A week before Air Force Capt. John Hauser was accepted into the astronaut program, he picked up what appeared to be an abandoned notebook - and his life changed forever.
The booby-trapped device exploded, tearing off his fingers and slamming them into a classroom wall so hard that he left an impression of his Air Force Academy ring on the wall.
The Unabomber’s attack at University of California-Berkeley that day in 1985 destroyed Hauser’s right arm and his dreams. No trips into space, no shuttle launches. And no more bragging that his desk was a cockpit.
“What really brings a tear to my eye is when I’m driving by and I see some jet fighters operating,” Hauser said Friday. “It’s such an incredible feeling.”
Despite what Theodore Kaczynski did to him, Hauser said he is satisfied with the plea bargain that will send the professor-turned-recluse to prison for life.
“It could have been a very long and drawn-out ordeal,” Hauser said. “And I think the result might not have been so different with a jury of citizens.”
But he calls it “spooky” to hear Kaczynski’s journal entries about him, in which the convicted Unabomber gloats about ending Hauser’s career.
“When I first found out about it, I was very upset - somebody being that deranged,” said Hauser, who now teaches electrical engineering at the University of Colorado.
Dr. Charles Epstein, a University of California-San Francisco geneticist who worked on Alzheimer’s disease and Down syndrome, still doesn’t understand why he was targeted by Kaczynski. But he spares no words in describing the man who mangled his hand with a mail bomb in 1993.
“To me, Ted Kaczynski is the personification of evil. He is manipulative to the extreme, and he is a coward,” he said at a news conference Friday.
“He was willing to kill me. But he was not prepared to die himself for his beliefs,” Epstein said.
The mother of the Unabomber’s first fatal victim, Sacramento-area computer rental store owner Hugh Scrutton, said she was satisfied with the plea.
“As long as he will be put in prison and never get out, what’s the difference?” Bessie Dudley told Sacramento television station KCRA. “I’m very accepting of what happened because you can’t change it … So why be angry?”
Kaczynski’s lawyers said from the beginning that their fight was to save their client’s life. The plea bargain accomplished that and more, they said Friday.
“This case has reached the only just resolution,” attorneys Quin Denvir and Judy Clarke said.