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Archive for the ‘Patty Hearst’ Category

fbiposter-patty-hearstIn a previous post, “The Strange Case of Patty Hearst: Part 1,” I wrote about the kidnapping of wealthy media heiress Patty Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army and her participation in their robbery of the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco on April 15, 1974. When the attorney general viewed a videotape of the bank robbery, identifying Patty as one of the five robbers, he issued a warrant for her arrest as a material witness. What Patty’s parents and all of America wanted to know: had this well-brought-up young lady really crossed over and joined her captors in their radical notion of justice? Or was Patty brainwashed and acting in fear of her life?

A month later, SLA members William and Emily Harris walked into Mel’s Sporting Goods in Englewood, California, to buy supplies for their safe house. While Emily paid at the register, William shoplifted some socks. A security guard noticed and attempted to arrest William Harris by placing a handcuff on his left wrist. They struggled and a .38-caliber handgun fell from William Harris’ waistband. Patty Hearst, on armed lookout from across the street in a red Volkswagen van, produced a semi-automatic rifle and started shooting out the store’s overhead sign. Shots cracked the concrete and shattered the window, and one of them ricocheted and slashed the forehead of the owner, Mrs. Huett. Everyone inside Mel’s took cover and William and Emily made their getaway with Patty behind the wheel of the van. They soon abandoned the van and took refuge in their safehouse at 1466 54th Street in Los Angeles.

pattymedia300From a parking ticket found inside the glove box of the abandoned van, the L.A.P.D. was able to locate the safe house. The next day, May 17, 400 L.A.P.D. officers along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, California Highway Patrol, and Los Angeles Fire Department surrounded the neighborhood. They descended upon the hideout and conducted a live televised raid. It was one of the largest shootouts in police history with a reported total of over 9,000 rounds being fired by both the police and the SLA members who chose not to surrender. Six members of the SLA were killed, probably as a result of a combination of multiple gunshot wounds, smoke inhalation from the burning house, and burns. Among the dead was the SLA’s leader, Donald DeFreeze, an African American ex-convict who called himself General Field Marshal Cinque and Willie Wolfe, who was reported to be Patricia Hearst’s lover and called himself Cujo. Patty Hearst was not in the house during the siege. She and several other fugitives had seen the news coverage of the Mel’s Sporting Goods incident on TV the night before and fled.

Patty and the others remained on the run for over a year, crisscrossing the country and surviving by conducting small thefts. Authorities following the trail of SLA member Kathleen Soliah were eventually lead to the Harrises and Patty. On April 21, 1975, Kathleen Soliah (nee Sara Jane Olson) had robbed a bank in Carmichael, California, during which a mother of four was murdered and a young pregnant bank teller was kicked in the belly and later had a miscarriage. Patty had been Kathleen Soliah’s getaway driver.

1975 photo of Patty Hearst, handcuffed, in custody

1975 photo of Patty Hearst, handcuffed, in custody

Patty was finally arrested on September 18, 1975 at her apartment in the outer Mission District of San Francisco. As she was led away, Patty gave a clenched fist salute and listed her occupation on police papers as “urban guerrilla.” Patty Hearst’s mother, Catherine, expressed confidence that her daughter would not face imprisonment: “I don’t believe Patty’s legal problems are that serious. After all, she’s primarily a kidnap victim. She never went off and did anything of her own free will.”

Patty Hearst was brought to trial in 1976, represented by famed attorney F. Lee Bailey. (Read about the trial here.) Despite her claim that she had been tortured, raped, and brainwashed into submission by the SLA, the jury found it hard to believe her. She was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to seven years in prison. After serving two years, President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence. She married her bodyguard Bernard Shaw. In 2001, she received a full pardon from President Bill Clinton.

Patty Hearst with French bulldog Shann's Legally Blonde, winner of the 2008 "Best of Opposite Sex," Westminster Kennel Club

Patty Hearst with French bulldog Shann's Legally Blonde, winner of the 2008 "Best of Opposite Sex," Westminster Kennel Club

She now lives with her husband and two children, Gillian and Lydia. She raises French bulldogs that win red ribbons at Westminster Kennel Club competitions.

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Patricia Hearst shown with then fiancee Steven Weed

Patricia Hearst shown with then fiancee Steven Weed

It was January 20, 2001, President Bill Clinton’s last day in office. In his last official act, Clinton granted a full pardon to a number of Americans, among them the notorious Patty Hearst, who had served two years for a bank robbery conviction.

Twenty seven years earlier, on February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst made headlines when she was abducted from her Berkeley, California, apartment which she shared with fiancee Steven Weed. Shots were fired and Weed was roughed up. Patty, wearing only her nightgown, was carried out front and stuffed into the trunk of a white getaway car. Her kidnappers were the radical urban guerrilla group, the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). Patty, a 19-year-old college sophomore, was the daughter of rich West Coast publishing tycoon Randolph Hearst. After Patty’s abduction, the SLA released a statement in which it called her kidnapping the “serving of an arrest warrant on Patricia Campbell Hearst.”  It warned that any attempt to rescue Hearst would result in her execution. The message ended with: “DEATH TO THE FASCIST INSECT THAT PREYS UPON THE LIFE OF THE PEOPLE.”

The SLA had kidnapped the media heiress to increase  news attention on their cause: their demand for the release of two imprisoned SLA members, Joseph Remiro and Russell Little, serving life terms for murder. Remiro and Little had been found guilty of killing Oakland school board member Marcus Foster, whom they detested for his idea of requiring  Oakland school kids to carry identification cards. The SLA considered Foster to be a “fascist.” Foster was killed by the SLA as he walked out of a school board meeting. The hollow-point bullets they used to kill Dr. Foster had been packed with cyanide.

Patty’s abduction was sensational news around the world. At a time of student unrest and radical causes, Patty Hearst was an average though privileged girl who had given neither the law nor her family any real trouble. At first, through tapes given to the news media, the SLA demanded the Hearst family arrange for the release of Remiro and Little in exchange for Patty’s freedom. When that proved impossible, they demanded that the Hearst distribute millions of dollars in food to the needy as ransom. After the Hearsts donated over $6 million to the poor of the San Francisco Bay Area, the SLA refused to let Patty go, claiming the donated food had been inferior. Inexplicably, all negotiations ceased.

Patty Hearst (b. 1954) from a Symbionese Liberation Army photo

Patty Hearst (b. 1954) from a Symbionese Liberation Army photo

Over the next few weeks, the Hearsts received several tapes of Patty’s voice. More and more Patty began to expouse the cause of  her captors. The Hearsts believed Patty was being forced to say these things, but then they received a photo of her with a carbine rifle in her arms, standing next to the seven-headed cobra, which was the SLA’s symbol. Then, on April 3, 1974,  Patty is heard on a new audiotape saying: “I have been given the choice of being released…or joining the forces of the Symbionese Liberation Army and fighting for my freedom and the freedom of all oppressed people.  I have chosen to stay and fight.”  Patty also said that she had assumed the new name “Tania,” after the nom de guerre of revolutionary Che Guevera’s girlfriend. Patty had joined her captors.

Twelve days later, policemen were examining security camera footage of the Hibernia Bank robbery that day in San Francisco. The hold-up gang had shot two bystanders and gotten away with over $10,000. To their surprise, they recognized the face of missing girl Patty Hearst among the hold-up gang. She was brandishing a carbine and yelling orders like she was one of them. A warrant was issued for her arrest as a material witness. Opinion was divided: was Patty a willing participant or was she being forced to participate in the robbery against her will?

 

Shortly afterward, an audiotape was released by the SLA on which Hearst can be heard to say:

“Greetings to the people, this is Tania. Our actions of April 15 forced the Corporate State to help finance the revolution. As for being brainwashed, the idea is ridiculous beyond belief. I am a soldier in the People’s Army.”

Stay tuned. To be continued.

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