FBI Agent James Fitzgerald Opens Up About The Time He Almost Came Face-To-Face With The Unabomber

by Alaina Urquhart-White
Discover Channel

While many networks are re-hashing the same '90s true crime topics, Discovery went a different direction and tackled Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, who is currently serving a life sentence in prison after pleading guilty to 16 bombings that killed three people and injured dozens, according to The New Yorker. Manhunt: Unabomber is an eight-part limited series on Discovery that dramatizes the real events that transpired in he '90s when FBI agent James Fitzgerald tried to track the Unabomber down using only his language and words as a clue. In the series, agent and target come face-to-face, but did James Fitzgerald ever meet the Unabomber in real life?

In an interview with Bustle, the real Fitzgerald reveals that he tried to meet with Kaczynski, but things kept not working out. "I was supposed to meet with him in 2007. I drove halfway to the prison," he says. "The correctional officers who handled Kaczynski called and said that he changed his mind and that he was busy that day. This is a guy who is locked up 23/7 in a jail cell, but he was busy."

That wasn't the last of the Fitzgerald's attempts to speak with Kaczynski. As the Manhunt: Unabomber series was getting off the ground, Fitzgerald sent Kaczynski a letter in prison. He explained that he wrote, "I want to make sure we got all the facts straight right and I would like to come out and talk to you to present your side of the story." But, Kaczynski never answered the letter.

Discovery Channel

Still, the work that Fitzgerald put into that doomed meeting didn't go to waste. The former FBI agents says he had prepared questions for the meetings that didn't happen which were used by the Manhunt team as questions for the fictionalized scenes between the characters played by Sam Worthington (Fitz) and Paul Bettany (Ted). Knowing this certainly gives those scenes a very realistic feel.

The real duo may not have met face-to-face in real life, but Fitzgerald knows one thing to be true: "[Kaczynski] knows who Jim Fitzgerald is," the former agent says. "I think [he] would like to put me in my place. At least try to ... or prove that he truly is smarter than me. Quite frankly he is probably smarter than 99.9 percent of the people out there. He took his gift of intelligence and decided to kill people with it."

Kaczynski remains in prison, and maybe he'll change his mind some day about meeting Fitzgerald. And, if that were to ever go down, it would certainly be just as interesting as the show imagined — and maybe more.