Justice Department's decision to reject plea deal troubles Kaczynski's brother 'I think he has become very distrustful of prosecutors,' lawyer says


SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- David Kaczynski, who turned in his brother as the suspected Unabomber, was surprised and distraught by the Justice Department's recent refusal of Theodore J. Kaczynski's offer to plead guilty, a lawyer for David Kaczynski said.

The lawyer, Anthony Bisceglie, said prosecutors had led the Kaczynski family to believe that a deal to avoid the death penalty was possible if Theodore Kaczynski, 55, offered to plead guilty. The trial is scheduled to open tomorrow.

It was learned last week that Attorney General Janet Reno's death penalty review committee had refused Kaczynski's offer to plead guilty to Unabomber crimes in exchange for the government's withdrawing its demand for the death sentence.

"I called David," Bisceglie said in an interview Friday night, "and he said that was unbelievable to him, and he could not understand what the government was trying to accomplish here."

Theodore Kaczynski has refused to see his mother, Wanda, and brother since long before his arrest in 1996, but they have both been working to save his life.

Because David Kaczynski supplied the critical information that ended a years-long investigation, prosecutors were forced into an uneasy relationship with him. His struggle to work with the government and then his opposition to the prosecutors' decision to try to execute his brother have become a subtext to the courtroom events.

David Kaczynski said several weeks ago that prosecutors had led him to believe in the early phases of the investigation that they understood his brother was not a political terrorist but a troubled man who should receive psychiatric help in prison.

'Depressed and distraught'

"David is very depressed and distraught," Bisceglie said. "I think he has become very distrustful of prosecutors."

Bisceglie, a Washington lawyer, said Justice Department representatives had told him over many months that they would consider a plea if Theodore Kaczynski acknowledged an interest in making a deal.

"The defendant has to come to us," Bisceglie quoted prosecutors as saying.

Bisceglie, who has represented David Kaczynski since before he took his suspicions to authorities, is working with David Kaczynski and his mother, who are both expected to testify for the defense.

Theodore Kaczynski's views about his family's efforts on his behalf are not known.

Bisceglie said he thought prosecutors understood that, in addition to saving the cost, difficulty and uncertainty of a trial, a guilty plea would save David Kaczynski from the ordeal of fighting to save the life of the brother he turned in.

Leesa Brown, a spokeswoman for the prosecutors, said they would not comment on Bisceglie's assertions.

Bisceglie said the recent events had been particularly difficult for Wanda Kaczynski, 80, and for David Kaczynski, 47, because of the hope they had that a resolution was near that would have spared Theodore Kaczynski's life.

"Once Ted was willing to enter into a negotiated disposition," Bisceglie said, "that indicated Ted was interested in living, which was a very positive sign to David and his mom, and they firmly believed the Justice Department would enter into such an arrangement."

But the lawyer said Kaczynski's mother and brother were insistent on doing whatever was necessary to try to help Kaczynski.

"Hope springs eternal," Bisceglie said. "They are determined to see this through."

Bisceglie declined to specify what role he had played in discussions with prosecutors. But he said he had had discussions over many months with officials involved in the case who understood that he was representing David Kaczynski.

Long-term understanding

Bisceglie said that he had a long-term understanding that a plea was possible to avoid the death penalty if Theodore Kaczynski would agree to plead guilty to crimes that would subject him to life in prison without the possibility of release.

"I had received indications from the prosecution some months back that sort of a disposition might be possible," Bisceglie said.

Such plea deals are common in cases that do not receive extensive public attention, he said, particularly when the sanity of a defendant is in question.

Bisceglie said he had difficulty explaining the government's refusal to consider a plea.

"I think it is perceived by public officials that to not seek the death penalty is a political risk," Bisceglie said, "and that it is easier to wash your hands of that decision and let a jury deal with it."

Pub Date: 1/04/98

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