Michigan may join auction for Unabomber's papers

August 5, 2005

The University of Michigan is considering whether to bid for the papers and personal effects of the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, which are being auctioned on court orders to help pay restitution to his victims.

The materials were seized from his rural hide-out by FBI agents in the 1996 raid that led to Kaczynski's prosecution and conviction. He was given a life sentence for his 18-year bombs-by-mail spree that killed three people and injured 23.

His correspondence since his conviction is already in the possession of the university, where he received an advanced degree in mathematics. So are the legal papers related to his case.

Kaczynski, a former mathematics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, wanted to give his possessions to the university for free. But a federal appeals court directed that the Government should auction his papers and personal property, including books and other artefacts. It is not clear whether the order includes Kaczynski's tiny cabin, which was moved from Montana to an Air Force base in California.

The proceeds will go towards the $15 million (£8.5 million) he has been ordered to pay his victims - the mementoes are expected to fetch high prices from collectors of so-called murder memorabilia. The Government and some victims say the exercise is macabre and oppose the sale.

Michigan, where Kaczynski took his PhD, said there was legitimate academic interest in the materials.

"Some scholars are already using them," said Julie Herrera, senior associate librarian of the university's special collections library. "Mostly it's been interesting to reporters. But we expect many scholars will be interested in these in future."

Harvard University archives also hold materials about Kaczynski, who attended it as an undergraduate. These consist mainly of his Harvard records.

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