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Profile: Robert J. Cleary
Robert J. Cleary was a participant or observer in the following events:
Federal prosecutor Robert J. Cleary, an assistant US attorney based in Newark, New Jersey, is named the lead prosecutor in the Unabomber case (see April 3, 1996). Justice Department officials say that the government has not yet decided what charges to file against suspected bomber Theodore J. Kaczynski, though experts believe that he will be charged with the murder of advertising executive Thomas J. Mosser, killed by a mail bomb almost two years ago (see December 10, 1994). The Mosser murder, along with a second Unabomb-connected murder (see April 24, 1995), are important, legal observers say, because they are the only two cases punishable by the death penalty. Currently, Kaczynski is being held in Helena, Montana, on charges of possession of illegal explosives. He is being held without bail. Officials say they doubt that Kaczynski will be prosecuted for all 16 of the bombings he is suspected of committing, but only those that caused serious injury or death. Cleary’s prosecution team is made up of himself, Stephen P. Freccero of San Francisco, Robert Steven Lapham of Sacramento, Bernard F. Hubley of Montana, and two Justice Department lawyers, E. Thomas Roberts and J. Douglas Wilson. [New York Times, 4/12/1996] Cleary has been the US Attorney’s liaison to the Unabom task force, based in San Francisco, since Mosser’s death. [Washington Post, 4/13/1996]
Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996 and June 9, 1996), interrupts the first day of his murder trial by asking to meet privately with the judge to demand replacements for his defense lawyers—and perhaps to defend himself—and to protest his brother David Kaczynski’s presence in the courtroom. [Washington Post, 1998] Kaczynski halts the proceedings before the jury enters the courtroom by telling Judge Garland Burrell Jr. that he has a “very important” statement to make about his relationship with his attorneys. “Your honor, before these proceedings begin, I would like to revisit the issue of my relationship with my attorneys,” Kaczynski says. “It’s very important. I haven’t stood because I’m under orders from the marshals not to stand up.” Kacynzski spends four hours in chamber with Burrell and his lawyers. It is believed that Kaczynski is fighting against his lawyers’ attempt to portray him as mentally ill (see November 9, 1997)—a “sickie,” as he has termed it in his journals. At least two mental health experts hired by the defense have found that Kaczynski suffers from the delusions of a paranoid schizophrenic. Kaczynski has refused to be examined by government psychiatrists, and has cut off interviews with his own doctors when they broached the subject of his possible mental illness. As a result, defense attempts to present evidence that Kaczynski is mentally ill have been hampered, and prosecutors have refused to countenance any attempts at a plea bargain that would spare Kaczynski the death penalty (see December 30, 1997). Kaczynski’s brother has been one of the strongest and most impassioned advocates for Kaczynski’s classification as mentally ill, which would spare Kaczynski from execution. Two victims of Kaczynski’s bombs, Charles Epstein (see June 22, 1993) and David Gelernter (see June 24, 1993), disagree; both say that Kaczynski should die for his crimes. Lead prosecutor Robert J. Cleary (see April 11, 1996) demands in court that Burrell “firmly and finally” resolve the disagreements between Kaczynski and his lawyers. Burrell says he is trying, but notes that difficulties prevent him from quickly resolving the dispute: “A criminal proceeding sometimes involves dynamics that a judge has to react to,” he says. [Washington Post, 1/5/1998] Defense counsel Judy Clarke says Kaczynski “simply cannot endure” being portrayed as mentally ill, and notes that he has harbored an abiding fear throughout his life that people will consider him insane. Such resistance to being considered mentally ill is symptomatic of his paranoid schizophrenia, Clarke says. Outside the courthouse, Clarke says that Kaczynski’s request to represent himself “is a tragedy at its worst,” and denies that Kaczynski is attempting to stall the trial. “This is not manipulation. This is not cunning,” she says. “This is not someone trying to avoid legal responsibility.” Anthony Bisceglie, the lawyer for David Kaczynski, says the Kaczynski family believes that allowing him to act as his own attorney would be “to allow him to participate in a federally assisted suicide.” [Washington Post, 1/8/1998] The judge will reject Kaczynski’s demands (see January 7, 1998).
After a federal judge rejects a request by Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996 and June 9, 1996), to represent himself in court (see January 21, 1998), Kaczynski pleads guilty to being the Unabomber and to committing two murders. [Washington Post, 1998; Washington Post, 1/23/1998] “Do you understand you will spend the rest of your life in prison?” Judge Garland Burrell Jr. asks Kaczynski. “Yes, your honor,” Kaczynski replies. The guilty plea is part of a deal that will spare Kaczynski the death penalty (see January 12, 1998). The last-minute deal features Kaczynski pleading guilty to 13 counts of transporting explosive devices with the intent to kill or maim. Kaczynski also pleads guilty to all federal charges against him, including a case not yet presented in New Jersey, comprising five other bombings. He also admits to planting or mailing 13 other bombs for which he has not been charged. After the guilty verdict is handed down, lead prosecutor Robert J. Cleary says, “The Unabomber’s career is over.” Cleary says the government accepted the plea because the only stipulation is that Kaczynski not be executed for his crimes. As part of the plea deal, Kaczynski waives his right to appeal his convictions. [Washington Post, 1/23/1998; Washington Post, 8/21/1998] Kaczynski’s brother David, who informed FBI agents that he thought his brother might be the Unabomber (see January-March 1996 and After), says he is relieved that the ordeal of the trial is over and pleased that his brother avoided the death penalty. David pushed hard for the government to take the death penalty off the table, insisting that his brother suffers from serious mental illness and should not be executed. “Though he has done evil things,” David Kaczynski says after the verdict is handed down, “he is not an evil person.” At least one of the victims, Yale scientist David Gelernter (see June 24, 1993), argued strongly for a death sentence. Theodore Kaczynski is believed to suffer from acute paranoid schizophrenia, and government psychiatrist Sally Johnson testified to that effect in court. “A mentally ill person is not going to be cured, to become sane, when he’s caught,” David Kaczynski says. “It will take time, if it ever occurs.… But I would hope someday he could see the enormity of what he’s done.” David Kaczynski says while many believe his brother is driven by some sort of political or social ideology (see September 19, 1995), he feels in reality his brother is driven by delusions. He says his family suspected for years that Theodore was mentally unstable: “I think there’s no question we repressed our own feelings about the severity of his illness .… There is a tendency to be in some form of denial.” [Washington Post, 1/24/1998]
The FBI gives a $1 million reward to David Kaczynski, who identified his brother Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski as the “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996). The FBI spent nearly 20 years in an ever-increasing and fruitless manhunt to catch the serial bomber. David Kaczynski works as a youth shelter social worker in Schenectady, New York. He has expressed his ambivalence over turning his brother over to the FBI. Kaczynski has said that if he receives the reward money, he will donate most of it to the families of his brother’s victims. The Kaczynski family feels that giving most of the money to the victims “might help us resolve our grief over what happened,” he says. Kaczynski family attorney Anthony Bisceglie says now that Kaczynski has actually received the money, “[t]hat certainly still is his intent.” Kaczynski notes that he has to use some of the money to pay off the family’s legal bills resulting from the Unabomber case. FBI spokesman John Russell says that the $1 million reward is one of the biggest rewards ever paid in a domestic terrorism case. Kaczynski says that while he does not claim the mantle of “hero” that lead prosecutor Robert J. Cleary labeled him, he believes that his choice to turn in his brother may have spared the lives of more innocent people. Kaczynski pressed federal prosecutors to consider his brother as not just guilty of heinous crimes, but deeply mentally ill (Ted Kaczynski has been diagnosed as suffering from acute paranoid schizophrenia). It is in part because of the diagnosis, and because of pressure from David Kaczynski, that the government ultimately chose not to seek the death penalty against his brother (see May 4, 1998). Until the government reversed itself and chose not to seek the death penalty, David Kaczynski was bitterly angry at the government and accused Justice Department officials of wanting to “kill my brother at any cost” (see December 30, 1997). Kaczynski and his mother, Wanda Kaczynski, also criticized the FBI and Unabom Task Force prosecutors for misleading them during the negotiations that led up to their identification of Theodore Kaczynski by suggesting they were interested in obtaining psychiatric help for him and not in pressing for capital punishment. During the entire trial, though David Kaczynski sat just 10 feet behind his brother in the courtroom, Ted Kaczynski never once acknowledged his brother’s presence or looked at him. [Washington Post, 8/21/1998]
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