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Date: Mon, 18 Mar 2002 11:22:44 -0800
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Patty Hearsts Little Red Book
Patty Hearst's Little Red Book
The SLA was not her first exposure to the rhetoric of revolution
BY GORDON YOUNG
March 13, 2002
Publishing heiress Patty Hearst was studying art history at UC Berkeley
when she was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army on February 4,
1974. She resurfaced a short time later as Taniaa full-time urban guerrilla
and sometime bank robber who had cast off her old bourgeois life and joined
the SLA. Hearst quickly became the Bay Area's most famous "leftist," and
posters of her wielding a sawed-off carbine in front of the SLA's
seven-headed cobra popped up on kiosks and apartment walls throughout
But once she was arrested and tried for her participation in the 1974
holdup of a San Francisco bank, Hearst began portraying herself quite
differently. Ever since, she has depicted herself as a serious student who
was not interested in, and even ignorant of -- the radical politics of the
times. When lawyer F. Lee Bailey defended Hearst for her role in the crime,
he portrayed her as a typical nineteen-year-old college student concerned
primarily with her studies and her upcoming marriage.
But the basics of revolutionary thought weren't exactly new to Hearst,
although this was never pointed out at her trial or in the pages of her
1982 autobiography. Hearst studied revolutionary thought as a first-year
student at Menlo College, the Atherton junior college she attended before
transferring to Cal. The publishing heiress is even alleged to have
wisecracked to her professor that participating in revolutionary activities
would be a sure way to rankle her own famously conservative parents.
Now, Hearst is likely to be at the center of yet another SLA trial, this
time as a star witness for the prosecution. And the lawyers who are
representing her former SLA colleagues are all but certain to use the
contradictions in her accounts of those days as a key part of their defense
On January 16 this year, former SLA members Emily "Yolanda" Harris, Sara
Jane Olson, Michael Bortin, and Bill "General Teko" Harris of Oakland were
arrested for the slaying of forty-two-year-old Myrna Opsahl during the
robbery of the Carmichael branch of the Crocker National Bank on April 21,
1975. A fifth suspect, James Kilgore, remains a fugitive.
In Every Secret Thing, her 1982 autobiography, Hearst accused Emily Harris
of firing the shotgun blast that killed Opsahl. She also wrote that Bill
Harris, Olson, Bortin, and Kilgore were participants in the robbery.
Hearst, who admits driving a getaway car, was granted immunity in the case
years ago, freeing her to testify in the forthcoming trial but once again
shining the spotlight back on her. The forthcoming case could hinge on
Hearst's credibility as a witness.
"Given that the only person naming anybody individually is Patty Hearst,
her testimony seems to be a central issue in everybody's trial," said
Stuart Hanlon, Emily Harris's attorney. "She's really, in many ways, the
The SLA, which never counted more than a dozen soldiers in its ranks,
emerged in Berkeley in 1973. Escaped convict Donald DeFreeze, known as
General Field Marshal Cinque, led a gang of young, white, well-educated,
middle-class zealots who declared war on the US government, pledging to
stamp out "competition, individualism, fascism, racism, sexism, and
imperialism," according to one of the SLA's innumerable propaganda
documents. With "Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of
the people!" as its battle cry, the SLA was well-armed and violent. Its
first public act was the assassination of Oakland school Superintendent
Marcus Foster on November 6, 1973.
Hearst's conversion was a huge publicity coup for the SLA, which had a
knack for attracting media attention. Despite its lack of support from
mainstream leftists, the SLA had apparently wooed to its side a symbol of
the hated ruling-class elite, the granddaughter of the Hearst publishing
But Hearst, who condemned virtually all aspects of her former life while on
the run with the SLA, reversed herself after being captured. In fact, she
later argued that she couldn't have been a more inappropriate choice to be
a celebrity revolutionary. In Every Secret Thing, she portrayed her life at
Cal with fiance Steven Weed as decidedly apolitical. "Berkeley was known
far and wide as the fountainhead of the student rebellion and campus
uprising of the '60s, a haven for radicals and revolutionaries, a hotbed of
communism, Marxism, socialism, and whatever -ism might be current at the
moment," she wrote. "But by the time Steve and I moved to Berkeley in the
fall of 1972, almost all that had withered away. ... Serious students
simply did not have time for the protests of the '60s."
After being abducted from her Ben-venue Avenue apartment, Hearst received a
crash course in revolutionary theory from her captors, who she said briefly
dubbed her "bourgeois bitch" and Marie Antoinette, because she "lived in
her own cocoon of ignorance."
"He mentioned country after country and [named] each of the revolutionary
groups involved, and when it became apparent that I did not know what he
was talking about, he berated me for being so ignorant of the ^A'people's
movements' in all parts of the world," Hearst wrote of one of her early
sessions with General Field Marshal Cinque.
Hearst's image as a political neophyte also was stressed in her 1976 trial
for participating in the Hibernia Bank robbery. The flamboyant F. Lee
Bailey told the jury that Cinque had given Hearst a simple choice: "Do what
I say or I'll blow your head off."
But Hearst actually took a somewhat more active role in her revolutionary
education. After graduating a year early from Crystal Springs High School,
she enrolled at Menlo College in the fall of 1971 and attended history
professor Joseph Bertrand's course "History of Revolution."
The class exposed Hearst to a broad spectrum of revolutionary
thought. Students were assigned everything from the Communist Manifesto to
Plato's Republic. Other required reading included Mao's Little Red Book,
the writings of Ho Chi Minh, and Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on
Ice, a collection of essays focusing on racism that became an important
part of the Black Power movement. "It was based completely on revolutionary
readings and discussions of the readings," Bertrand remembered. "There were
also readings related to quite a few movements in emerging African states."
Although Bertrand described Hearst as an "excellent and conscientious"
student, he doesn't remember her as overly enthusiastic in class. "She
displayed somewhat of a slight indifference," the seventy-six-year-old
Bertrand recalled during a recent telephone interview from his Palo Alto
home. "I got the feeling she came in with the idea that this was going to
be interesting, and it wasn't very interesting for her. She didn't
participate too much."
But the class may have inspired Hearst in more concrete ways. A former
Menlo College professor who asked to remain anonymous remembers hearing
from Bertrand that Hearst once said that getting involved with a
revolutionary group would be a great way to "fix" her parents. It was
allegedly delivered in a joking manner, an offhand remark that college
students would appreciate without taking seriously.
Asked recently about the story, Bertrand did not deny it. "I'd rather not
go into that," was his only reply. "I'd rather not comment." But Bertrand
does remember receiving "hate mail" from people on campus who believed that
he had somehow contributed to Hearst's transformation from innocent victim
to urban guerrilla.
"The librarian didn't care too much for the books I put on reserve," he
recalled, "and the people at the bookstore were upset about the books I
Despite the intense scrutiny of the SLA and the Patty Hearst saga,
Bertrand, who left Menlo College in 1979 and retired from Cogswell College
in 1991, said he has never discussed Hearst's involvement in his seminar
with law enforcement officials or seen anything written about it.
The jury in Patty Hearst's first trial didn't buy her lawyer's portrayal of
her as a brainwashed innocent forced to participate in crimes by her
revolutionary kidnappers. Hearst was found guilty of the Hibernia Bank
robbery and later sentenced to seven years in prison. President Jimmy
Carter commuted her sentence after she served twenty-one months, and
President Bill Clinton pardoned her shortly before leaving office last year.
Now Hearst has reentered the public eye as a result of the June 1999 arrest
of alleged SLA member Kathleen Soliah, who was apprehended after being
featured on an episode of "America's Most Wanted." Soliah had changed her
name to Sara Jane Olson and was living quietly as a mother and homemaker in
Minnesota. She was convicted in January for her role in planting bombs
under Los Angeles police cars and sentenced to twenty years to life in prison.
Olson's case helped rekindle the investigation of the Crocker National Bank
branch robbery and the murder of Myrna Opsahl. Prosecutors in Los Angeles
contend that money from the robbery may have financed other terrorist
activities, including the bombing attempts that earned Olson a conviction.
They publicly called on Sacramento County prosecutors to pursue the case.
And they weren't alone. Jon Opsahl, the son of the slain bank customer,
also campaigned for charges to be filed.
Federal prosecutors already had tried one alleged SLA member for the
robbery without success. In April of 1976, Steven Soliah, Kathleen's
brother, was acquitted in federal court in Sacramento. Prosecutors chose
not to put Hearst on the stand, perhaps because her performance at her own
Hibernia Bank trial had been so poor. Hearst took the Fifth Amendment
forty-two times, and her testimony was considered devastating to her case.
But while the charges in the Crocker robbery largely correspond with
Hearst's assertions in Every Secret Thing, new scientific analysis appeared
to convince Sacramento county prosecutors to finally prosecute the
case. "Using forensic testing procedures not available until recently, the
FBI laboratory linked the lead pellets that killed Mrs. Opsahl to shotgun
shells found in an SLA hideout in San Francisco," Sacramento District
Attorney Jan Scully said.
Attorney Stuart Hanlon, who calls Hearst's book "fiction," still believes
she's the key to the prosecutor's case. "There is some circumstantial
evidence, but at best it might attempt to tie a group of people to the
event, not an individual," Hanlon said. "Given that the only person naming
anybody individually is Patty Hearst, her testimony seems to be a central
issue in everybody's trial."
Hearst's reputation certainly has changed since her 1976 trial. Married to
one of her former bodyguards, she lives in Connecticut and has two
children. She has appeared in several films by cult director John Waters.
But it is Hearst's past that will matter most if she testifies. "Patty
Hearst was like everybody growing up in that time," Hanlon said. "She
wanted something changed. She was probably very bored with her life and did
a lot of things that young people at that time did. What she studied in
school, what she's done, will all be part of who she is."
In a January 22 interview with CNN's Larry King, Hearst accused the SLA of
pursuing "their own little jihad" and seemed eager to testify. "You have to
be honest," Hearst said. "That's why I published the book. I have never
wavered from it. I don't have any skeletons in my closet. I'm not afraid to
go in front of a jury."
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