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The federal government has to stop dilly-dallying and come up with a plan to get rid of the Unabomber’s infamous writings. In a unanimous opinion filed Thursday, just a month after the case was argued, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Sacramento U.S. Attorney’s Office to dispose of Theodore Kaczynski’s papers in a way that maximizes their value to help pay $15 million in restitution he owes victims of his mail-bombing campaign. The government did not want the papers sold, nor would it allow Kaczynski to donate them to the University of Michigan’s collection of protest literature. Instead, the feds proposed holding a private “garage sale” to determine their value and then pay an equivalent amount of taxpayer money into the restitution fund. Doing so would return less money to the fund. “The government’s ‘plan’ plainly fails to serve the victims and their families, for whom — we must not lose sight — the restitution was awarded in the first place,” wrote Judge Michael Daly Hawkins. Chief Judge Mary Schroeder and Judge William Canby concurred. The panel also ordered that the victims be provided pro bono counsel to represent their interests in district court. Kaczynski pleaded guilty to the mail-bomb campaign and was sentenced to life in federal prison in 1998. The court ordered the restitution, but so far the fund has only received about $8,000. Some believe the papers and books seized by the FBI from Kaczynski’s Montana cabin could fetch a lot of money from collectors. There are thousands of pages, including loose-leaf binders, notebooks, math theorems and something labeled “Autobiography.” There are also dozens of books, everything from John Steinbeck’s classic “Of Mice and Men” to books on history, science and communism. If the federal government refuses to use the papers to pay the restitution, it must return them to Kaczynski. Kaczynski was backed up by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued that his papers should be returned on First Amendment grounds. Although the appellate panel didn’t reach that issue, Christopher Durbin, who represented the ACLU, said he was still pleased with the result. “The court agreed that the government can’t continue to sit on these,” Durbin said. “The government has distaste for Kaczynski [but] their restitution claim is not valid.” In a statement, Eastern District U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said his office will do its “best to protect the interests, financial and otherwise, of the victims of these heinous crimes.” The case is U.S. v. Kaczynski, 05 C.D.O.S. 6384.

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