ATLANTA – The U.S. Marshals Service is hoping to make a buck from those looking to own a piece of the Unabomber — from his sneakers to a copy of his infamous manifesto.
An online auction of personal items that once belonged to Ted Kaczynski begins Wednesday and proceeds will benefit the victims’ families. The items include handwritten letters, typewriters, tools, clothing and several hundred books.
Kaczynski, 69, is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty in 1998 to setting 16 explosions that killed three people, including two in Sacramento, Calif., and injured 23 others in various parts of the country.
A U.S. district judge ordered the items sold on August 2010.
State University of New York at Albany criminal justice professor James Acker said the items have value.
“It sounds like some of the items have at least indisputable, legitimate historical scholarly value,” Acker said. “More peripheral items, I’m thinking that for reasons similar to why crime usually draws in such audiences when presented graphically on the 6 o’clock news, people do have a fascination with crime, especially violent crime.”
The FBI turned over possession of the items to the U.S. Marshals, who have contracted with Atlanta-based GSA Auctions to coordinate the sale, said Marshals spokeswoman Lynzey Donohue. She could not say how much money the agency expects to make during the action, which runs through June 2.
“This is an unusual type of case,” said Donohue. “It’s really difficult to put a value on these items because of the intrinsic value they have based on his notoriety.”
There is no minimum bid. Donohue said the agency believes museums, crime-collectible companies, universities and the public will be interested.
Last year, the agency netted about $580 million for state and local law enforcement agencies and $345 million for victims by holding auctions of items seized in asset-forfeiture cases. The Marshals currently has about 18,000 assets in its inventory valued at $3.9 billion.
In November, an auction of items belonging to convicted New York City Ponzi scheme mastermind Bernie Madoff made over $1 million, not including the sale of several real estate properties, boats and vehicles.
The National Death Penalty Archive at the University at Albany includes memorabilia from offenders who have been executed. Acker said it helps to humanize those people.
“Even criminals who commit very horrible crimes do have a human aspect,” he said. “To the extent we can get all the closer to the individuals who committed the crime, we can all have a better understanding of what motivated the criminal activity. That’s not to be dismissed lightly.”
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