Former Symbionese Liberation Army radical Sara Jane Olson was released on parole Tuesday after seven years in state prison for crimes in the 1970s and, despite bitter opposition from a police union, was given clearance to travel to Minnesota.
Olson's release from the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla was announced by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in a statement that also reported it had agreed to her request to travel to Minnesota, where she will spend one year on supervised parole.
"Olson's transfer is consistent with the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision, which permits offenders who meet the mandatory criteria to be supervised on parole in another state," the statement said in explaining a decision bitterly protested by the Los Angeles Protective League, the union representing the LAPD rank-and-file.
"Studies have shown that family reunification is an evidence-based indication of protecting the public by decreasing recidivism," it said.
The controversial decision to allow Olson to return to Minnesota was first reported this morning by Protective League President Paul Weber in an interview on NBC4.
He said he was informed of the decision in a telephone call from the Department of Corrections late Monday night and sharply criticized Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for having "abdicated" his responsibilities by letting the department make the call on the future of the former Kathleen Soliah.
"She committed her crimes here in California and she is a terrorist, a domestic terrorist," Weber said.
"She owes the people of California time. That time should have been served in California, and it's a slap in the face of all law enforcement, especially our officers, that the governor abdicated his responsibility and allowed this person to go back home to Minnesota."
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Now 62, Olson in 2001 pleaded guilty to an August 1975 police car bombing plot in Los Angeles and the April 1975 shooting death of a customer during a bank robbery in Northern California.
She was released from Chowchilla a year ago but sent back less than a week later, once officials determined her release date had been miscalculated.
Olson, who grew up in Palmdale, spent a quarter of a century on the lam before she was arrested in June 1999 after she was profiled on "America's Most Wanted." While a fugitive, she lived the life of a soccer mom in St. Paul, Minn., with her husband, an emergency room doctor, and their three children.
Olson pleaded guilty in October 2001 to two counts of attempted explosion of a destructive device with intent to murder in connection with the August 1975 attempted bombings of a police car outside an International House of Pancakes restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, and a patrol car at the Los Angeles Police Department's Hollenbeck Division patrol station. Neither of the bombs exploded.
Prosecutors believed the bombs were intended to avenge the 1974 deaths of a half-dozen Symbionese Liberation Army members, who were killed in a fire and shootout with police in Watts. The same group was involved in the 1974 kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst.
Olson unsuccessfully tried to withdraw her guilty plea in November 2001, writing in a court declaration, that, "after deeper reflection, I realize I cannot plead guilty when I know I am not."
In December 2001, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler refused to allow Olson to withdraw her guilty plea, saying Olson "pled guilty because she is guilty."
Olson was next sent to Sacramento County, where she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the April 21, 1975, shooting death of bank customer Myrna Opsahl during a robbery at a Crocker National Bank branch in the suburb of Carmichael.
She began serving time in California in 2001.
While on parole, Olson must not associate with former SLA members and may not contact any victims of her crime or their family members, the Department of Corrections statement said.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League urged Schwarzenegger last week to ensure that Olson spends her parole in California.
Two Minnesota legislators, State Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen and State Rep. Laura Brod, introduced a resolution Monday seeking to require Olson to serve her parole in California. But the legislature opted not to consider the measure because it did not go through the committee process.
The effort to force Olson to serve her parole in California was also supported by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and police union officials in that state.
Weber said Olson has never expressed real remorse for her "heinous crime."
Instead, "she has held one continuous pity party for herself this entire time and obviously the governor got an invitation and decided to join in on the pity party and allow her to go back to Minnesota.
The union chief said he understands the decision on letting Olson leave the state is final. He vowed not to matter drop, but, instead to "let the governor know how disappointed and angry we are."