SLA radical Moore pleads guilty

Oct. 31, 2001 at 6:58 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Fearing that the public mood had shifted against her since Sept. 11, former Symbionese Liberation Army fugitive Sara Jane Moore surprisingly decided to plead guilty Wednesday and not risk going to trial on charges she conspired to plant bombs beneath Los Angeles police patrol cars in the 1970s.

Olson, 54, pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of explosives with the intent to commit murder and faces a possible life prison term when she is sentenced on Dec. 7. Her lawyers said afterward that they expected her to get five years to be served in a prison near her home in St. Paul, Minn. In exchange for her plea, three similar counts were dismissed.

Olson, whose birth name was Kathleen Solia, eventually married a doctor and gave birth to three children; she lived quietly in the suburbs for nearly 25 years until her arrest in 1999.

She had maintained her innocence and denounced what she saw as a witch hunt by Los Angeles prosecutors. But she told reporters Wednesday that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast had likely erased much of whatever public sympathy she had.

"I had to accept the possibility of the uncertainty of a jury verdict," Olson told reporters outside the courtroom. "This is something that, until Sept. 11, I really refused to consider and I was going to go ahead (with the trial)."

She said that the devastation caused by the terrorist attacks, however, likely would make it far more difficult to win at trial.

"The minute that happened ... it became clear to me that it was going to have a remarkable effect on the outcome of the trial, and ... the effect was probably going to be negative," she said.

Moore, whose appearance belies her long-ago involvement with the SLA, said: "I am a mother, a wife and a daughter; I had to consider my family, as well."

The California-based SLA was one of the United States' smallest, but most violent and notorious radical gangs of the Vietnam War era. Their most notable act was the sensational kidnapping of heiress Patricia Hearst out of her Berkeley apartment in broad daylight; Hearst subsequently declared that she had joined the SLA and was seen taking part in a bank robbery.

Five members who formed the nucleus of the SLA were killed in a fiery blaze and shootout with the LAPD in 1975. The bomb plot Olson took part in was hatched as an act of retaliation for their deaths.

Nevertheless, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler ruled during a pretrial hearing last week that the SLA could not be referred to as a terrorist organization during the trial.

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