Features

Prosecutors offer new theory of SLA origins

The Associated Press
Saturday February 17, 2001

LOS ANGELES — Prosecutors of a former Symbionese Liberation Army fugitive offered a new theory Friday about the origins of the 1970s revolutionary group, claiming it was formed to bomb police cars. 

They also said newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst will be depicted as “an accomplice witness” and an SLA member when she testifies against Sara Jane Olson. 

The statements came in a legal brief designed to bolster a request to use evidence of uncharged crimes against Olson. 

Los Angeles County prosecutors Michael Latin and Eleanor Hunter said the entire history of SLA activities – even those that took place before Olson was involved – is relevant to her prosecution. 

Olson, who was a fugitive for 25 years, is accused of attempting to murder police officers by placing pipe bombs under two Los Angeles police cars in 1975. The bombs didn’t explode. 

A pretrial hearing is scheduled in Superior Court on Feb. 23 and trial is scheduled for April 30. 

Olson has denied she belonged to the SLA, although she knew some of the members who were killed in a fiery shootout with Los Angeles police in 1974. 

In papers filed Friday, prosecutors reiterated their previous claims that the SLA’s history is relevant to the case, but they added a new twist. 

“Evidence of the SLA’s previous activities indicates that bombing police cars was a goal of the organization, perhaps one of the very reasons for its existence,” said their brief. “It appears that banks were robbed in order to finance the bombing of police cars.” 

Such attempts were made in San Francisco, Marin and Los Angeles, the prosecutors said. 

No such claims were made during Hearst’s 1975 bank robbery trial nor in other related trials of SLA defendants. 

“It seems they are rewriting history to try to justify their position,” said Olson lawyer Shawn Chapman. “There is nothing to support this. In 20,000 pages of discovery there is no reference to anything like that. Their saying these facts exist doesn’t make it so.” 

The prosecutors also said that Hearst, who was recently pardoned by President Clinton for her role in an SLA bank robbery, will be “an accomplice witness” whose testimony will need corroboration.