---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 17 Jan 2002 23:19:39 -0800
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Charges Filed Against Ex-SLA Members
Charges Filed Against Ex-SLA Members
Thursday, Jan. 17, 2002
By JIM WASSERMAN Associated Press Writer
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - For nearly three decades, Jon Opsahl has
relentlessly lobbied prosecutors to bring his mother's killers to justice.
Opsahl finally won something of a victory on Wednesday when five former
members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, including former fugitive Sara
Jane Olson, were charged with murder in a 1975 bank holdup outside
Sacramento that killed Myrna Opsahl.
"Our family has waited 26 years for this day," said Jon Opsahl, who was 15
at the time of the killing. "I'm very happy that my mother's murder is
getting the attention it deserves and I trust that justice will be served."
The charges mark the latest development in the government's long-running
case against the SLA, the radical organization that kidnapped newspaper
heiress Patty Hearst and is linked to a wave of violence in the 1970s.
The charges came two days before Olson's sentencing for her alleged role in
a failed 1975 attempt to blow up Los Angeles police cars. Olson, 55, who
was captured in Minnesota in June 1999 after two decades on the run, has
denied any role in the holdup in Carmichael, Calif.
Olson, known as Kathleen Soliah at the time of the robbery, surrendered in
Los Angeles, and three others were taken into custody at their homes,
authorities said. The fifth suspect remained at large.
Olson, Emily Harris, ex-husband Bill Harris, Mike Bortin and James Kilgore
were charged with first-degree murder, authorities said.
"It's about time," Jon Opsahl said, flanked by Sacramento County District
Attorney Jan Scully and other law enforcement officials.
Opsahl has maintained a Web site in his mother's memory, posting letters to
California Gov. Gray Davis and SLA members about his quest to have his
mother's case tried.
"Being a pest sometimes goes a long way," he said. "This is kind of
^A'mission accomplished' as far as I'm concerned."
One of Olson's lawyers, Shawn Snider Chapman, said that in two years of
investigating her case, "All I've learned and all I've read is that they
consider this to be an unprosecutable case. All these people have been
snatched from their homes for nothing."
Emily Harris, 54, was arrested in Los Angeles, while her 56-year-old
ex-husband was picked up in Oakland, Calif. Bortin, 53, was arrested in
Portland, Ore. Kilgore, 54, remains at large, as he has been since the
1970s. Authorities have long had a warrant for his arrest for possession
of a bomb.
The four arrested suspects had been under surveillance for two days,
Sacramento County Sheriff Lou Blanas said. All four were jailed and were
scheduled to be arraigned Friday in Sacramento Superior Court.
The three other SLA figures arrested Wednesday were not fugitives, and
authorities have known their whereabouts for years.
Myrna Opsahl, a 42-year-old mother with four children, was shot while
depositing a church collection at the Crocker National Bank. At the time,
the robbers were widely believed to be members of the group that kidnapped
Hearst as a 19-year-old from her Berkeley apartment.
Scully, citing Hearst's statements to authorities, named Emily Harris,
Olson, Bortin and Kilgore as the alleged bank robbers, with William Harris
and Steven Soliah acting as lookouts and Hearst as one of the getaway drivers.
Scully said FBI investigators had connected shotgun pellets from the
shooting to those in shotgun shells found at an SLA hide-out in San Francisco.
Hearst, granted immunity for her admitted role in the robbery, later wrote
about the holdup, saying Emily Harris shot Opsahl. But before Wednesday,
only Steven Soliah had been charged in the case.
The case has been the subject of numerous investigations, including a 1976
federal court trial that acquitted Steven Soliah of robbery charges.
The SLA kidnapped Hearst in 1974 and demanded that her parents, Randolph
and Catherine Hearst, distribute millions in food to the needy.
Ultimately, Patty Hearst became a member of the SLA. Two months after the
kidnapping, she was photographed carrying a rifle during an SLA bank holdup
in San Francisco.
Hearst, who claimed she had been brainwashed, was convicted of bank robbery
and sentenced to seven years in prison. She served about two years before
President Carter commuted her sentence. In 2001, she was pardoned by
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Jan 18 2002 - 03:21:59 EST