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SLA: Kathleen Soliah

By Wikipedia

Kathleen Ann Soliah (born January 16, 1947) was a member of the terrorist group Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) in the Super70s. She has lived most of her post-SLA life as a soccer mom under the alias Sara Jane Olson.

After graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Soliah moved to Berkeley, California with her boyfriend, Jim Kilgore. There, she met Angela Atwood at an audition where they both won lead roles in a production of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler. They became inseparable during the play's run. Atwood tried to sponsor Soliah into the SLA, but the other members thought her too "flaky." Regardless, Soliah and Jim Kilgore, along with her brother Steve and sister Josephine (who later married SLA member Michael Bortin) followed the SLA closely.

When Atwood and other core members of the SLA were killed in Watts, California, the Soliahs helped organize memorial rallies in Berkeley. She gave a passionate speech about 'pigs' (the domesticated, law-enforcement variety) at Ho Chi Minh park. It was at the this rally that Emily Harris made contact with Kathleen.

On April 21, 1975, SLA members robbed a Bank in Carmichael, California, killing Myrna Opsahl, a bank customer, in the process. Patty Hearst, who admitted to being a getaway driver, stated that Soliah was one of the actual robbers and it was later revealed that she kicked a pregnant woman who had been ordered to lie down. The woman later had a miscarriage.

On August 21, 1975, bombs that had failed to detonate were discovered under several Los Angeles Police Department patrol cars. Soliah was accused of planting the bombs in an attempt to avenge the slain SLA members.

In February 1976, a grand jury indicted in the bombing case. Soliah went underground and became a fugitive for 23 years. She returned with her husband and three daughters from Zimbabwe eventually to St. Paul, Minnesota, having assumed the alias Sara Jane Olson. (Sara Jane Moore, an SLA-wannabe who attempted to assassinate President Ford, worked as a bookkeeper for the People In Need food distribution program created by the Hearst family as a result of Patty's kidnapping. It is not known if that was why she chose the name "Sara Jane.")

She was active in community issues and human rights campaigns. She also continued to perform in the theatre, appearing in local productions of Shakespeare's King Lear and All's Well that End's Well.

On March 3, 1999 and again on May 15, 1999, Soliah was profiled on the "America's Most Wanted" television program; after a tip, she was arrested on June 16ht of that year and was extradited to California where she was charged with conspiracy to commit murder, possession of explosives, explosion and attempt to ignite an explosive with intent to murder.

Her husband claimed to be in the dark regarding her previous life, but her mother claimed otherwise, "She told him about the situation when they got serious. He understood."

Shortly after her arrest, she legally changed her name to the alias. Her fans raised a substantial amount of money to post bond for her, and her defense fund published a cookbook entitled Serving Time: America's Most Wanted Recipes.

Like most defense lawyers with a losing case, her team managed to get the trial delayed time and time again until it was eventually scheduled for September 4, 2001. This backfired when the events of 9/11 unfolded and the Super70s terrorist who tried to hide as a soccer mom could no longer play the charade to a nostalgic public. Who knows what kind of deal she might haven received a year earlier.

On October 31, 2001, she accepted a plea bargain, and pled guilty to two counts of possessing explosives with intent to murder. The other charges were dropped.

Immediately after entering the plea, however, Olson told reporters that she was innocent and that her plea bargain was a lie forced on her by the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack. "It became clear to me that the incident would have a remarkable effect on the outcome of this trial ... the effect was probably going to be negative," she said. "That's really what governed this decision, not the truth or honesty, but what was probably in my best interests and the interests of my family."

Angered by Olson's announcement that she had lied in court, Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler ordered another hearing on November 6, at which he asked her several times if she was indeed guilty of the charges. Olson, rolling her eyes and sighing theatrically, replied "I want to make it clear, Your Honor, that I did not make that bomb. I did not possess that bomb. I did not plant that bomb. But under the concept of aiding and abetting, I plead guilty."

Then, on November 13, Olson filed a motion requesting to withdraw her guilty plea because "I realize I cannot plead guilty when I know I am not." She acknowledged that she did not misunderstand the judge when he read the charges against her. Rather, she said "Cowardice prevented me from doing what I knew I should: Throw caution aside and move forward to trial. ... I am not second-guessing my decision as much as I have found the courage to take what I know is the honest course. Please, Judge Fidler, grant my request to go to trial."

On December 3, Fidler offered to let Olson testify under oath about her role in the case. She refused. He then wondered "I took those pleas twice ... were you lying to me then or are you lying to me now?" -- and denied her request to withdraw her plea. Observers expected her to serve only three to five years, but on January 18, she was sentenced to two consecutive 10-years-to-life terms. She was to be eligible for parole in five years.

On January 16, 2002, first-degree murder charges for the killing of Myrna Opsahl were filed against five SLA members including Olson. Olson pleaded not guilty to that charge at the time, but on November 7, changed her mind and pled guilty. She was sentenced on February 14, 2003 for the maximum term allowed under her plea bargain, which added six years to the 14-year sentence she is already serving.

Olson is serving her time at the Central California Women's Correctional Facility in Chowchilla.

References/Bibliography

 

 

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SLA MEMBER

Here's Soliah giving a loving tribute to the terrorists killed in LA the month before.

FBI


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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from this Wikipedia article, which is probably more up to date than ours (retrieved August 12, 2005).

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