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Former Militant Olson Set for Release Today

March 17, 2009 02:30 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Sara Jane Olson, who has served seven years for crimes associated with the Symbionese Liberation Army, will be set free today but may have to stay in Los Angeles.

Terrorist Turned Housewife Ready for Release

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Former radical Sara Jane Olson, who spent 25 years living under a new identity as a fugitive in Minnesota, will be released from prison today. Olson's seven years in prison comprise half her original sentence for "placing pipe bombs under Los Angeles Police Department patrol cars and participating in a deadly robbery of a suburban Sacramento bank," reports the Associated Press.

Olson committed the crimes when she became involved with the Symbionese Liberation Army, a militant radical group mostly remembered for kidnapping newspaper heiress Patty Hearst in 1974.
After her release, Olson is expected to go directly to Palmdale, Calif., where her mother lives, and to see her parole agent in Los Angeles, one of Olson's lawyers, David Nickerson, told the AP.

Correction officials are still deciding whether Olson will then be allowed to fly back to St. Paul, Minn., or will be required to "finish her parole where her crimes were committed" in Los Angeles. The decision may not come "until Olson walks out of prison," reported the AP.

Olson, formerly known as Kathleen Soliah, was accidentally released from prison in March 2008, a year earlier than the authorities intended. She had won a reduced sentence for good behavior, but the authorities never intended to reduce her 14-year sentence by so much. The police arrested her again days later.

At the time, Olson's husband said she was "relieved" that she was out of prison. WCCO carried video coverage of Olson's release last year.

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Background: The SLA and the Soliah trial

"The SLA adopted its rhetoric from Communists and South American revolutionaries," according to a 2002 article from Slate. The group of "Berkeley radicals" was very small in comparison to 1960s and 1970s radical organizations like the Black Panthers, and they were not "of real historical significance." A seven-headed cobra was the group's symbol, and the word "symbionese" was coined to suggest a "symbiosis" of classes and races.

The 2002 trial and sentencing of Sara Jane Olson brought new attention to the dismantled group that created so much controversy in the 1970s. An LA Weekly piece about the Soliah trial says, "There are those who will declare that, three decades after the fact, a generation is being put on trial." But the article argues that that is exactly the "myth" that the SLA had always tried to "exploit."

Key Players: Kathleen Soliah/Sara Jane Olson

Born in Fargo, N.D., and raised in California, Olson spent her time on the run in the Midwest, settling in Minneapolis in 1977, where she married a doctor and was active in community theater, church and in politics. She assumed the alias Sara Jane Olson, the surname being one of the most common in the local phone book. A tip-off to the FBI following a profile on "America's Most Wanted" led to her arrest in June 1999.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune has a timeline for Olson's life.

Related Topic: Patty Hearst

On Feb. 4, 1974, members of the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped Patricia Hearst, granddaughter of newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. It was the beginning of a nearly two-year drama that captivated the nation.
 
In a New York Times opinion piece from February 2002, Brent Staples asserts that in the 1960s, "A substantial number of these children of privilege clearly saw 'the revolution' as a fashionable game that would be forgiven once timeout was called." According to Staples, "The only difference between Patricia Hearst Shaw, witness for the prosecution, and those at the defendants' table is that she had more money and influence."

Opinion & Analysis: ‘Soliah Sprung after Six Years’

Blog Hot Air writes that "six years for domestic terrorism and murder is a joke. This is a woman who murdered a bank employee simply because she got in the way of their 'revolution' and who attempted to murder Los Angeles police officers."

Reference: Reformed rebels of the 1960s and 1970s

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