[Ppnews] SLA's Olson will fight return to state prison
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Mar 24 09:05:24 EDT 2008
SLA's Olson will fight return to state prison
John Coté, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, March 24, 2008
Sara Jane Olson, a former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army and
Minnesota housewife who was rearrested last week after state officials
said they erred in calculating her prison sentence, will challenge the
decision to have her locked up for another year, her attorney said
"We are going to explore and exhaust every remedy," said Olson's attorney,
Shawn Chapman Holley. She blamed pressure from the Los Angeles police
officers' union, rather than a government error, for her client ending up
back in prison.
"I don't think that there was a calculation mistake," Holley said. "We all
spent a long time figuring out the formulas. There had been agreement on
all sides about what the calculations were. ... It's our feeling that the
Department of Corrections is bowing to this political pressure."
That contention was disputed by the police union and an official at the
state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
"We can't take credit for a decision that the Department of Corrections
made," said Tim Sands, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective
League. "However, our mission is to protect our members, and one way we
protect them is to fight to see that people who try to murder them serve
long prison terms."
Olson, formerly known as Kathleen Soliah, was paroled last Monday after
serving six years in prison for two 1975 crimes carried out by the SLA, a
self-styled revolutionary group from the early 1970s. She pleaded guilty
to attempting to bomb Los Angeles police cars and to second-degree murder
in the death of bank customer Myrna Opsahl, 42, during a bank robbery in
Carmichael near Sacramento.
Los Angeles police union members did not directly contact the Department
of Corrections about Olson's release, but distributed statements to news
outlets and elected officials calling for a longer sentence, union
spokeswoman Jude Schneider said.
Sacramento D.A.'s role
The Sacramento County district attorney raised concerns through the media
about the sentence on Thursday, Department of Corrections spokesman Seth
Unger said. Corrections staff then began an intense review, going through
documents and transcripts early Friday and working through the night, he
Olson, who had approval to return to Minnesota with her husband to serve
her parole there, was prevented from boarding her flight at Los Angeles
International Airport, Holley said. She was escorted to her mother's house
in Palmdale (Los Angeles County), where authorities kept watch.
Prison department staff concluded by around noon Saturday that a mistake
had been made, Unger said. A warrant was issued and Olson was rearrested.
She was sent back the women's prison in Chowchilla late Saturday without
incident, officials said.
Olson's husband, Dr. Gerald Peterson, an emergency room physician, was in
California to take his wife home. He returned to their three children in
Minnesota without her.
"The kids had cleaned the house for her return to St. Paul, and they are
very disappointed, as I am," Peterson wrote in an e-mail Sunday. "Our
daughters wonder how they could release Mom, then arrest her again without
doing anything wrong."
After changing her name, Olson had lived for years as a housewife in
Minnesota. She was a fugitive for almost 24 years before being arrested in
After her guilty pleas, a judge sentenced Olson to five years and four
months in prison under 1975 sentencing laws. The state parole board then
classified her as a serious offender and recalculated her term at 13
years. A judge later trimmed a year off her sentence, and with a 50
percent reduction for good behavior and work in prison, she was paroled
Olson enjoys brief freedom
Prison officials said Saturday they had neglected to add two years to
Olson's sentence for the bank robbery and murder in Carmichael and that
she should have received a 14-year term, with parole after seven years.
The police union is discontent with the one-year extension of Olson's
"We are far from satisfied," Sands said. "Parole shouldn't even be an
option for terrorists who are convicted of murdering innocent bystanders
and attempting to murder police officers."
Other participants in the bank robbery and murder, including Emily
(Harris) Montague, who admitted firing the fatal shot that killed Opsahl,
have all been paroled.
The SLA gained notoriety after members assassinated Marcus Foster,
superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District, and wounded his
assistant in November 1973. Three months later the SLA kidnapped newspaper
heiress Patty Hearst, 19, in her Berkeley apartment. Hearst was quickly
absorbed into the SLA.
Olson planted pipe bombs beneath L. A. police cars in retaliation for a
police shootout that left six SLA members dead. The bombs never detonated.
About a year later, the SLA tried to rob the Carmichael bank.
Peterson said his wife felt peace and love during her brief release from
"We had an excellent hike in the hills, enjoying the call and response
singing of some quail ... there is some great beauty outside of the prison
machine," he said in his e-mail. "Sara wryly noted on our drive to L.A.,
'they can arrest me for a mistake,' and in fact CDC did just that."
E-mail John Coté at jcote at sfchronicle.com.
This article appeared on page B - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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