Charges dismissed against one SLA lawyer

The Associated Press
Saturday June 09, 2001

LOS ANGELES — A judge dismissed misdemeanor charges Friday against a lawyer for former SLA fugitive Sara Jane Olson after the city attorney’s office conceded she had nothing to do with the improper release of information in the Olson case. 

Shawn Snider Chapman said she was pleased to be exonerated but outraged that the charges were filed in the first place. 

She had been accused of releasing addresses and phone numbers of two police witnesses in the Olson attempted-murder case.  

The information was posted briefly on a Web site, but Chapman said from the beginning she was not involved. 

The three counts were filed under a penal code section that prohibits attorneys from releasing such information. Chapman could have faced up to a year in jail if convicted. 

Her co-counsel, J.Tony Serra, who remains charged, has said the information came from his San Francisco office and was inadvertently released. 

“We’ve received significant additional evidence,” Deputy City Attorney Edward Gauthier said at a hearing. ”... We’re convinced Ms. Chapman had nothing to do with this.” 

Superior Court Judge William C. Ryan dismissed the charges. 

Serra’s trial is set for July 30 before Ryan.  

The lawyer has said that if he is convicted he will step out of the Olson case due to conflict of interest. 

Meanwhile, the California State Bar continues to investigate both lawyers on the issue of the release of addresses and phone numbers.  

Chapman said the Olson case can’t proceed until that probe is resolved. 

Chapman and her lawyer, Dean Masserman, told reporters that the city attorney’s office never consulted them before filing the charges against her. 

“The fact that the charges have been dismissed shows that what I said was true, the charges were groundless,” said Chapman.  

“If the city attorney had contacted us before filing, they would have known this before dragging my name through the mud.” 

She said the charges damaged her professional reputation, dismayed her family and distracted her and Serra from preparations for the Olson trial. 

“This has thrown a giant monkey wrench into the Olson trial,” she said. 

Gauthier refused comment outside court. 

Chapman and Masserman said they suspected that the mayoral candidacy of City Attorney James Hahn affected the decision to file the charges. 

“I think the motive was to please these police officers,” said Chapman. “The timing was suspect because the trial was coming up and so was the mayoral election.” 

Hahn, who won the election Tuesday, was supported by the police union. His spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment. 

The Olson case has been plagued with delays and lawyer substitutions during the two years since her arrest on charges in a 1976 indictment. It is now scheduled for Sept. 4. 

Olson, 54, is accused of attempting to murder Los Angeles police officers by planting bombs under police cars in 1975 in retaliation for the deaths of six SLA members in a fiery shootout in 1974. The bombs did not explode. 

Indicted under her former name, Kathleen Soliah, she remained a fugitive until her 1999 capture in Minnesota.