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Kaczynski Indicted in 4 Unabomber Attacks

Crime: U.S. charges include two fatal bombings in Sacramento, where the suspect will be tried.

June 19, 1996|MARK GLADSTONE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kaczynski is not charged with murder because there is no general charge of murder in federal law. Murder is a federal crime only under special circumstances, such as when the slaying takes place on a federal reservation or in connection with certain narcotics and organized crime offenses.

But the indictment handed up Tuesday allows for capital punishment. A decision whether to seek the death penalty will be made by Atty. Gen. Janet Reno.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department issued a five-page statement accompanying the indictment, apparently keeping it low-key because of sensitivity about the death penalty as well as pretrial publicity.

"These charges," Reno said, "are the result of a multi-agency investigation by the UNABOM Task Force into a series of bombings that occurred across the United States beginning in 1978."

The task force, based in San Francisco, is made up of agents from the FBI, Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Treasury's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and other agencies.

Reno's unusually bland statement contrasted with her pledge to seek the death penalty in the Oklahoma City bombing case even before any indictments were returned. President Clinton had made the same pledge.

Defense attorneys later challenged Reno's outspokenness and tried to sue to block the government from seeking the death penalty.

The government's low-key posture, despite the nature of Kaczynski's alleged crimes, also reflects caution not to create pretrial publicity issues, government officials said.

Federal authorities said all Unabomber-related crimes remain under investigation, including the death of Thomas J. Mosser, an advertising executive, killed in 1994 in New Jersey.

In spare language, the nine-page indictment focused on four Unabomber-related attacks tied to Sacramento.

The grand jury charged Kaczynski with transporting a bomb or bomb components from Montana to Sacramento in 1985 and placing it at the back entrance of Rentech, Scrutton's computer rental business. Scrutton moved it, triggering an explosion.

Kaczynski faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted in Scrutton's death because there is no statute of limitations on the federal crime of transporting an explosive device with intent to kill.

Dudley, Scrutton's mother, said she has just one question for Kaczynski: Why did he place a bomb behind her son's computer rental business in a small shopping center in Sacramento? She said she wonders "whether he picked out my son or whether it was just happenstance?"

Likewise, officials at the timber lobbying group said they hoped that "the unfolding evidence will bring greater insight into why the California Forestry Assn. was a target of the Unabomber's evil."

In that case, the grand jury alleged that Kaczynski transported a bomb from Montana to Oakland, and then mailed it to William Dennison, Murray's predecessor as president of the forestry association.

When the bomb, in a wooden box tightly wrapped in brown paper, was delivered, workers talked about the strange-looking, shoe-box-sized parcel and shook it. They even wondered aloud whether it was a bomb before leaving it for Murray.

One of his co-workers joked nervously, saying, "I'm going back to my office before the bomb goes off." Within minutes, the package exploded, killing Murray.

The two deadly attacks form the indictment's bookends.

In between, the grand jury alleged, Kaczynski transported two other bombs from Montana to Sacramento, mailing one to Dr. Charles Epstein in Tiburon, Calif., in June 1993, and another to Dr. David Gelernter in New Haven, Conn., about the same time.

The bombs to the university professors were encased in wooden boxes placed in padded envelopes. UC San Francisco geneticist Epstein lost several fingers when the parcel exploded at his home. Yale professor Gelernter was injured when he opened a package in his office and it exploded. Epstein declined to comment Tuesday. Gelernter could not be reached.

For Sacramento, the Unabomber case promises to be one of the highest-profile trials in the city's history. On Tuesday, a dozen or more TV trucks were lined up in front of the eight-story federal courthouse, just down the block from the state Capitol.

Gov. Pete Wilson, who in April said that the state stood ready to help local prosecutors pursue the case against Kaczynski, expressed pleasure at the federal indictment and urged the government to seek the death penalty.

"Given the heinous crimes that Mr. Kaczynski is accused of, if he is convicted, Californians would hope and expect that the federal government would seek the most severe penalty against him--the death penalty," Wilson said.

"I hope that today's action by the grand jury marks the beginning of the final chapter in the sad and tragic reign of terror plagued upon so many Californians by the Unabomber," Wilson said.

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