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2001-11-08

60s in An Unforgiving National Climate, Radical Turned Community Activist Sara Jane Olsonpleads Guilty to Charges That She Planted a Bomb Decades Ago But Also Claims She Is Not Guilty

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An angry Los Angeles judge scolded Sara Jane Olson yesterday for publicly flip-flopping on her guilty plea toattempted murder charges last week and made her enter the plea again, repeating in court that she was in fact guilty.The case of Sara Jane Olson, a sixties radical turned community activist in Minneapolis, has drawn a lot of attentionrecently. Olson is accused of committing terrorist acts. Papers describing her case scream: "FUGITIVE revolutionary"and "terrorist radical." Olson plead guilty to charges that she plotted 26 years ago to bomb two police cars. Twodays ago Olson, at a Los Angeles hearing on her case, Sara reiterated her guilty plea but stated unequivocally thatshe neither possessed the bombs, constructed the bombs, nor placed the bombs under police cars. But she acknowledgedguilt under the definition of aiding and abetting.

At the unusual hearing, Fidler scolded Olson for her behavior last week, and told her to either reaffirm her guilt orwithdraw her plea. The judge said in a statement, "The integrity of the criminal justice system demands and thepublic confidence in it demands that [Olson] make a choice. She cannot have it both ways."

Prosecutors say that in 1975, Sara Olsen, then known as Kathleen Soliah, was part of the Simbionese Liberation Army,a militant political group which committed a series of bank robberies and kidnappings and was accused of severalmurders. Six members of the group were killed by police in 1974, after which SLA members allegedly tried to plantbombs on two police cars. Sara Jane Olson went underground shortly after, took a new name, and became a communityactivist in Minneapolis before being arrested two years ago.

Olson has always denied any involvement in the bomb plot, although she admits that she knew some members of the SLA.She was scheduled to go to trial when the September 11 attacks took place. After the attacks, the political climatesurrounding Sara Jane Olson’s trial shifted dramatically. Federal officials are now looking at the possibility ofrejecting Olson’s guilty plea to reinstate several other felony charges. Her defense fund speculates that if thetrial had gone forward, it is likely Olson would have been acquitted on the indictment for placing pipe bombs underpolice cars. It is the conspiracy charge that created a bigger risk of sending her to prison for the rest of herlife.

Guests:

  • Sara Jane Olson
  • Shawn Chapman, Olson’s Lawyer.

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