Ex-SLA fugitive proclaims innocence in bomb attempt
POLICE POLITICIZING THE 26-YEAR-OLD CASE, SARA JANE OLSON SAYS
BY LINDA DEUTSCH
Published Saturday, Feb. 24, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News
LOS ANGELES - With tears of anger welling in her eyes, former Symbionese
Liberation Army fugitive Sara Jane Olson lashed out at prosecutors after a
hearing Friday, saying they have politicized her case and are trying to
destroy an innocent woman.
"I'm outraged by what happened," Olson told reporters in her most forceful
statement since her arrest on 26-year-old charges of conspiring to bomb
"They're trying to take away my freedom forever and destroy me and destroy
Addressing the charges against her, she said, "I was not in Los Angeles. I
did not place those bombs under those cars."
She added: "I was not in the Carmichael Bank in Sacramento. I am innocent."
Olson was referring to prosecutors' attempts to link her to a
Sacramento-area bank robbery in which a mother of four was shot to death.
Los Angeles prosecutors have urged Sacramento authorities to reinvestigate
Olson, who said she has avoided making statements since her arrest in June
1999, said she felt forced to respond now.
"I didn't want to have a political case," she said. "But it has been
politicized by the Los Angeles Police Department and the district attorney."
The defendant, formerly known as Kathleen Soliah, spoke after a hearing at
which her lawyer pleaded with Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler, newly
appointed to the case, to exclude evidence about SLA crimes with which
Olson is not charged. These include the killing of an Oakland schools
superintendent and the Sacramento-area bank robbery.
Although she is not charged with either crime, prosecutors argued that her
role as an SLA member made her part of the group's overall conspiracies.
Defense lawyers say the evidence is prejudicial.
Fidler said the law covering conspiracy makes the evidence admissible but
promised to carefully assess during the trial how much of the SLA history
Deputy District Attorney Michael Latin acknowledged that Olson was not
involved in the killing of school official Marcus Foster or in the SLA's
most notorious action, the kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst.
But he said her knowledge of the crimes and her agreement with the actions
of her predecessors make the acts admissible. Hearst is slated as a key
Attorneys J. Tony Serra and Shawn Chapman argued that the case should be
confined to the charge that Olson planted pipe bombs under two police cars
in an attempt to kill officers in 1974. The bombs did not go off.
"We're not here, judge, to defend the SLA," said Serra. "We're not here to
defend the ideology or political strategy or activities of the SLA."
He said the defense does not concede that Olson even was a member of the SLA.
Fidler offered a mixed ruling on the issue that had been decided previously
by another judge. Although finding the SLA activities admissible to prove a
conspiracy, he left room for negotiations between the defense and
prosecution to streamline the evidence and prevent a marathon trial.
Fidler suggested that both sides stipulate to events such as the Foster
killing, which did not involve Olson.
"If you stipulate there was a murder and the SLA carried it out, what more
do you need?" said the judge.
Fidler said he will demand offers of proof before witnesses testify to any
of the 30 to 40 uncharged SLA acts that the prosecution wants to admit.
Olson, who became a Minnesota doctor's wife and mother of three daughters
during her years as a fugitive, spoke for the first time of the strain on
"We have been ruined financially but we continue to stay strong as a family
and as a couple," she said.
The judge scheduled another hearing on evidence for March 30 and said he
would also consider a request by the news media to televise the trial,
which is set for April 30.
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