- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Former 1970s radical Sara Jane Olson is expected to check in with her probation agent on her first full day back in Minnesota.

The 62-year-old Olson arrived in Minnesota on Wednesday evening after serving seven years in a California prison for crimes committed with the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Ramsey County Community Corrections spokesman Chris Crutchfield says he expects Olson to check in with her agent in person at a community corrections office by the end of the business day Thursday.

Olson spent more than 20 years in hiding in St. Paul. While she was a fugitive, she discarded her birth name of Kathleen Soliah and assumed a new persona as a housewife, mother, community volunteer and actress.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Sara Jane Olson has returned to the same Minnesota home where she lived under an assumed name until her 1970s radical past caught up with her.

Olson, newly freed from a California prison, was seen sprinting from a car into the house Wednesday night, a few hours after landing at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

She served half of a 14-year sentence after pleading guilty to participating in the deadly 1975 robbery of a Sacramento-area bank and helping place pipe bombs under Los Angeles Police Department patrol cars.

At the time, she was a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, a violent group that sought to overthrow the government and was best known for kidnapping newspaper heiress Patty Hearst. She later became a fugitive and settled in Minnesota.

The St. Paul police union and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty are against Olson being allowed to serve her one-year parole in Minnesota, arguing that she should serve it in the state where her crimes were committed.

On Wednesday, Los Angeles’ police union also voiced its disapproval of the arrangement in a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League said Olson should not be allowed to go home given that she was a fugitive and not a legal resident of Minnesota at the time of her 1999 arrest in St. Paul, where she was living underground as a doctor’s wife and mother of three daughters.

The California penal code states parolees can be transferred to another state only if the offender was a legal resident of the other state prior to incarceration, the league said. The organization also questioned whether Olson’s release to Minnesota was in the public’s interest because her family there could be motivated to cover for her if she violates the terms of her parole.

Olson’s attorney, David Nickerson, called the league’s claims “just plain idiotic.”

Olson was legally a Minnesota resident who wasn’t aware of her California indictment because it was filed under seal months after she fled the state, he said.

“Every study that looked into the matter found that parolees do much better and are much less likely to re-offend if they rejoin their family,” he said in e-mailed comments. “They just want to punish her more. They are simply being vindictive.”

A Schwarzenegger spokeswoman said he’s have no immediate comment. But Schwarzenegger earlier said he would not override the decision by his state’s prison officials.

Olson’s family lives in the same St. Paul home where they lived when she was arrested. The neighbors in the upper-middle class neighborhood either weren’t home Wednesday afternoon or declined to speak to reporters.

Patty McCutcheon, who lives next door, said she had never met Sara Jane Olson but likes the rest of her family.

“I moved in five years ago, so she was already gone,” McCutcheon said. “But her family was the first to welcome me to the neighborhood.”

Lynn Musgrave, a Twin Cities theater director and sound designer who directed Olson in a couple of productions, said she understood why police and some others opposed her return to Minnesota. But Musgrave said Olson “has now paid her debt to society.”

“She is a different person now than she was,” Musgrave said. “We all are. We were all activists in the ‘70s and expressed ourselves in different ways. Her choices were regrettable but that’s behind her.”

Olson’s church, Minnehaha United Methodist, issued a statement Wednesday welcoming her back to Minnesota.

“We’re looking forward to her being able to resettle in with her family and resume her life,” the Rev. Cooper Wiggen said. He said Olson’s husband, Dr. Gerald “Fred” Peterson, remained active in the church.


Associated Press writers Don Thompson in Sacramento, Calif., Thomas Watkins in Los Angeles, Jeff Baenen and Doug Glass in Minneapolis, and Jim Mone in St. Paul contributed to this story.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide