[sixties-l] Judge Orders Hearing in SLA Case (fwd)

From: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu
Date: Sun Nov 04 2001 - 18:54:14 EST

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    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    Date: Fri, 02 Nov 2001 12:30:03 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Judge Orders Hearing in SLA Case

    Friday, Nov. 2, 2001

    Judge Orders Hearing in SLA Case


    LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A hearing was ordered Thursday to determine whether the
    guilty plea by a former Symbionese Liberation Army radical for a 1975
    attempted bombing was valid, given her public declarations of innocence.
    In Sacramento, meanwhile, authorities said the former SLA member remains
    under investigation for a bank robbery, also 26 years ago, that left a
    woman dead.
    Thursday's order from Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler came one day
    after Sara Jane Olson entered her plea in the bombing case. She then walked
    outside the courtroom and insisted she had done so because the Sept. 11
    terrorist attacks had made it impossible to get a fair trial.
    "I pleaded to something of which I'm not guilty," she said.
    Fidler set the hearing for Tuesday. A court spokesman said he didn't know
    whether the hearing would be private or held in open court.
    "I've never been in a situation like this before," said Michael Latin, one
    of the prosecutors. "I've been in situations where a defendant comes back
    and asks to withdraw a plea, but that is not what's happening here."
    He said the prosecution had not asked for the hearing.
    Olson, 54, made no reference to the attacks as she admitted to possessing
    bombs and attempting to explode them under police cars 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. Prosecutors said one of them was one of the largest
    pipe bombs ever built in the United States and would have injured many people.
    Prosecutors dismissed three other charges in exchange for Olson's plea, 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.
    After the hearing, Olson said the esteem of law enforcement authorities has
    risen since the attacks and she had to consider the possibility of being
    convicted. She said her lawyers advised her that her chances of a lesser
    sentence would be better if she pleaded guilty.
    Defense lawyer Shawn Snider Chapman said Olson had been so ambivalent about
    pleading guilty that she did not make the final decision until just a few
    minutes before the hearing.
    Despite several investigations, no one was ever successfully prosecuted for
    the 1975 Sacramento bank robbery, during which Myrna Opsahl, 42, was shot
    and killed while depositing a church collection.
    But now a task force is reviewing evidence unearthed in Los Angeles after
    Olson's arrest in 1999, authorities said Thursday.
    Olson has denied participating in the robbery. However, media heiress Patty
    Hearst, in a 1980s book about her kidnapping and time with the SLA, placed
    Olson at the robbery scene and said SLA member Emily Harris carried out the
    Authorities expected that evidence related to the bank shooting would
    surface during Olson's trial. A son of the victim, Dr. Jon Opsahl, called
    the lack of prosecution so far an "atrocity."
    Olson's brother, Steven Soliah, was acquitted in 1976 on charges related to
    the robbery. Harris, paroled from prison in the early 1980s in another
    case, lives in southern California under an assumed name.
    The bombing trial was expected to provide an ending to the SLA's violent
    history and perhaps a finale to a story which once riveted America. The SLA
    gained national notoriety after Hearst's kidnapping in 1974.
    Olson, whose given name was Kathleen Soliah, was accused of targeting
    police officers in retaliation for the deaths of six SLA members in a 1974
    shootout and fire at a Los Angeles house.
    She 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 she later adopted. She
    had built a life as a wife, mother of three children and sometime actress.
    Even before Fidler's move, legal experts said Olson's actions were surprising.
    "I don't think it's a very smart thing to do," said Loyola University Law
    professor Laurie Levenson.
    "At minimum, she will get a tongue lashing," Levenson said. "But the court
    is going to say, 'Ms. Olson, if you are innocent, let us do what we do best
    and give you a trial.""

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