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Are Kaczynski, U.S. working on a plea deal?

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Plea agreement talks were secretly reopened with lawyers for the Unabomber defendant, according to a magazine report that says the Justice Department may not want to risk a circus trial that could lead to appeals.

Citing government sources, Newsweek reported Monday that Attorney General Janet Reno softened her resolve to seek the death penalty because the disarray at Theodore Kaczynski's trial could lead to numerous appeals.Last month, prosecutors reportedly turned down a conditional offer by Kaczynski to plead guilty in return for a life sentence, and were prepared to open his trial last week.

The New York Times also reported about the plea agreement talks Monday, quoting a Justice Department source as saying Kaczynski, while offering to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, put conditions on his offer.

He wants to retain the right to appeal some pretrial rulings - leaving open the possibility he would win the right to a trial later - and made certain demands about aspects of his confinement, the newspaper quoted the source as saying.

Last week, Kaczynski told U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell that he wanted to fire his lawyers and represent himself at trial. Kaczynski also attempted suicide in his jail cell.

Burrell has put the trial on hold pending a psychiatric examination, which will be followed by a competency hearing scheduled for Jan. 22.

This week, a special panel of Justice Department lawyers will convene to reconsider whether Kaczynski deserves the death penalty, according to Newsweek.

"We have not and will not comment on any kind of ongoing discussion between the parties," said Leesa Brown, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department prosecution team in Sacramento, Calif.

But she noted that "it is the duty of the prosecution to listen to any credible offer by defense counsel at any time."