Published Sunday, Jan. 7, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News Los Angeles pursues old SLA case <http://www0.mercurycenter.com:80/premium/nation/docs/hearst07.htm> PROSECUTORS URGE ACTION BY SACRAMENTO IN 1975 HEIST BY GARY DELSOHN AND SAM STANTON Scripps-McClatchy News Service LOS ANGELES The saga of the Symbionese Liberation Army is more than 25 years old, but it still will not go away. Today, decades after the revolutionary group made its name by kidnapping newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst, officials are engaged in an unusual, high-stakes dispute over whether to prosecute what is allegedly one of the group's most heinous crimes: the April 21, 1975, holdup of a Carmichael bank that killed a mother of four who was depositing her church collection. Prosecutors with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office are pressing hard for Sacramento County officials to file charges, and Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard Parks is lobbying for action on new evidence in the case. But Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully's office says the new evidence still is not strong enough to produce convictions in the shotgun slaying of 42-year-old Myrna Lee Opsahl. "This is a legal decision based upon our evaluation of the evidence," Scully spokeswoman Robin Shakely said Tuesday in a two-page statement released in the case. "It does not arise from a lack of desire for justice for the victims. This remains an open case." The pressure that Los Angeles officials are exerting to make the Sacramento County case active is extraordinary. Next week, officials from the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office are expected to travel to Sacramento for yet another pitch aimed at getting charges filed. Four Sacramento County district attorneys have looked at the case in the past 25 years and decided not to prosecute for lack of evidence. Authorities in Los Angeles are facing their own SLA-related trial now set for April 10, with the prosecution of former fugitive Kathleen Soliah. Soliah, who was at large for 24 years until she was caught living in Minnesota under the name Sara Jane Olson, is charged in connection with an August 1975 incident in which two pipe bombs were placed under a Los Angeles police patrol car. Neither device exploded. Soliah also is believed to have taken part in the Carmichael bank robbery months earlier, and Sacramento authorities had at one point offered a promise of immunity in exchange for her testimony about that crime. Despite claims by Los Angeles authorities that there is critical new evidence in the Carmichael case, Sacramento prosecutors say the information uncovered in recent months still is not conclusive. Among the evidence, sources say, is the analysis of a palm print discovered at a Sacramento garage where SLA members had stored their getaway vehicles, including one used in the Carmichael robbery. That print turned out to be Soliah's, sources said. Forensics experts using new technology also are trying to link 19 live shells dropped inside the bank with ammunition found in the apartments of SLA members when they were arrested in San Francisco. Particularly tantalizing to some officials is the prospect of having Hearst testify in the Sacramento County case. In her 1982 book on her life with the SLA, Hearst said that she was in a car outside the bank during the robbery and that SLA member Emily Harris fired the blast that killed Opsahl. At least five other SLA members were allegedly involved in the Carmichael heist, and officials in Los Angeles have argued that O'Mara should prosecute them all, except for Hearst, who was granted immunity after testifying before a Sacramento County grand jury in 1990.
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