SAN FRANCISCO – Former Symbionese Liberation Army member James Kilgore, who dodged authorities on bomb and murder charges for decades, was sentenced Monday to 41/2 years in prison on federal explosives and passport fraud convictions.
Kilgore, who was extradited from South Africa in 2002 after living there as a professor, was a member of the 1970s radical group that kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst. Authorities say he was the last unaccounted-for member of the revolutionary group to face justice.
The 56-year-old was charged with possession of a pipe bomb that federal authorities said they found in his Daly City apartment in 1975, and of obtaining a passport under a false name. He pleaded guilty last year.
Federal prosecutors sought the maximum 10 years on the bomb charge and 14 months for using the birth certificate of a dead baby to obtain a passport in Seattle.
U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel gave four years for the bomb count and six months for the passport violation.
“The sentence the government seeks, there’s a little too much passion and fervor in that,” Patel said.
Justice Department prosecutor Michael Nerney urged the maximum on the bomb charge, saying “anything less than that sentence would send the wrong message.”
Next month, Kilgore is expected to be sentenced to six more years after pleading guilty last year to murder charges in Sacramento County for an SLA bank robbery in 1975 in which 42-year-old housewife Myrna Opsahl was killed while depositing a church collection.
Four other SLA members pleaded guilty in November 2002 to Opsahl’s murder in a plea deal. They were sentenced to terms varying from six to eight years.
Kilgore was working as a University of Cape Town professor and activist under the name Charles William Pape. He wrote one of South Africa’s most popular high school history books, “Making History.”
He married an American in South Africa, and is the father of two sons. His wife, Teri, who watched the hearing from the gallery, declined comment afterward.
Kilgore grew up in Marin County and graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 1969 before associating himself with the notorious and violent SLA.
The revolutionary group, born in California of the anti-Vietnam War movement, achieved notoriety for killing Oakland schools superintendent Marcus Foster in 1973 and for kidnapping Hearst a year later.
An SLA hideout was destroyed by fire during a 1974 shootout with Los Angeles police, a scene captured on news broadcasts.
South African authorities arrested Kilgore one day after his four former SLA colleagues pleaded guilty.
William Harris, 57, of Oakland; his former wife, Emily Montague, 55, of Altadena; Michael Bortin, 54, of Portland, Ore.; and Sara Jane Olson, 55, of St. Paul, Minn., were sentenced last year.
Federal prosecutors say the SLA successfully blew up an unoccupied Emeryville police car, warning authorities that “the next bomb may be under the seat of your car,” and two empty police vehicles at the Marin County Civic Center in 1975.
They placed a bomb underneath a police officer’s car parked at a Hollywood restaurant that year, but it did not explode as planned when the officer drove away, authorities said.
The judge, in issuing her sentence, said the government failed to file those charges. “I’m not going to pile on a lot of uncharged conduct,” she said.
The balding Kilgore apologized for his acts and said the SLA’s violent protestations of the Vietnam War were “misguided and misdirected.”
“There aren’t any shortcuts to meaningful social change,” added Kilgore, who was nearly in tears when he apologized to his mother, Barbara, who sat near his wife in the courtroom.