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Tue Feb 4, 2020, 05:31 PM

46 Years Ago Today; The Symbionese Liberation Army kidnaps heiress Patty Hearst


Patricia Campbell Hearst (born February 20, 1954) is an American author and actress, a granddaughter of American publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. She became internationally known for events following her 1974 kidnapping by the left-wing terrorist Symbionese Liberation Army. She was found 19 months after being abducted, by which time she was a fugitive wanted for serious crimes committed with members of the group. She was held in custody, and there was speculation before trial that her family's resources would enable her to avoid time in jail.

At her trial, the prosecution suggested that Hearst had joined the Symbionese Liberation Army of her own volition. However, she testified that she had been raped and threatened with death while held captive. In 1976, she was convicted for the crime of bank robbery and sentenced to 35 years in prison, later reduced to 7 years. Her sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter, and she was pardoned by President Bill Clinton.


On February 4, 1974, 19-year-old Hearst was kidnapped from her Berkeley apartment. She was beaten and lost consciousness during the abduction. Shots were fired from a machine gun during the incident. An urban guerrilla group, called the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), claimed responsibility for the abduction.

Hearst's kidnapping was partly opportunistic, as she happened to live near the SLA hideout. According to testimony, the group's main intention was to leverage the Hearst family's political influence to free two SLA members who had been arrested for Marcus Foster's killing. Faced with the failure to free the imprisoned men, the SLA demanded that the captive's family distribute $70 worth of food to every needy Californian – an operation that would cost an estimated $400 million. In response, Hearst's father took out a loan and arranged the immediate donation of $2 million worth of food to the poor of the Bay Area, in an operation called "People in Need." After the distribution descended into chaos, the SLA refused to release Hearst.

Hearst's account
According to Hearst's later testimony, she was held for a week in a closet, blindfolded and with her hands tied, during which time SLA founder and leader Cinque (Donald DeFreeze) repeatedly threatened her with death. She was let out for meals and, blindfolded, began to join in the political discussions. She was given a flashlight for reading and SLA political tracts to memorize. Hearst was confined in the closet for weeks, after which she said, "DeFreeze told me that the war council had decided or was thinking about killing me or me staying with them, and that I better start thinking about that as a possibility." Hearst said, "I accommodated my thoughts to coincide with theirs."

When asked for her decision, Hearst said she wanted to stay and fight with the SLA. The blindfold was removed, allowing her to see her captors for the first time. After this she was given daily lessons on her duties, especially weapons drills. Angela Atwood told Hearst that the others thought she should know what sexual freedom was like in the unit; According to her lawyer, Hearst was allegedly raped by William "Willie" Wolfe and later by DeFreeze.

On April 3, 1974, two months after she was abducted, Hearst announced on an audiotape that she had joined the SLA and taken the name "Tania" (inspired by the nom de guerre of Haydée Tamara Bunke Bider, Che Guevara's comrade).

Criminal activity as avowed SLA member
Bank robbery

Hearst yelling commands at bank customers

On April 15, 1974, Hearst was recorded on surveillance video wielding an M1 carbine while robbing the Sunset District branch of the Hibernia Bank at 1450 Noriega Street in San Francisco. Hearst identified under her pseudonym of "Tania". Two men entered the bank while the robbery was occurring and were shot and wounded. According to testimony at her trial, a witness thought that Hearst had been several paces behind the others when running to the getaway car.

Attorney General William B. Saxbe said that Hearst was a "common criminal" and "not a reluctant participant" in the bank robbery. James L. Browning Jr. said that her participation in the robbery may have been voluntary, contradicting an earlier comment in which he said that she might have been coerced into taking part. The FBI agent heading the investigation said that SLA members were photographed pointing guns at Hearst during the robbery. A grand jury indicted her in June 1974 for the robbery.

Rescue of Harris
On May 16, 1974, the manager at Mel's Sporting Goods in Inglewood, California observed a minor theft by William Harris, who had been shopping with his wife Emily while Hearst waited across the road in a van. The manager and an employee followed Harris out and confronted him. There was a scuffle and the manager restrained Harris, when a pistol fell out of Harris' waistband. Hearst discharged the entire magazine of a semi-automatic carbine into the overhead storefront, causing the manager to dive behind a lightpost. He tried to shoot back, but Hearst began firing single shots closer to him.

Hearst and the Harris couple hijacked two cars and abducted the owners. One was a young man who found Hearst so personable that he was reluctant to report the incident. He testified at the trial to her discussing the effectiveness of cyanide-tipped bullets and repeatedly asking if he was okay. Police had surrounded the main base of the SLA before the three returned, so they hid elsewhere. The six SLA members inside the building died in a gunfight with police, and it was initially thought that Hearst had also died. A warrant was then issued for Hearst's arrest for several felonies, including two counts of kidnapping.

Emily Harris went to a Berkeley rally to commemorate the deaths of Angela Atwood and other founding members of the SLA who had died during the police siege. Harris recognized Atwood's acquaintance Kathy Soliah among the radicals whom she'd known from civil rights groups. Soliah introduced the three fugitives to Jack Scott, an athletics coach and radical, and he agreed to provide help and money. Scott testified that he had offered to take Hearst anywhere, and she had said, "I want to go where my friends are going" (in reference to the Harris couple).

Involvement in later SLA crimes
Hearst helped make improvised explosive devices. These were used in two unsuccessful attempts to kill policemen during August 1975, and one of the devices failed to detonate. Marked money found in the apartment when she was arrested linked Hearst to the SLA armed robbery of Crocker National Bank in Carmichael, California; she was the getaway car driver for the robbery. Myrna Opsahl, who was at the bank making a deposit, was shot dead by a masked Emily Harris. Hearst was potentially at risk for felony murder charges and could testify as a witness against Harris for a capital offense.

Legal consequences

Hearst's mugshot

On September 18, 1975, Hearst was arrested in a San Francisco apartment with Wendy Yoshimura, another SLA member, by San Francisco Police Inspector Timothy F. Casey and his partner, Police Officer Laurence R. Pasero, and FBI Special Agent Thomas J. Padden and his partners, FBI agents Jason Moulton, Frank Doyle, Jr., Larry Lawler, Monte Hall, Dick Vitamonte, Leo Brenneissen, and Ray Campos. While being booked into jail, Hearst listed her occupation as "Urban Guerilla" and asked her attorney to relay the following message: "Tell everybody that I'm smiling, that I feel free and strong and I send my greetings and love to all the sisters and brothers out there."

Brainwashing claims
At the time of her arrest, Hearst's weight had dropped to 87 pounds (40 kg), and she was described by Dr. Margaret Singer in October 1975 as "a low-IQ, low-affect zombie".Shortly after her arrest, signs of trauma were recorded: her IQ was measured as 112, whereas it had previously been 130; there were huge gaps in her memory regarding her pre-Tania life; she was smoking heavily and had nightmares. Without a mental illness or defect, a person is considered to be fully responsible for any criminal action not done under duress, which is defined as a clear and present threat of death or serious injury. But for Hearst to secure an acquittal on the grounds of having been brainwashed would have been completely unprecedented.

Psychiatrist Louis Jolyon West, a professor at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), was appointed by the court in his capacity as a brainwashing expert and worked without a fee. After the trial, he wrote a newspaper article asking President Carter to release Hearst from prison.

Hearst wrote in her memoir, Every Secret Thing (1982), "I spent fifteen hours going over my SLA experiences with Robert Jay Lifton of Yale University. Lifton, author of several books on coercive persuasion and thought reform, ... pronounced me a 'classic case' which met all the psychological criteria of a coerced prisoner of war. ... If I had reacted differently, that would have been suspect, he said."

After some weeks, Hearst repudiated her SLA allegiance.

Her first lawyer, Terence Hallinan, had advised Hearst not to talk to anyone, including psychiatrists. He advocated a defense of involuntary intoxication: that the SLA had given her drugs that affected her judgment and recollection.

He was replaced by attorney F. Lee Bailey, who asserted a defense of coercion or duress affecting intent at the time of the offense. This was similar to the brainwashing defense which Hallinan had warned was not a defense in law. Hearst gave long interviews to various psychiatrists.

Hearst alone was arraigned for the Hibernia Bank robbery; the trial commenced on January 15, 1976. Judge Oliver Jesse Carter (who happened to be a professional acquaintance of a junior member of the prosecution team's) ruled that Hearst's taped and written statements after the bank robbery, while she was a fugitive with the SLA members, were voluntary. He did not allow expert testimony that stylistic analysis indicated the "Tania" statements and writing were not wholly composed by Hearst. He permitted the prosecution to introduce statements and actions Hearst made long after the Hibernia robbery, as evidence of her state of mind at the time of the robbery. Judge Carter also allowed into evidence a recording made by jail authorities of a friend's jail visit with Hearst, in which Hearst used profanities and spoke of her radical and feminist beliefs, but he did not allow tapes of psychiatrist Louis Jolyon West's interviews of Hearst to be heard by the jury. Judge Carter was described as "resting his eyes" during testimony favorable to the defense by West and others.

According to Hearst's testimony, her captors had demanded she appear enthusiastic during the robbery and warned she would pay with her life for any mistake. Her defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey provided photographs showing that SLA members, including Camilla Hall, had pointed guns at Hearst during the robbery. In reference to the shooting at Mel's Sporting Goods Store and her decision to not escape, Hearst testified that she was instructed throughout her captivity on what to do in emergency situations. She said one class in particular had a situation similar to the store manager's detention of the Harrises. Hearst testified that "when it happened I didn't even think. I just did it, and if I had not done it and if they had been able to get away they would have killed me."

Testifying for the prosecution, Dr. Harry Kozol said Hearst had been "a rebel in search of a cause", and her participation in the Hibernia robbery had been "an act of free will." Prosecutor James L. Browning Jr. asked the other psychiatrist testifying for the prosecution, Dr. Joel Fort, if Hearst was in fear of death or great bodily injury during the robbery, to which he answered, "No", but Bailey angrily objected. Fort assessed Hearst as amoral, and said she had voluntarily had sex with Wolfe and DeFreeze, which accusations Hearst denied both in court and outside. Prosecutor Browning tried to show that writings by Hearst indicated her testimony had misrepresented her interactions with Wolfe. She said she had been writing the SLA version of events and had been punched in the face by William Harris when she refused to be more effusive about what she regarded as sexual abuse by Wolfe. Judge Carter allowed testimony from the prosecution psychiatrists about Hearst's early sexual experiences, although these had occurred years before her kidnapping and the bank robbery.

In court, Hearst made a poor impression and appeared lethargic. An Associated Press report attributed this state to drugs she was given by jail doctors. Bailey was strongly criticized for his decision to put Hearst on the stand, as she declined to answer some questions in the presence of the jury. According to Alan Dershowitz, Bailey was wrong-footed by the judge, who had appeared to indicate she would have Fifth Amendment privilege: the jury would not be present for some of her testimony, or would be instructed not to draw inferences, on matters subsequent to the Hibernian Bank charges for which she was being tried, but he changed his mind.

After a few months, Hearst provided information to the authorities, not under oath (sworn testimony could have been used to convict her) of SLA activities. A bomb exploded at Hearst Castle in February 1976. After Hearst testified that Wolfe had raped her, Emily Harris gave a magazine interview from jail alleging that Hearst's keeping a trinket given to her by Wolfe was an indication that she had been in a romantic relationship with him. Hearst said she had kept the stone carving because she thought it was a Pre-Colombian artifact of archeological significance. The prosecutor James L. Browning Jr. used Harris' interpretation of the item, and some jurors later said they regarded the carving, which Browning waved in front of them, as powerful evidence that Hearst was lying.

In a closing prosecution statement that hardly acknowledged that Hearst had been kidnapped and held captive, prosecutor Browning suggested that Hearst had taken part in the bank robbery without coercion. Browning also suggested to the jury that as the female SLA members were feminists, they would not have allowed Hearst to be raped. He said that Hearst's having kept an Olmec carving given to her by Wolfe showed that she had lied about being raped by him.

Bailey's closing defense statement was, "But simple application of the rules, I think, will yield one decent result, and, that is, there is not anything close to proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Patty Hearst wanted to be a bank robber. What you know, and you know in your hearts to be true is beyond dispute. There was talk about her dying, and she wanted to survive."

Conviction and sentencing
On March 20, 1976, Hearst was convicted of bank robbery and using a firearm during the commission of a felony. She was given the maximum sentence possible of 35 years' imprisonment, pending a reduction at final sentence hearing, which Carter declined to specify.

Because Judge Carter had died, Judge William Horsley Orrick Jr. determined Hearst's sentence. He gave her seven years imprisonment, commenting that "rebellious young people who, for whatever reason become revolutionaries, and voluntarily commit criminal acts will be punished".


I remember when this went down. At the time, people were split between whether she was a victim or a criminal. For me, it was obvious she was severely traumatized by the initial abduction, and her life was under constant threat.

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Reply 46 Years Ago Today; The Symbionese Liberation Army kidnaps heiress Patty Hearst (Original post)
Dennis Donovan Feb 4 OP
Skittles Feb 4 #1
BigDemVoter Feb 4 #2
marble falls Feb 4 #3

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Tue Feb 4, 2020, 05:36 PM

1. most certanly she was a victim

I'm glad she went on to have a happy life.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Tue Feb 4, 2020, 05:37 PM

2. I remember the day she got kidnapped from her apartment in Berkeley.

And I also remember her during that bank robbery. Her conviction after the ordeal was a complete sham. It was a clear case of Stockholm Syndrome, and she was only 21 or 22-years-old when it happened.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Tue Feb 4, 2020, 05:38 PM

3. Patty Hearst and her husband are the only two really came out of this well ...

Steven Weed Wiki: Where Is Patty Hearst’s Ex-Fiancé Today?

By: Amrutha Srivatsa - Published: February 12, 2018 at 6:13 am


If you followed Patty Hearst’s story, then we’re sure you’re wondering about her former fiancé, Steven Weed. She was 19 years old when she was kidnapped from her California apartment. When she was on the run, Weed wrote a book about his search for her. Steven Weed and Patty Hearst’s story soon became a sensation, and we have the details.

Where is Steven Weed today? The man who was going to marry the American heiress was left alone to worry about her, after Hearst declared she was joining the Symbionese Liberation Army, her kidnappers.

While Steven Weed was dating Hearst, it seems like her family opposed.

He was her math teacher at Crystal Springs School for Girls, and after her daughter’s kidnapping, Catherine Hearst said, “Whatever happened to the real men in this world? Men like Clark Gable? No one would have carried off my daughter if there had been a real man there.”

Steven Weed, who was at that time 26, was living with his fiancé, 19-year-old Patricia Hearst. The heiress was the granddaughter of publishing mogul, William Randolph Hearst.

The Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) barged into her Berkeley apartment, beat up Weed, and took Hearst.


Hearst married one of her bodyguards, Bernard Shaw after her release, and Weed was nowhere in her mind.

Weed wrote a book, My Search for Patty Hearst, while she was still fleeing from the law. In it, he mentioned that they were just like any other couple who were in love, and thinking about getting married.

He was last believed to be working as a realtor in Menlo Park.

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