LOS ANGELES (AP) — After serving six years in prison for trying to bomb police cars in the 1970s, former Symbionese Liberation Army member Sara Jane Olson has been released on parole and reunited with the family she hid with for years.
Olson, 61, formerly known as Kathleen Soliah, walked out of the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla on Monday, state Department of Corrections spokesman Bill Sessa said.
In 2001, Olson pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 years in prison for attempting to bomb Los Angeles police cars in 1975 with the SLA, the urban guerrilla group best known for kidnapping newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst. She vanished soon after she was charged and reinvented herself as a Minnesota housewife.
Olson later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the 1975 shooting death of a customer during a bank robbery in Carmichael, near Sacramento. She was serving a concurrent, six-year sentence in that case.
Sessa said Thursday that Olson earned time for good behavior and ”wasn’t treated any differently than anybody else.” He declined to discuss terms of her parole, citing security concerns.
Olson’s attorney, Shawn Chapman Holley, said she did not know the terms of her client’s parole but did not think it would be a problem for Olson to eventually return to Minnesota. Olson’s family came to California to be with her upon her release.
”Every time I’ve spoken with her, she just sounds happy and relieved, and happy to be with her family,” Holley said.
The SLA started in 1973 when no more than a dozen white, college-educated children from middle-class families adopted a seven-headed snake as their symbol and an ex-convict as their leader. Their slogan: ”Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people.”
Besides kidnapping Hearst, the group claimed responsibility for the murder of a school superintendent and was involved in an armed bank robbery and other violent activities. Eventually those activities caught up with the SLA members, including Olson, who was charged in the attempted bombings.
Olson then went into hiding for nearly a quarter of a century, changing her name, marrying a doctor and becoming a mother of three in St. Paul, Minn. She was arrested in 1999 after FBI agents acted on a tip from TV’s ”America’s Most Wanted.”
After she was returned to Los Angeles for trial, Olson pleaded guilty for her role in the attempted bombings.
Upon learning of her release, the union that represents Los Angeles police officers issued a statement expressing their disappointment.
”She needs to serve her full time in prison for these crimes and does not deserve time-off for working in prison,” Los Angeles Police Protective League President Tim Sands said in the statement.