---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 01 Nov 2001 11:40:51 -0800
From: radtimes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Ex-SLA Fugitive Olson Pleads Guilty
Thursday, Nov. 1, 2001
Ex-SLA Fugitive Olson Pleads Guilty
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ In an odd final act of a notorious criminal case from
the 1970s radical era, a former Symbionese Liberation Army fugitive told a
judge she was guilty of possessing bombs with intent to murder police
officers, then left court and declared she was innocent.
Sara Jane Olson, a former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army who was
arrested in 1999, said she only admitted her guilt Wednesday because the
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks made it impossible for her to get a fair trial.
"I pleaded to something of which I'm not guilty," Olson, 54, said outside
court. "Given that law enforcement has risen in credibility, it was
inevitably going to play on the minds of jurors."
Deputy District Attorney Eleanor Hunter said that during plea negotiations
Olson did not deny her culpability in the effort to bomb two Los Angeles
police cars in 1975.
"She's either lying in court or lying to the press to try to save face,"
The prosecutor acknowledged that the trial would have depicted the SLA as a
terrorist organization and exhumed its violent history, including crimes
with which Olson was not charged. Defense lawyers lost a bid to delay the
trial in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Justice weeps for Sara Jane Olson," said defense attorney J. Tony Serra.
"Sara Jane Olson is truly a victim of Sept. 11. We didn't have a level
playing field. They have brandished about the term of domestic terrorism."
Olson, 54, made no reference to the attacks during the hearing in which she
admitted to possessing bombs and attempting to explode them in two
incidents _ one at the Hollenbeck Police Station in Los Angeles and another
near a House of Pancakes restaurant in Hollywood on Aug. 21, 1975.
Neither bomb went off. Prosecutor Eleanor Hunter said one of them was one
of the largest pipe bombs ever built in the United States and would have
injured many people.
Olson, whose given name was Kathleen Soliah, was accused of targeting the
officers in retaliation for the deaths of six SLA members in a 1974
shootout and fire at a Los Angeles house. The SLA gained national notoriety
after the 1974 kidnapping of media heiress Patty Hearst.
Soliah vanished a short time after the attempted bombings. She was indicted
in 1976 but remained a fugitive until her June 1999 capture in St. Paul,
Minn., where she was living under the assumed name, Sara Jane Olson.
Minnesota friends who helped raise Olson's $1 million bail were shocked by
the plea, but remained supportive. "She is a very good person," friend
Kathy Cima said. "I think it's a bad time to be on trial."
The trial, which had lurched to a start last week, then stopped during
motions, was to have provided a post-mortem on the SLA's violent history
and perhaps a finale to a story which once riveted America.
Hearst, who was 19 when the group kidnapped her, was to return as a witness
against Olson a quarter century after she herself was convicted of armed
bank robbery in an SLA heist.
Prosecutors dismissed three other charges Wednesday against Olson, but did
not guarantee her a specific sentence. Her lawyers said they expected her
to get about five years in prison, but she could be sentenced to life
behind bars Dec. 7.
Before Olson's arrest, the former radical had built a life as a wife,
mother of three children, sometime actress and gourmet cook. She was known
for her volunteer and community service.
After the hearing, Olson said she had to consider the possibility of being
convicted and sentenced to life in prison. She said her lawyers advised her
that her chances of a lesser sentence would be better if she pleaded guilty.
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