Calif. Judge Tosses Prison Sentence for 1970s Radical

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A California judge Monday threw out the 14-year sentence imposed on former Symbionese Liberation Army member Sara Jane Olson and ordered a new hearing to decide how much prison time she should serve, the Sacramento Bee reports. Olson, once one of the nation’s most notorious fugitives, incarcerated in California since her sentencing in October 2002, must receive a new hearing within 60 days, Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Cecil ruled. She was sentenced after pleading guilty to taking part in two attempts to bomb Los Angeles Police Department cars in 1975 and for participating earlier that year in a botched Carmichael bank robbery that left a customer dead from a shotgun blast.

Olson was one of five SLA members sentenced in the bank-robbery case in January 2003 in an extraordinary hearing at which the former radicals expressed remorse for the death. Although most of the others received six- to seven-year sentences, Olson was given double that amount at the urging of Los Angeles prosecutors. Cecil, ruling on a motion from Olson’s attorneys, found there was “no analysis” of how officials came to the decision that 14 years was the appropriate sentence. Olson had been a fugitive since her radical days of the 1970s, eventually settling in as a soccer mom in St. Paul, Minn., and shedding her real name – Kathleen Soliah – in favor of Sara Jane Olson. She married a doctor and lived quietly until 1999, when a Los Angeles detective persuaded the television how “America’s Most Wanted” to feature the case in one of its broadcasts. Acting on a tip, police arrested her a few weeks after the show aired.


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