Former SLA members slould NOT be charged in '75 slaying

By Noble Johns

With all the racism, hatred and murder the Klan has gotten away with in the South that resulted in the cold blooded murder of Blacks for no other reason but because we were Black, the arrest of four former members of the Symbionese Liberation Army for killing of a woman during a bank robbery 27 years ago just shows how one-sided American justice is.

Authorities arrested Emily Harris, 54, her ex-husband Bill, 56, and Mike Bortin, 53. A fourth suspect, Sara Jane Olson, 55, turned herself in Wednesday night. The fifth, James Kilgore, 54, remained at large. While authorities have arrested four of the former memmbers SLA, what about Patricia Hears, she was there, she had a gun, why wasn’t she arrested?

Olson, known as Kathleen Soliah at the time, is to be sentenced Friday for her role in a botched plot to bomb a police car in Los Angeles.

The five charged Wednesday were all members of the 1970s radical group best known for kidnapping newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst.

The Harrises, Bortin and Olson have denied involvement in the crime in Carmichael, Calif., a suburb of Sacramento. Kilgore has remained at large since the 1970s.

The actions Wednesday came after the dogged efforts of Jon Opsahl, a Southern California doctor, to reopen the case of his mother's slaying. Myrna Opsahl, 42, a mother of four, was gunned down in the bank where she was depositing a church collection.

Hearst, who had joined the SLA after her kidnapping, says she waited in a getaway car during the 1975 robbery of the Crocker National Bank in Carmichael. She has maintained that Emily Harris returned to an SLA safe house after the $15,000 robbery and showed no remorse for Opsahl, calling her a rich doctor's wife and saying the gun had gone off by accident.

Sacramento County officials dropped the case after they concluded they lacked enough evidence to get convictions. In 1976, a federal jury acquitted Steven Soliah, Olson's brother, in the robbery. Early last year, the FBI and the Sacramento County sheriff's department reopened the case.

Tests matched shotgun pellets taken from Opsahl's body with ammunition seized during the searches in 1975 of SLA safe houses in San Francisco.

Hearst took the name Tania and was photographed carrying a rifle during an SLA bank holdup in San Francisco. She claimed that SLA members had brainwashed her into joining the gang. Hearst was tried, convicted and sentenced to prison for her role in that robbery. President Carter commuted her sentence to two years, and President Clinton pardoned her.

The Harrises have already spent eight years in prison for kidnapping Hearst and we should let sleeping dogs alone. There were excesses on both sides, and in the eyes of many Americans, the members of the Symbionese Liberation Army were freedom fighters not criminals.

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