Re: [sixties-l] Soccer mum pays for terror past [SLA] (fwd)

From: George Snedeker (
Date: Mon Jan 21 2002 - 18:55:49 EST

  • Next message: "[sixties-l] OUTLAW WOMAN -- book release (fwd)"

    isn't it rather silly to bring people up on charges for crimes which took
    place 27 years ago. perhaps we should reconsider the government's freedom to
    pursue such cases?
    ----- Original Message -----
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    Sent: Monday, January 21, 2002 5:56 PM
    Subject: [sixties-l] Soccer mum pays for terror past [SLA] (fwd)

    > ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    > Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2002 13:54:27 -0800
    > From: radtimes <>
    > Subject: Soccer mum pays for terror past [SLA]
    > Soccer mum pays for terror past
    > Minnesota housewife Sara Jane Olson was once an armed fugitive along with
    > heiress Patty Hearst. Now new murder charges are forcing America to
    > a nightmare from its past.
    > Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles
    > Sunday January 20, 2002
    > The Observer
    > The slim, smiling woman at the counter of Midnight Special, a busy
    > bookshop in Santa Monica, California, just before Christmas had assembled
    > around 20 thick books. She now has good reason for buying so many fat
    > volumes since she will have plenty of time to read them during the decades
    > of prison time that may now stretch in front of her.
    > The woman was Sara Jane Olson, who, in her previous life as Kathleen
    > was alleged to be a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, one of the
    > most bizarre of the urban guerrilla groups of the Seventies. She had
    > been convicted of placing a pipe bomb under a police car and was awaiting
    > sentence - hence the book-buying - but now she and three of her alleged
    > fellow-members are facing trial for the murder of a bank customer during a
    > 1975 raid carried out by the SLA.
    > Their surprise arrests last week have reopened a book in American life
    > had long seemed closed. Not least among the many ironies in the case is
    > those now accused of being home-grown terrorists had become the
    > civic-minded, middle-class members of society against whom the SLA once
    > railed.
    > In 1973 the SLA killed Marcus Foster, a popular black superintendent of
    > education in Oakland who wanted to introduce student ID cards. But the SLA
    > is best known for its kidnapping of Patricia Hearst, the newspaper heiress
    > held for ransom in February 1974. By her account she was intimidated into
    > becoming part of the group and robbing the Hibernia bank in San Francisco
    > under her nomme de guerre of Tania before she and two of her kidnappers,
    > Bill and Emily Harris, were arrested.
    > Hearst was jailed for seven years for her part in the robbery but released
    > after two when President Jimmy Carter issued a clemency order; she was
    > pardoned by President Clinton as he left office last year. The hardcore of
    > the SLA, including its leader, Donald 'Cinque' DeFreeze, had already died
    > a Los Angeles house in May 1974 after a shoot-out with police.
    > Hearst later married her bodyguard, Bernard Shaw, with whom she has two
    > children. She has often said that she hoped her 'Tania' days were over but
    > she is now likely to be the chief prosecution witness in the case.
    > Hearst wrote her memoirs, Cecil B DeMented, in 1982, and it is a passage
    > this book that implicates Olson, the Harrises, and two other radicals,
    > Bortin and Jim Kilgore, as taking part in the $15,000 robbery of the
    > National Bank in Carmichael, California, in 1975.
    > According to Hearst's version, a 42-year-old mother of four children,
    > Lee Opsahl, who was depositing her church's Sunday collection, was shot
    > during the raid by Emily Harris. 'Oh, she's dead,' Hearst quotes Emily
    > Harris as saying, 'but it doesn't really matter. She was a bourgeois pig
    > anyway. Her husband is a doctor.'
    > That remark was to act as a spur for Dr Jon Opsahl, one of the children of
    > the murdered woman, who has attempted to keep the case alive, urging
    > prosecutors to pursue the people named in the book and setting up a
    > ( that contained the evidence.
    > 'Those words have always haunted us,' Opsahl said after the arrests last
    > week. 'She was a wonderful mother... and it was kind of the parallel life
    > that [Sara Jane Olson] assumed which was disturbing, how she participated
    > a crime that took a life and then kind of assumed [that lifestyle]. She
    > on this soccer mom act and the public even came to her defence but I said
    > "wait a minute, that is what my mom was".'
    > Olson's new life has been, by all accounts, exemplary. Married to a
    > Harvard-educated emergency room doctor, Fred, who has worked on
    > Oxfam-related projects in Zimbabwe, she regularly read to the blind, was
    > active in her Methodist church in St Paul, Minnesota, worked with torture
    > victims, took part in charity runs and brought up three daughters Leile,
    > Sophia and Emily.
    > Bill and Emily Harris, who served eight years in jail, separated long ago
    > and Bill became a private investigator and married a lawyer with whom he
    > two sons; he was arrested last Wednesday driving them to school. Emily
    > Harris became a computer programmer and moved to the LA area. Bortin, a
    > former leading light in Students for a Democratic Soci ety, had married
    > Olson's sister, Josephine, and the couple ran a hardwood flooring company
    > Portland, Oregon.The fifth, Jim Kilgore, from San Rafael in Marin County,
    > has never resurfaced. The FBI tried to tease him out after the arrest of
    > Olson in 1999. He did not take the bait.
    > Nothing could have illustrated better the passage of time between those
    > of violent revolution than an event in that same Santa Monica bookshop
    > towards the end of last year. One Sunday afternoon, a Chicago professor,
    > Bill Ayers, well-known for his academic studies on the education of
    > children, was talking about his new book to an audience of around 30
    > The book, Fugitive Days, was about Ayers's life as a member of the Weather
    > Underground, another defunct urban guerrilla group. It had been published
    > 10 September, hardly the most auspicious day for launching a book one
    > chapter of which opens with the words 'Everything was absolutely ideal on
    > the day I bombed the Pentagon.' (The 2lb bomb placed in a Pentagon women's
    > lavatory caused no injuries or deaths.) After Ayers had read from his book
    > member of the audience stood up and talked about her own case. She was
    > Jane Olson.
    > A quarter of a century ago, a meeting of members of the Weather
    > and the SLA would have fuelled the FBI's wildest fantasies but what we had
    > was a friendly conversation between a genial prof and a busy suburban
    > mother.
    > The next day, talking at a fund-raiser in Santa Monica, Olson said that
    > heart had 'selfishly' sunk when she heard of the World Trade Centre
    > She felt that the climate had changed and her chances of a fair trial had
    > lessened.
    > Then Olson signed her own book, Serving Time, America's Most Wanted
    > which she had written to raise funds for a defence case costing hundreds
    > thousands of dollars.
    > The book shows Olson on the cover in striped apron and holding a spatula
    > one hand and a pair of handcuffs in the other. In the foreword, Olson
    > confesses to membership of the Food Conspiracy in the 1970s, 'an umbrella
    > group of neighbourhood food-buying clubs that brought organic food from
    > rural farms and local distributors'. It is this larky nature of her
    > fund-raising efforts that has puzzled some and alienated others.
    > In November last year, after months of proclaiming her innocence, she
    > pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge connected to the pipe bomb but
    > immediately left the courtroom to say she had done so only because her
    > lawyers had insisted she accept a plea bargain deal that would mean she
    > spent only five years in jail. The following week a tetchy Judge Fidler
    > required her to come back and reiterate her guilt. She did so. Then she
    > changed her mind once more and sought to have her plea struck from the
    > records asking that she now stand trial after all. The judge refused,
    > he had no doubt about her guilt. On Friday she was sentenced to 20 years,
    > term which will become academic if she is convicted of murder.
    > All of those charged last week have protested their innocence. But the
    > in the United States is an unforgiving one. When Olson was first arrested,
    > there was some public sympathy for her, an idealistic woman who had become
    > involved in the SLA after her closest friend had been burned alive in the
    > shoot-out. But 11 September has changed the rules: there is much greater
    > support for the police and little sympathy for anyone associated with
    > terrorism.
    > A new chapter is about to be written in the book which everyone had
    > was closed and in which the SLA will have its final epitaph. Perhaps it
    > already been uttered by the fugitive Jim Kilgore. In her book, Hearst
    > him screaming furiously at the surviving members of the group as all their
    > plans unravelled: 'What did the SLA ever accomplish? You killed a black
    > kidnapped a little teenage girl and robbed a bank. What the hell did that
    > amount to?'

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