A few weeks ago Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) member Sara Jane Olson was freed on parole due to a clerical error made three years ago.
The SLA terrorized California between 1973 and 1975 through a series of high profile robberies and attempted bombings. They rose to international notoriety when they kidnapped 19-year-old Patti Hearst.
Sara Jane Olson aka Kathleen Soliah, took part in a bank robbery in Carmichael CA on April 21, 1975. During the robbery, Myrna Opsahl, a mother of four, was shot and killed while depositing money for her church. In 1976 Soliah was indicted for planting pipe bombs under two Los Angeles police cars.
Following the indictment, Kathleen Soliah fled from CA and adopted a new identity, Sara Jane Olson in St. Paul Minnesota where she remained for 23 years. It was only when she was profiled on America’s Most Wanted that she was finally captured on June 16, 1999. At the time of her arrest she had married a doctor and together they had had three daughters.
She pled guilty to both crimes.
On March 17, 2008, she was released on parole after having served only half of her 12- year term. At the time her early release was credited to good behavior and prison work while in jail. Tim Sands of the Police Protective League angrily stated,
[She] “attempted to murder LAPD officers by bombing two police cars […] She needs to serve her full time in prison for these crimes and does not deserve time off for working in prison. Criminals who attempt to murder police officers should not be able to escape justice simply because they have good lawyers.”
Jon Opsahl, the son of the woman Sara Jane Olson pled guilty to murdering was similarly enraged, stating,
“I’m just dumbfounded — that someone can be involved in an SLA terrorist-type group, commit murder and get out of prison in a half dozen years […] The justice system is incompetent or impotent.”
Well, turns out the system was indeed incompetent (although the fact that such crimes received only 15 years total gives value to the claim of impotence as well). On Monday, March 25, officials admitted that in early 2005, a clerk accidentally cut two years off of her term. Then last year her lawyers got CA to reduce the sentence by another year… Meaning that in the system suddenly her 15-year sentence became a 12-year sentence. When she came up for parole, they felt her good behavior deserved recognition—cutting this sentence in half= 6 years. Hence her early release.
Once they caught this mistake, she was rearrested and returned to prison to serve out at least another year.
So I have the following comments:
1. There are detainees kept at Guantanemo for simply plotting a terrorist operation. This woman actually tried to kill cops with pipe-bombs and she’s only getting 14 years?!
2. She murdered a woman—and admitted to it. Again… what?? Doesn’t that normally qualify for life in prison?
3. How did the officials screw up on a case so widely publicized? Seriously now, this wasn’t just any murderess—this was Sara Jane Olson—the SLA member who evaded capture. Don’t you think that would have stuck out in their minds??
What do you think? Even though all this time has passed, should she still serve her entire term in prison?