or make an attack against his attorneys, anything like that?
DAVID JACKSON: There's virtually nothing he can do. It's as airtight as they come. This was pretty much sealed at the time of his plea. He was asked numerous questions to determine that he knew what he was doing, that he knew the consequences of it, that he knew he could never withdraw it even if the judge decided to give him a different sentence from the sentence he agreed to, even then he could not have withdrawn it. So there--there's no possibility of release. There's no parole in the federal system. So there's just no chance that he will ever leave prison. He will die there. He's got not only consecutive life sentences, which sends a very strong message to anyone years down the road of how serious these crimes were, but he will be housed in a maximum security facility so that there's no chance of escape and there's no chance of him doing any bomb making or causing any trouble from inside a prison.
PHIL PONCE: What will his life be like inside a maximum security prison? Will he be in solitary confinement? Will he be part of the general prison population? Do you know?
DAVID JACKSON: For sure, we don't know. It's unlikely that he would not be normally assigned to solitary confinement just as a punishment. That's not a punishment that's recognized as a normal one, except as a specific punishment for a misdeed in prison. They will first send him to the Bureau of Prisons to be assessed. They will determine what special needs he has. For example, if someone's a diabetic, they may have special needs, or if someone needs psychiatric medication, they may have to put him in a maximum security facility that has access to treatment of that sort. Once they do that, he will be incarcerated but often with high profile criminals in prison they segregate them from the rest of the population because they're at risk of being murdered by some other inmate who may look for the notoriety of having killed the famous Theodore Kaczynski.
PHIL PONCE: David Jackson, thank you very much.
DAVID JACKSON: Thank you.
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