Olson Outraged as Judge Admits SLA History Into Her Trial
by Twila Decker, Los Angeles Times
Saturday, February 24, 2001
Los Angeles - Staunchly declaring her innocence, a shaken Sara Jane Olson
said yesterday she was infuriated by a judge's decision to allow the
criminal history of the Symbionese Liberation Army to be included as
evidence in her upcoming trial on charges she conspired to kill two Los
Angeles police officers in 1975.
"I'm outraged at what has happened," a teary-eyed Olson said after the
ruling. "I'm innocent. . . . This is a case in which they're trying to take
away my freedom forever and destroy me and my family."
Olson, 52, had hoped Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler would decide
that details about crimes including two killings and the kidnapping of
newspaper heiress Patty Hearst, none of which she has been charged with,
would unfairly prejudice the jury. Fidler instead decided to allow evidence
about the SLA, but said he would screen it first to be sure it was
relevant. Her trial is scheduled to begin April 30.
Yesterday's ruling, characterized by Olson's attorneys as the most
important that will occur in the case, was the latest setback for the
alleged former SLA member, who was arrested in July 1999 in St. Paul,
Minn., after 24 years as a fugitive.
Two weeks ago, the FBI and Sacramento Sheriff's Department announced they
are reopening an investigation into allegations that Olson and other SLA
members participated in a 1975 bank robbery in Carmichael in which Myrna
Opsahl, a mother of four, was shot to death.
The Los Angeles district attorney's office and Ospahl's family have been
pushing Sacramento officials to reopen the case since Olson's arrest.
Olson, who is married and has three daughters, denied yesterday that she
took part in the fatal bank robbery in Sacramento County or in planting
bombs under Los Angeles police cars. The bombs did not detonate.
"I was not in Los Angeles. I did not place those bombs under those cars. I
was not in the Carmichael bank. . . . I am innocent and I have a family
that I have to keep together through all of this, and thank God, they're
all very strong," Olson said.
Olson, who changed her name from Kathleen Soliah while in hiding, also
denies she was a member of the SLA. Prosecutors say she joined the SLA
after six SLA members including her best friend were killed in a bloody
shootout with Los Angeles police in 1974.
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