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Symbionese Liberation Army SLA

In early 1974, Patricia Hearst, granddaughter to San Francisco Examiner proprietor William Randolph Hearst, was a wealthy college student at Berkeley. During the night of February 4, she became much more. While darkness cloaked the neighborhood, masked, gun-wielding intruders entered Hearsts apartment, whacked her fianc on the head with a wine bottle, and took her away. For three days, no one knew what her location or condition might be. Patty, enrolled as a sophomore at Berkeley, was the daughter of Randolph Hearst, then editor and president of the San Francisco Examiner.

Hearst, it was soon discovered, had been kidnapped by a group of armed radicals that billed themselves as the Symbionese Liberation Army, or SLA. Led by a hardened criminal named Donald DeFreeze, the SLA wanted nothing less than to incite a guerrilla war against the U.S. government and destroy what they called the capitalist state. Their ranks included women and men, blacks and whites, and anarchists and extremists from various walks in life.

The name 'symbionese' was taken from 'symbiosis,' meaning 'a body of dissimilar bodies and organisms living in deep and loving harmony and partnership in the best interests of all within the body.' The Symbionese Federated Republic aimed at being a federation of organizations formed to free the people they represent from perceived oppression by the american capitalist system. The symbionese liberation army is the union of the constituent bodies of the federation for the purpose of conducting a joint war of revolution against the enemy (american capitalism). The seven principles of the army were collective work and responsibility, creativity, faith, unity, purpose, cooperative production, and self-determination.

Beyond the destruction of the capitalist state, the Symbionese Army envisioned the creation of 'a system of sovereign nations that are in the total interest of all its races and people, based on the true affirmation of life, love, trust, and honesty, freedom and equality that is truly for all.' the codes of war are presented along with the terms of the military and political alliance of constituent groups and the structure and purpose of the Symbionese war council.

They were, in short, a band of domestic terrorists. And dangerous ones. Theyd already shot two Oakland school officials with cyanide-tipped bullets, killing one and seriously wounding the other. Whyd they snatch Hearst? To get the countrys attention, primarily. Hearst was from a wealthy, powerful family; her grandfather was the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. The SLAs plan worked and worked well: the kidnapping stunned the country and made front-page national news.

But the SLA had more plans for Patty Hearst. Soon after her disappearance, the SLA began releasing audiotapes demanding millions of dollars in food donations in exchange for her release. At the same time, they apparently began abusing and brainwashing their captive, hoping to turn this young heiress from the highest reaches of society into a poster child for their coming revolution.

The Symbionese Liberation Army released an audiotape in which Hearst reported that she was being treated well, and General Field Marshall Cinque (escaped convict Donald DeFreeze) demanded, in exchange for Hearst, the release of two SLA members held on murder charges. He also demanded that the Hearst family provide $70 worth of food to every needy person in California. In response, Pattys panicked parents, Catherine and William Randolph Hearst, Jr., donated nearly $2 million in food to the states poor and promised $4 million more upon their daughters release. But there was no further word for two months.

In the next tape, released in April, Hearst announced that she had joined the SLA and changed her name to Tania, after revolutionary Che Guevaras wife. An accompanying photo showed her posed before the SLAs seven-headed cobra. When the surveillance cameras at the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco captured images of a gun-toting Patricia/Tania and her SLA compatriots during an April 15 robbery, this new image seemed confirmed. A month later, Hearst fired an automatic weapon from the back of a van during an SLA robbery at Mels Sporting Goods in Los Angeles. She then dropped out of sight for more than a year. Meanwhile, the FBI had launched one of the most massive, agent-intensive searches in its history to find Hearst and stop the SLA. Working with many partners, we ran down thousands of leads. But with the SLA frightening potential informants into silence, using good operational security, and relying on an organized network of safe houses, it was tough going.

A break came in Los Angeles. On 16 May 1975, two SLA members tried to steal an ammunition belt from a local store and were nearly caught. The getaway van was discovered, which led authorities to an SLA safe house. The next day, the house was surrounded by L.A. police. A massive shootout ensued. The building went up in flames; six members of the SLA died in the blaze, including DeFreeze. In 1975, the Symbionese Liberation Army was found in possession of technical manuals on how to produce bioweapons.

One of the safehouses contained a picture of Betty Jean Abramson, a member of a group in California known as "Tribal Thumb' and its affiliate, the Wells Spring Communion (WSC); and a radio transmitter found in one of the abandoned safehouses in New Jersey was traced to this group through the Federal Communications Commission. The WSC and Tribal Thumb have been associated with the Symbionese Liberation Army and with the Charles Manson Family. Abramson and another member of the WSC, Wendy Sue Heaton, were wanted in the murder of Roseanne Goustin, a member of the Communion who tried to defect from it. Abramson was arrested in New York on December 19, 1981, and Heaton was arrested in New Orleans on June 4, 1982.

Tribal Thumb was founded by Earl Satcher, a former convict and member of the Black Panther Party who was killed in a gunfight on the group's property in 1977. Another founder, Benjamin Sargis, is the former husband of Heaton and worked as an organizer for "People In Need, a food distribution program organized by the Hearst family as a part of the ransom demanded by the SLA for the release of Patricia Hearst in 1974.

Another individual who worked in this program at that time was Sara Jane Moore, who used the Tribal Thumb commune in California for target practice in August 1975, one month before she was arrested for an assassination attempt on President Gerald R. Ford. In the summer of 1982, the FBI was investigating the possible connections between Tribal Thumb and the Brinks robbery, including the possibility that Marilyn Jean Buck and other accomplices were hidden by the group after the robbery. Despite these terrorist characteristics, the FBI was reluctant to categorize the Brinks robbery as a terrorist incident.

There had been no communique from a group claiming the robbery or similar crimes for a political cause and as late as March 1982 the Terrorist Research and Analytical Center of the FBI included the Brinks robbery as only a "suspected terrorist incident. By early 1983, however, the FBI acknowledged that the Brinks robbery was indeed "a terrorist incident' "because of the politically motivated statements made by the subjects and because they have been linked to known terrorist groups dedicated to the Overthrow of the United States Government'.

But where was Hearst? She and several others had escaped and began traveling around the country to avoid capture. FBI agents, though, were close behind. The FBI finally captured her in San Francisco on September 18, 1975, and she was charged with bank robbery and other crimes.

Her trial was as sensational as the chase. For Pattys defense, the Hearsts hired attorney F. Lee Bailey of Boston, who had successfully defended the (alleged) Boston Strangler as well as Sam Shepard, who had been accused of murdering his wife and who was the inspiration for the television series, The Fugitive. Bailey announced to the media that Patty had been a prisoner of war and had cooperated with her captors solely to stay alive.

Hearsts trial began exactly two years after the night of her kidnappingon Feb. 4, 1976in the San Francisco district courtroom of Chief Judge Oliver Carter. No one in the room disputed Hearsts presence at the Hibernia Bank robbery, but the prosecution, led by US Attorney James Browning, asserted she had participated willingly, while the defense insisted she had been brainwashed. Weeks of expert psychiatric testimony ensued, and despite her attorneys best efforts, Hearst also took the stand, where she proceeded to take the Fifth more than 40 times. Although she described her mistreatment at the hands of the SLA in grueling detail, following her attorneys instructions, Hearst declined to testify about her experiences between the fall of 1974 and her 1975 arrest, leaving much to the jurys and prosecutions imagination.

Despite claims of brainwashing, the jury found her guilty. Chief Judge Carter sentenced her to the maximum penalty on each charge, a total of 35 years, pending a final psychiatric evaluation. But by the time Hearsts final sentencing hearing arrived in September 1976, Chief Judge Carter had suffered a heart attack and died. He was replaced on the case by Judge William H. Orrick, Jr., who reduced Hearsts sentence to seven years but would not issue probation. He said he felt Hearst was in no need of rehabilitation, and instead deserved punishment. Violence is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated, he explained.

A Los Angeles judge sentenced Hearst to probation for her involvement in the Mels Sporting Goods incident a short time later. But despite appeals filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the US Supreme Court, Hearsts federal conviction was upheld. She remained in prison and refused to discuss parole, because she said it implied guilt. After receiving countless letters and a petition from Congress, President Jimmy Carter conditionally commuted Hearsts sentence in 1979. This ended her incarceration, but it was not until 2000 that she was fully vindicated. One of the many pardons President Bill Clinton issued as he left office was for Patricia Hearst.

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Page last modified: 24-09-2017 18:52:36 ZULU