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Sarah Jane Olsen Gets 20 years to life

by Matt Saturday, Jan. 19, 2002 at 2:45 PM

Former Symbionese Liberation Army fugitive Sara Jane Olson was sentenced Friday for conspiring to blow up police cars in 1975. This article is from the AP so read appropriately.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -

Former Symbionese Liberation Army fugitive

Sara Jane Olson was sentenced Friday to 20

years to life in prison for conspiring to blow

up police cars in 1975. Following tearful

statements from family and friends, Olson said

she was ``truly sorry'' for causing anyone any pain.

But she denied trying to murder officers by

planting bombs under the two Los Angeles

police cars to avenge the deaths of six SLA members during a

shootout with authorities in 1974. The bombs didn't explode.

Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler sentenced Olson to two

consecutive terms of 10 years to life.

Immediately afterward, Olson pleaded innocent to robbery and

murder charges in another decades-old crime: the 1975 SLA

bank holdup in which a bystander, Myrna Opsahl, was killed.

Olson has long denied taking part in the robbery in Carmichael,

a suburb of Sacramento. Four other former SLA members also

face charges in the case; two of them, former couple Bill and

Emily Harris, were expected to enter innocent pleas in a

Sacramento courtroom later Friday.

Olson, 54, was a fugitive in the bombing conspiracy case for

more than 20 years until her arrest two years ago in Minnesota.

She had changed her name from Kathleen Soliah, married a

doctor and had three children.

Before Olson was sentenced, her daughter sobbed aloud as she

told the court: ``She is one of the best mothers anybody would

ever want.''

Olson chocked back tears as her husband, Gerald Peterson, said

the two had been happily married for 23 years.

``To my lovely wife Sara, California is now entrusted to clothe

you, to feed you, shelter you and correct you and try you,'' he

said. ``But this family of ours and our dear friends will not be

diminished in our love for you and our respect for you. We will

always stand by you until you come home.''

When her turn to speak came, Olson addressed her family and

friends.

``I still maintain I didn't participate in events in Los Angeles,''

she said. ``I hope you'll forgive me the pain I have brought you.

... I am a person in court today who truly, while grateful for all

that I had - my life has had quite a lot as you can see.

``For any mistakes that I have made, I accept responsibility for

any pain I have caused. I accept responsibility and I am truly

sorry.''

The SLA began in the fall of 1973 when a handful of white,

college-educated children of middle-class families adopted a

seven-headed snake as their symbol, a black ex-convict as their

leader and the phrase, ``Death to the fascist insect that preys

upon the life of the people'' as their slogan.

The group derived its name from ``symbiosis,'' a biological term

referring to unlike organisms coexisting harmoniously for mutual

benefit.

The SLA claimed responsibility for the murder of Oakland Schools

Superintendent Marcus Foster, because he supposedly favored

a police plan for students to carry identification.

But the group is best known for the 1974 kidnapping of

newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst, who later joined the group in

robbing banks and could become a key witness in the

Carmichael trials.

The long-dormant case gathered legal momentum after Olson's

arrest. Prosecutors say they have new information, and the FBI

has linked shotgun pellets found in Opsahl's body to ammunition

from an SLA house.

Court files also say Olson's palm print matches prints on the

door of a Sacramento garage where the group stored a

getaway car.

Olson's bombing case had seesawed since Oct. 31, when she

announced a surprise decision to plead guilty to possessing

bombs with intent to murder police officers.

Her plea was immediately thrown into question when she told

reporters she was really innocent and had pleaded guilty

because the Sept. 11 attacks had created a climate in which

anyone accused of domestic terrorism could not be acquitted.

She was ordered back into court, where she eventually lost a

battle to withdraw her plea and go to trial.

John Hall, one of the Los Angeles officers targeted that long-ago

day, also testified Friday. He described seeing a child in a

restaurant window the night the bomb was discovered.

``Your honor, it horrifies me to think that the lives of dozens of

innocent people, like that child in the window, would have ended

in an instant had the defendant and co-conspirator successfully

carried out their terrorist acts,'' he said.

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