By Patrick Mondout
Our main article on the Symbionese Liberation
Army (SLA) is here. There are pages for SLA
victims Dr. Marcus Roberts, Steven
Weed, Patty Hearst, and Myrna
Opsahl. There are also individual pages for SLA members Angela
Atwood, Camilla Hall, Donald
DeFreeze, Emily & Bill
Harris, James Kilgore, Michael
Bortin, Nancy Ling Perry, Patricia
Soltysik, Wendy Yoshimura, and Willie
Chronology of SLA Events
As a backdrop to these events and to help understand some motivations,
recall the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the
assassinations of both Kennedy's, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, the
riot at Attica in 1971, Watergate, the riot at the Democratic Convention
in Chicago, the Pentagon Papers, and other groups such as the Weatherman,
Students for a Democratic Society, and the Black Panthers.
1971: Donald DeFreeze is finally
sentenced to an extended stay at the Vacaville prison after eight previous
arrests fail to rehabilitative him.
March 30, 1972: Wendy Yoshimura's
garage is found to contain a large cache of weapons and bombs. Fellow
'Revolutionary Army' members Willie Brandt and Paul Rubenstein along with Michael
Bortin are caught after police stakeout the residence and later plead
guilty. Among the items found is a "communiqué" from the
terrorist group claiming responsibility for a bombing that was to happen that
night. Yoshimura manages to elude police.
Summer/Fall of 1972: Several future members of the SLA become involved
with Venceremos, a radicalized group of prison rights activists.
September 1972: Vacaville inmate Donald
DeFreeze becomes the leader of a prison group called Unisight.
Venceremos members Willy Wolfe and Russell
Little attend Unisight meetings as tutors for the inmates.
December 1972: Donald DeFreeze is
transferred from Vacaville to Soledad prison.
March 5, 1973: Donald DeFreeze
escapes from Soledad. Russell Little and Willy
Wolfe take him to one of their safehouses were Patricia
Soltysik and Nancy Ling Perry are
living (Soltysik is chosen because, unlike the others, she has not visited
the prisons and the police would not know her). The SLA is soon born with
DeFreeze as their leader.
6, 1973: SLA members assassinate Dr.
Marcus Foster, an African-American school superintendent. A communiqué
is released claiming responsibility.
November 12, 1973: Police were called to the "DeVoto" house
(the false name Russell Little and Nancy Ling Perry were using) after a
local teenager made the mistake of pulling a gun on her in an apparent
robbery/rape attempt. The gun went off and police investigated, but only
saw Perry as a victim.
11, 1974: SLA members Joe Remiro and Russell Little are arrested in
connection with the Foster murder.
4, 1974: SLA members kidnap newspaper heiress Patricia
'Patty' Hearst. Another communiqué is issued, demanding the release
of the SLA members arrested for the Foster murder.
February 12, 1974: An SLA communique demands $6M worth of food be
distributed to local poor people as an act of good faith.
February 22, 1974: The food begins to be distributed, but only $2M
worth. Violent thugs cause near riots at distribution points. Hearst's
father claims the $6M is beyond his capabilities, playing right into the
captors hands. They show Patty excerpts of his statement from the
newspaper to "prove" to her that what they have been saying
about him is true.
February 28, 1974: Another smaller handout of food is better organized
and more well attended by police and news crews, after the disaster of
February 22nd. Additional "People In Need" food handouts were
arranged for March 5th and 8th.
March 4, 1974: California Governor Ronald Reagan inflames the situation
by claiming that those who took the food were "aiding and abetting
lawlessness." The problem with the statement is that thousands of
underprivileged people did receive food and were not violent. He
had predicted before the first handout that no one would show up.
March 25, 1974: The final People In Need giveaway takes place with an
estimated 30,000 receiving food. These giveaways help the SLA terrorists
gain support from some radicals seemingly willing to excuse their
assassination of Marcus Foster.
April 3, 1974: Another in a series of tapes is sent by the SLA to a
local radio station on which Patty Hearst announces that she has changed
allegiances to the SLA and has taken on the name 'Tania."
1974: The SLA robs the Hibernia bank. The nation is shocked to see
Patty Hearst holding a weapon on bank camera footage. The FBI claims that
the pictures show that the other SLA members had their guns pointed at
Patty and that she was likely forced to participate.
April 23, 1974: The first FBI posters for the group include Patty only
as a material witness. Also on the poster are Donald De Freeze, Patricia
Michelle Soltysik, Camilla Christine Hall and Nancy Ling Perry.
April 24, 1974: Another tape from Patty suggests that her gun was
loaded and that she was a willing participant and that further study of
the photographs would prove it. She also suggested that if that didn't
work, her future actions would prove it. Public opinion started to shift
regarding whether or not she had actually even been kidnapped or was a
willing participant all along.
April 30, 1974: The SLA leaves their apartment on Golden Gate Avenue
for in the Bayview district.
May 2, 1974: The FBI raids the apartment on Golden Gate Avenue, but has
no clue as to where the SLA has fled.
May 16, 1974: Patty
Hearst and Bill & Emily Harris are involved in an altercation outside
a sporting goods store near Los Angeles.
May 17, 1974: LAPD
officers and SWAT teams surround an SLA "safehouse" in Los
Angeles. All six heavily armed SLA members in the house are killed by
gunfire or a fire that engulfs the residence.
June 2, 1974: Radicals in Berkeley, including Kathleen
Soliah, hold a rally in support of the dead terrorists. Soliah and
others would soon join up after Emily Harris approaches her.
June 7, 1974: A seventh tape from Patty Hearst eulogizes her fallen
comrades. She also makes it clear that the SLA will continue and that one
of the dead, Willy Wolfe, was her lover.
July - October 1974: Wendy Yoshimura, Patty Hearst, and the Harrises
stay at a safehouse in Pennsylvania arranged by sports critic Jack Scott,
who wants to write a book about them.
November 3, 1974: With no word from Patty for months, Randolph Hearst
withdraws his offer of $50,000 for her return. Many believe she has been
killed and whenever a woman's body is found, many assume at first that it
March 1 1974: Russell Little and Joe Remiro, charged with the
assassination of Marcus Foster, attempt to
escape. Their lawyer came to see Little and Russ asked that Remiro join
in. The two terrorists found themselves alone with just two guards. Little
jumped out of his chair and stabbed one of them in the throat with a
pencil while Remiro punched the other. Their efforts ultimately failed,
but they did manage to seriously wound a "pig."
February 25, 1975: The remaining SLA members rob the Guild Savings and
Loan in San Francisco. They are not suspected at first. According to Patty
Hearst, Mike Bortin and Jim Kilgore pulled off the heist with Steven and
Kathleen Soliah outside in separate "switch" cars (getaway in
one, then switch to other a few blocks away). The robbery netted the
terrorists over $3700.
April 21, 1975:
The SLA rob the Carmichael Bank and senselessly kill a customer, Myrna
June 9, 1975: Russell Little and Joe Remiro are both found guilty in
the Marcus Foster case after 11 days of jury deliberations.
June 27, 1975: Little and Remiro are each handed life sentences for
their roles in the Marcus Foster slaying. Russell Little made a statement
to the court claiming that the conviction will, "do nothing but
strengthen our forces." Some 20 or so supporters of the terrorists
reportedly applauded. Little will eventually wiggle his way out on a
technicality but Remiro remains safely behind bars.
August 7, 1975: San Francisco police are able to successfully detonate
SLA bombs left at their Mission and Taraval stations.
August 13, 1975: An SLA bomb explodes at the Emeryville police station.
No one is injured.
August 20, 1975: Another injury-free SLA bomb explodes, this time at
the Marin County Courthouse.
August 21, 1975: Bombs planted by SLA terrorist Kathleen
Soliah (Sara Jane Olson) under LAPD cars fail to detonate. She will
plead guilty to this charge more than a quarter of a century later.
1975: Patty Hearst, Wendy Yoshimura, Steven Soliah, William Harris and
Emily Harris are arrested in a pair police operations. When asked for her
occupation, Hearst responds, "urban guerrilla." Only Kathleen
Soliah and James Kilgore remain on the run.
September 22, 1975: Sara Jane Moore, who worked as a bookkeeper for the
People In Need food distribution program and an SLA-wannabe, attempts to
assassinate President Ford. Kathleen Soliah
soon changes her name to Sara Jane Olson.
February 26, 1976: Kathleen Soliah is indicted for her role in the
August 21, 1975 failed bombing. She is already out of the country.
March 20, 1976:
Patty Hearst is convicted on federal charges stemming from her role in the
September 29, 1976: Bill &
Emily Harris plead guilty for their parts in the Hearst abduction.
They will each serve eight years in prison.
April 27, 1976: Steven Soliah is acquitted on charges related to SLA
activities. It is revealed the day the case closed and went to the jury
that his alibi, Emily Tobach, was visiting prisoners at Folsom when,
according to sworn testimony, she was supposed to be with Soliah. The time
in question is also when the bank was robbed. The jury never heard the
evidence and Tobach was not charged with perjury.
January 20, 1977: Wendy Yoshimura is
convicted on charges stemming from the 1972 arrest of two fellow members
of the Revolutionary Army.
29, 1979: Patty Hearst has her sentence commuted by President Jimmy
February 27, 1979: Russell Little has his conviction overturned. Joe
Remiro's is upheld.
June 4, 1981: Russell Little is acquitted during a retrial.
January 14, 1984: Jack and Micki Scott, the pair that shuttled Patty
Hearst and her terrorist captors from coast to coast and lived with them
in a rented safehouse in Pennsylvania, get $30,000 in an out of court
settlement from the heiress, who just wants them to go away. Ironically,
the Scotts objected to Hearst accusation that they operated an underground
railroad for radical fugitives. It was actually more like a taxi service,
since Jack Scott himself twice drove 'Tania' across the country while she
was the most hunted woman on Earth and sent for Wendy
Yoshimura to join them and the
May 15, 1999: To mark the 25th anniversary of the SLA shootout,
America's Most Wanted features Kathleen Soliah and James Kilgore (who
happens to be in South Africa).
June 16, 1999: Kathleen Soliah,
living under the name of Sara Jane Olson, is finally arrested in Minnesota
having alluded law enforcement for a quarter of a century.
January 2001: President Clinton pardons Patty Hearst.
October 2001: Kathleen Soliah plead guilty in the case that accuses her
of possessing bombs with the intent to kill police officers back in 1974.
January 16, 2002: Bill and Emily Harris and Mike Bortin are arrested in
a multi-state coordinated police action. Each are charged along with
Kathleen Soliah with first-degree murder in connection with the 1975 bank
robbery. Also charged is James Kilgore, whose whereabouts remain a
November 7, 2002: Soliah, Bortin, and the Harrises plead guilty.
November 8, 2002: James Kilgore finally emerges as the final SLA
fugitive. He is extradited from South Africa.
February 14, 2003: Emily Harris receives eight years for second degree
murder while her ex-husband Bill receives seven years. Bortin received six
years while Soliah had another six years tacked on to her previous 14 year
sentence for other charges. The family of Myrna Opsahl finally see her
murderers receive prison sentences nearly 30 years after the crime.
April 26, 2004: Kilgore receives 4 and a half years in prison for
passport fraud and explosives charges.
- Shana Alexander, Anyone's
Daughter: The Times and Trials of Patricia Hearst,
- Carolyn Anspacher & the San Francisco Chronicle, The
Trial of Patty Hearst, Great Fidelity Press, 1976.
- Marilyn Baker, Exclusive!:
the inside story of Patricia Hearst and the SLA, Macmillan
- Mary F. Beal, Safe
House: A Casebook Study of Revolutionary Feminism in the 1970's,
Northwest Matrix, 1976.
- Jerry Belcher & Don West, Patty/Tania,
Pyramid Books, 1975
- David Boulton, The
Making Of Tania Hearst, Bergenfield, N.J., U.S.A.: New American
- John Bryan, This
Soldier Still At War, (on Joe Remiro) Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,
- Patty Hearst with Alvin Moscow, Patty
Hearst: Her Own Story, New York: Avon, 1982. This was the title
after the movie came out. Original title: Every Secret Thing.
- Sharon D. Hendry, Soliah:
The Sara Jane Olson Story, Cable Publishing, 2002.
- Janey Jimenez (U.S. Marshal who escorted Hearst between prison and the
court during the trial) with Ted Berkman, My
Prisoner, Sheed Andrews and McMeel, 1977.
- Jean Brown Kinney, An
American journey: The short life of Willy Wolfe, Simon and Schuster,
- Vin McLellan, Paul Avery, The
voices of guns: The definitive and dramatic story of the twenty-two-month
career of the Symbionese Liberation Army, one of the most bizarre chapters
in the history of the American Left, Putnam, 1977.
- John Pascal, The
Strange Case of Patty Hearst, New American Library, 1974.
- Findley & Craven Payne, Life
and Death of the SLA, Ballantine, 1976.
- Robert Brainard Pearsall, Symbionese
Liberation Army: Documents and Communications, Rodopi, 1974
- Fred Soltysik, In
Search of a Sister 1976.
- Steven Weed, with Scott Swanton. My
Search for Patty Hearst, New York: Warner, 1976. Weed was Hearst's
boyfriend at the time of the kidnapping. That was the end of their
- Video: Patty
Hearst, based on Every Secret Thing, directed by Paul
- Video: The Ordeal of Patty Hearst (1979) (TV)
- Video: Patty Hearst: The E! True Hollywood Story (2000) (TV)
- Video: Neverland:
The Rise and Fall of the Symbionese Liberation Army aka Guerrilla:
The Taking of Patty Hearst, Directed by Robert Stone, 2004,