Theodore Kaczynski, college teacher turned Montana loner, was not charged with being the Unabomber on Thursday.
But he was accused in U.S. District Court of having a partially completed bomb wrapped and stored in the loft of his mountain cabin.
Kaczynski made his first appearance Thursday morning before Judge Charles Lovell in a courtroom filled with nearly 100 reporters and curious Helena residents.
Federal officials suspect he is the Unabomber, a terrorist who has sent bombs to universities, airlines and business executives for the last 18 years, killing three people.
Kaczynski did not sound like the long-winded bomber who last year wrote a 35,000-word diatribe against technology and modern society.
He spoke quietly and politely to Lovell.
Nor did the slight man in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs fit the preconceived notions some residents had of an infamous mad bomber.
“I thought to myself, ‘Is this the guy?”’ said Rick Nelson, a superintendent of a nearby building who joined the crowd that gathered to watch Kaczynski come and go from his court appearance.
Kaczynski didn’t enter a plea at the 15-minute hearing.
Lovell ordered him held in jail until a federal grand jury can hear evidence.
The grand jury is scheduled to convene April 17 in Great Falls, Mont., and will decide whether to hand down an indictment, a federal law enforcement official said on condition of anonymity.
Lovell told Kaczynski and his public defender, Michael Donohoe, to decide by noon today whether they want a preliminary hearing and a hearing to determine bail.
The bomb-components charge is based on an affidavit by FBI agent Donald Sachtleben. He was one of the federal officers who surrounded Kaczynski’s cabin Wednesday afternoon outside Lincoln, Mont., a town of about 800 people northwest of Helena.
Inside the 10-by-12-foot cabin, agents found chemicals that can be used in bombs. They found lengths of pipe - significant because the cabin has no indoor plumbing, Sachtleben said in the affidavit - as well as batteries, electrical wire and aluminum ingots.
Agents also found notebooks filled with sketches, diagrams and instructions - some in English, others in Spanish - explaining how to make a bomb. There were three rolled up pieces of paper, which Sachtleben speculated were tests to determine the best length for a pipe bomb.
A package was found in the loft of the cabin. An X-ray suggested it was a partially completed pipe bomb, the affidavit said.
“In my opinion, the premises contained all of the necessary ingredients and materials to manufacture a destructive device,” Sachtleben said.
When Lovell read the charge, Kaczynski quietly asked for a few minutes to read it. He then whispered briefly with Donohoe, and Lovell asked him again to look at the criminal complaint.
“My name is correct as printed on this document,” Kaczynski said in response to the judge’s question about the spelling.
Lovell read the charge again, and explained the possible penalties of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Kaczynski said he had no questions about either. The judge asked if Kaczynski was unable to afford an attorney.
“Quite correct, your honor.”
Asked if he understood the proceedings, he said simply “Yes.” Asked if he had any physical or mental disabilities, he replied “No.”
When he left the courthouse nearly four hours later surrounded by U.S. marshals, Kaczynski looked straight ahead and didn’t acknowledge questions shouted at him by some 50 journalists who ringed the parking lot.
Several dozen Helena residents came to the courthouse to get a glimpse of Kaczynski and watch the throng of reporters who had flooded into the state capital.
“Unibomber, Freemen and Dennis Rehberg,” said a small sign on a chain-link fence around the lot. “Welcome to Montana, Land of Kooks.”
Rehberg is the state lieutenant governor who is running as a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. The sign was put up by a man who refused to give his name.
Aaron Youtt, 13, a middle school student on spring break, came to the courthouse to watch the hearing and the media. “It’s the first exciting thing that’s happened since I moved here,” he said.
While the short hearing convinced Youtt and several of his friends that Kaczynski was the bomber - he just looked guilty, they decided - adults who had come for a look were quick to qualify their comments with “if he’s the one.”
Many expressed shock the suspect in the notorious bombing spree was arrested so close to home.
“I was taken aback, amazed,” said Dan Sullivan, who works in a nearby building. He spent his lunch hour cradling a 35mm camera with a telephoto lens in hopes of getting a picture of Kaczynski. “I was thinking how small the world’s gotten.”
Marlinda Fulton, who had ridden her new mountain bike to the courthouse with her 8-year-old daughter, Alysse, said their family cut their Christmas tree on Stemple Pass Road, which meanders past Kaczynski’s cabin outside Lincoln.
A dental clinic coordinator, Fulton regularly travels to Lincoln to provide dental services to the small logging and mining town.
“When I first heard it, I thought it was a joke,” Fulton said. “I guess you never know who’s going to be your neighbor.”
The Fultons moved to Helena from Tampa, two years ago, to get away from the rising crime in that Florida city. The problems with the freemen in eastern Montana and Kaczynski’s arrest notwithstanding, “I still think that we made the smart choice.”
“You can’t get away from it - there’s weird people wherever you go,” she said. “But as you travel the back roads, you just have to be careful.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: EVIDENCE LIST Information from affidavit by FBI agent Donald Sachtleben filed in U.S. District Court in Helena, Mont., on items found during a search of the cabin of Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski: Ten three-ring binders containing writings and sketches of explosive devices, including cross-sections of pipes and electrical circuitry of bombs. Handwritten notes describing chemical compounds that can be used to create explosive charges. Pipes of galvanized metal, copper and plastic, four of which appeared to be in the early stages of pipe-bomb construction. Kaczynski’s cabin has no indoor plumbing or other piping. Containers labeled as chemicals that can be used in explosive devices, including zinc, aluminum, lead, silver oxide, potassium chlorate and sodium chlorate. Aluminum ingots. Aluminum can be used as a fuel and a catalyst in an explosive mixture. Batteries and electric wires that could be used to power a detonator. Papers “containing what appear to be logs of experiments to determine the optimum pipe dimension and combination of explosive materials in various weather conditions.” A cylindrical package wrapped in paper and secured with tape. An X-ray revealed what appeared to be a partially completed pipe bomb. Books on construction of electrical circuitry and chemistry.