Former radical fugitive Sara Jane Olson surrenders in bank robbery murder case
Thursday, January 17th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Sara Jane Olson, a former radical fugitive who admitted trying to bomb police cars decades ago, finds her past haunting her again as she faces a murder charge linked to a 1975 bank robbery.
Olson, already facing a potential life sentence in the bombing case, surrendered to police Wednesday after authorities arrested three other members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, a 1970s radical group. She was charged with first-degree murder and held without bail.
``She's a very strong woman. She is innocent of these charges. She has always said that,'' said her attorney, Shawn Snider Chapman.
Earlier Wednesday, the woman once known as Kathleen Soliah had celebrated her 55th birthday by sharing cake with her husband and three daughters, whom Chapman described as tearful and grief-stricken.
``I don't know what she wished when she blew out her candles but I have a feeling that her wish didn't come true,'' the lawyer said.
Olson was a fugitive for more than two decades before her 1999 arrest in St. Paul, Minn., on charges that she plotted to bomb Los Angeles police cars in 1975. Prosecutors said it was an attempt to avenge the deaths of six SLA members killed in a 1974 shootout with police. The bombs did not explode and no one was hurt.
Olson, who maintains she never tried to harm anyone, pleaded guilty to possessing explosives with intent to murder, then tried unsuccessfully to withdraw the plea and go to trial.
She had been free on $1 million bond pending Friday's sentencing, where she could face 20 years to life in prison. Los Angeles County district attorney's spokesman Sandi Gibbons said there had been no change in the sentencing schedule.
Olson surrendered at her lawyer's office Wednesday. Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully announced charges earlier that day against five former SLA members, including Olson, in the killing of bank customer Myrna Opsahl in a 1975 robbery in Carmichael, a suburb of Sacramento.
Three of those charged were arrested Wednesday in California and Oregon. Another, James Kilgore, has been a fugitive since the 1970s.
The Sacramento district attorney cited ``both old and new materials'' in declaring that there is now ``both direct and circumstantial evidence sufficient to file charges'' in the bank robbery.
Chapman, who has reviewed thousands of pages of SLA evidence, said she expects her client to be exonerated.
``I haven't seen anything new in the 27,000 pages of discovery,'' she said.