The Real Victims?

It was eight years ago last Saturday that the FBI ended its 24 year manhunt for Kathleen Soliah, who’d been living in Saint Paul as Sarah Jane Olson for a couple of decades.  Married to a local doctor who professed unawareness (successfully, even though he’d been a student radical in the sixties as well) that he’d been harboring a fugitive involved in a a murder and conspiracy to blow up police cars with the cops still in them.

She was arrested in leafy, “Leave It To Beaver”-esque Highland Park, where she’d lived for most of two decades.

The incident uncovered an old, fermenting rift in Twin Cities’ society; people who believed that since Olson/Soliah had spent two decades working as a politically-correct, ultraliberal DFL pseudo-radical, active in pro-“choice” and gun control and getting out the vote for far-left DFL candidates, that she’d more than paid her penance for her role in a conspiracy that, after all, had been back in the seventies when everyone was doing it, or wanted to, versus people who believed laws were for everyone.

On the first side; many of the Saint Paul DFL’s leading lights, who pitched in hundreds of thousands of dollars for Olson/Soliah’s legal defense fund and insisted loudly, sometimes shrilly, that Olson had more than paid her debt to society by just plain being her.

Tara McKelvey interviews Fred Peterson and Sophia Peterson, Olson/Soliah’s husband and daughter, in Marie Claire.

 I am prepared for some version of radical when I walk into the Highland Grill, a diner in downtown St. Paul, where I am meeting Fred Peterson for the first time. Instead, I get Middle America academic: Sitting patiently in a booth, Fred is wearing wire-rimmed glasses and a long-sleeved, black shirt. His gray-speckled beard matches his shaggy gray-brown hair, which is casually brushed off his forehead. I am surprised that daughter Emily has come with him. Slender, with long eyelashes, heavy mascara, and thick hair reaching past her shoulders, Emily maintains a defensive posture. On the subject of the SLA’s radicalism, she says, “Back then, everyone was.”

At 26, Emily is almost the same age as her mother was during the raid in ’74. “She lived in Berkeley,” Emily says, trying to explain her mother’s affiliation with the SLA. “It was kind of normal.”

I’m starting to see the problem here; it won’t be the last time.

Dr. and Sophia Peterson on the shootout that killed six SLA members:

 “That became Sara’s private business,” says Fred. “The LAPD massacre of the SLA was a bellwether event-the first televised SWAT team -” “Team murder,” Emily interrupts.

On harboring a fugitive – knowingly or not – for 20 years, former SDS member Peterson:

“You know, The Fugitive Becomes a Soccer Mom. They’re all stereotypical images of deceit. None of that applies when you’re just living a life and raising kids. People would say to me, ‘How could you accommodate such a depraved criminal mind? How can you live with the knowledge of what happened in the past?’ It captures the American psychodrama. But it was not real.”

I wonder if it was real for Myrna Opsahl’s?  Opsahl, whose death at the hands of those who became “unreal” fugitives, including Fred Peterson’s wife, was fobbed off by the SLA’s Emily Harris (as quoted by Patty Hearst) with the following statement:

Oh, she’s dead, but it really doesn’t matter. She was a bourgeois pig anyway. Her husband is a doctor. He was at the hospital where they brought her.”

Maybe Sophia Peterson never read that statement:

“I always tell people she wasn’t a terrorist. She was an urban guerrilla,” says Emily, smearing Blistex on her lips while waiting for the waitress to return. Like her mother, Emily has long hair and pale skin-a classic beauty. Today, she’s wearing a pink blouse that’s peeking out from beneath a worn, black leather jacket.

Along with her looks, she’s inherited her mother’s passion for social issues, working as a Head Start teacher with homeless 3- and 4-year-olds from a Minneapolis shelter to help them prepare for kindergarten. “It’s hard,” she says. “A lot of these kids don’t even have coats or boots.”

But on the other hand, most of their mothers weren’t slaughtered by ideologues, either.

 Let me digress here; I remember seeing the photos of the Peterson girls – and Dr. Peterson, for that matter – around the time of the arrest.  I figured there’s no way Dr. Peterson didn’t know she was a fugitive, especially when I heard about his background in the SDS.  But my heart went out to the kids, who were in their early and late teens at the time.  They didn’t ask for any of this.  Did they?

Well, not at the time.  But it seems to be a family legacy; a second generation of children of immense privilege wrapping themselves in phony “revolution” and…


“In the end,” she says of Olson’s sentencing, “we had to watch our mother be pulled away by two big cops. The aftereffects have been debilitating. I don’t know if people can understand that.” …Sophia comes back downstairs and tells me no one can understand the suffering her family has experienced. She has a flair for drama: Describing her mother’s reaction to the second World Trade Center tower collapsing, Sophia places her hand over her heart and slouches toward the ground: “She said, ‘I’m screwed.'”

On the one hand, I can’t imagine the trauma. 

On the other hand, I know one family who can.  Perhaps young Sophia needs to talk to these people – the family of Myrna Opsahl, the woman that their mother was convicted of murdering.  Click on the link and read the entire site – including all the damning evidence against Soliah/Olson – before you go assigning too much sympathy.

As to Sophie Peterson’s 9/11 tableau – perhaps that was one “good” side-affect of the terrorist attacks; never again, G-d willing, would middle America look at terrorists with the same gauzy, soft focus that Soliah’s generation handed down to us.

I don’t know where Nick Coleman stood on Soliah/Olson eight years ago – I was busy with other things, and not reading him regularly in those pre-blog days – but he makes an appearance:

“She betrayed the people who befriended her by having lived this secret life. Her family and her friends have suffered incredibly,” he says. “At some point, you have to face these charges. And even though she had a family, the only honorable way out of this dilemma was to turn herself in. I’m kind of mad about it, to be honest.”

But as all of us who live in St. Paul remember, it was the smug moral equivocation of Soliah/Olson’s fellow Highland Park DFL cronies that set the tone of the day.  Prominent DFL politicians led the fund-raising and the demands that justice be set aside for one of their own who’d proved herself, if not repentant for murdering Myrna Opsahl and plotting to kill Los Angeles cops with firebombs, at least a good DFLer.  A pre-Powerline John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson wrote a seminal excoriation of this crew, “Kathy’s Clowns“, in the American Enterprise back in the winter of ’99:

The local response to her arrest was a vast outpouring of support. Democratic state legislators and former St. Paul mayoral candidates Andy Dawkins and Sandy Pappas were her most outspoken and visible defenders. Pappas, for whom Soliah had raised campaign funds, attacked the FBI for tracking her down and wondered aloud, “Don’t they have any real crimes to fight?” It is difficult to imagine what crimes Ms. Pappas considers more “real” than murder, bank robbery, and attempted murder. Welfare reform, perhaps.Dawkins’ comments on the case were equally bizarre. He has invoked events from Selma, Alabama to Kent State in defense of Ms. Soliah, as though they could somehow explain why it was reasonable to rob banks, assault bank customers, kill Myrna Opsahl, and attempt to murder war veterans and policemen. Dawkins says that the allegations against Soliah, if true, represent “a momentary lapse in judgment.”It is perhaps not surprising that Soliah would receive support from Democratic officeholders of the flakier sort. What is more surprising is the undeniable grass-roots movement that has emerged on her behalf. Soliah’s friends and allies have produced a cookbook containing her favorite recipes, held benefits to demonstrate their support, and raised $1 million to bail her out of jail. Local church groups and the “theater community,” in which Soliah was active, have rallied to her defense.

No less interesting than the magnitude of Soliah’s support are the virtues with which her advocates credit her. She is described as a “Democratic activist,” “a true humanitarian,” a “social activist, marathon runner, volunteer and soccer mom,” an actress who hosts fund raisers for Democratic candidates, a gourmet cook who “is involved in every peace and justice issue that comes along.” Peace and justice. Soliah’s brother encapsulated her defense in these words: “There’s not this dichotomy between what Kathy was and what she is now. She was doing the same things in the early ’70’s.” Terrorist or soccer mom; there’s not much difference, from a leftist point of view, as long as you’re devoted to “peace and justice.”

But eight years later, some of the neighbors – the “clowns” – still haven’t gotten the word (emphasis added):

Olson was a “spectacular artist,” says a friend and member of their church.  [A community theater colleague] recalls how Olson used to appear in local theater productions. “That woman does have charisma. To this day, it doesn’t really make sense to me. She’s a very gentle person. I think what Sara is guilty of is having made a bad choice of friends.”

Not a woman who needs redeeming, then?

“Redemption?” she shakes her head. “For Sara, I don’t see any – she was already rehabilitated, if that needed to be done. She’s [in prison] to be punished.”

 “If that needed to be done”.

McKelvey closes the piece:

It’s 11 o’clock at night, hours after my visit with Sophia at the family home. In my hotel room, I log on to my computer. I’m surprised to find an e-mail from her. In a heated, 17-line message, she says she wants nothing more to do with the article. It’s an emotional outpouring, and she sounds angry and paranoid-convinced I will distort her version of events…I wonder why she has decided to tell me this now. She’d known for weeks about the story; my business card was tacked up on her bulletin board.

Fred, too, retreated after our meeting in the diner, though in less explosive terms, expressing mixed feelings about the “tough questions” I’d asked. “Sara would express caution for sure-if not be outright chagrined,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Thanks for dinner?”

Via e-mail, I ask Emily if I can see her again. She wrote back this: “We, as a family, have experienced a deep hardship and sadness with our mother being away from us. About meeting with you on Sunday, I will have to see if I feel up to it on that day. I have your cell phone.”

She never called.

Kudos to McKelvey, who left the big questions – “do these people really believe all this everyone was doing it crap?” – for us to answer for ourselves.

(Thanks to commenter for the pointer)

41 thoughts on “The Real Victims?

  1. I was shocked that a terrorist lived within a mile and a half from my home.

  2. We should e-mail a link (and the full text) of Mitch’s post to all of the public representatives in Minnesota who backed Our Little Terrorist. You know… ask for a comment or a response. In case they’ve changed their minds in the past eight years.

  3. Well, kind of a former terrorist Fisch. Sure she belongs in prison, but it’s a little funny how you’re all scared of some lady who, by all accounts, last broke the law before they invented cable TV. But then I guess if you weren’t scared of everything, you wouldn’t vote Republican.

    Better check your plastic sheeting and duct tape, Fishy One!

  4. Scared?
    Putting words in someone’s mouth, isn’t he?

    By the way, regarding Cable… that’s been around much longer than you think AC.

  5. I guess if you weren’t scared of everything, you wouldn’t vote Republican.

    This from a clown?

    Everyone’s scared of clowns.

    You’re hardly the one to impugn the rest of the world.

    Make it stop.

  6. I see a former KKK activist was just convicted in Jackson Mississippi. It was for a murder that occured in those confusing times. Here, I will write about it:

    Of course lots of people belonged to the KKK in Mississippi in the turbulent 60’s. It was a normal thing to do. Those people had strong feelings towards the events of those days, but it was long ago, so lets just forget about it. This fine gentleman may or may not have murdered a Negro or two, but it was so long ago and he has been such a good citizen since then, we should give him a pass. I mean, he particapates in the garden club, has grandchildren, is active in city politics.

  7. One of the reasons I dislike liberal Protestant churches is over issues like this. Recall….if I remember right….it was a left wing Methodist church in Minneapolis that held a rally for the terrorist.

  8. Wow. So only Republicans would be bothered to find out a member of SLA was living in the neighborhood? One who participated in a robbery where a woman was murdered? One who conspired to kill LA cops? You feel that since she has refrained from killing or planning on killing anyone for all these years, there is perfectly good reasons for people to ignore her youthful mistakes and lobby for a all is forgiven reduced or suspended sentence? How exactly does one become a “kind of former terrorist”?

  9. Greg Lang of I figured that would read the comments and pick up the Marie Claire article. I thought the author id a balanced job with good reporting. I dealt with her early on and promised full cooperation.

    With the Symbionese Liberation Army it gets even worse. The first victim of the SLA was Marcus Foster, a highly effective and popular superitendent of Oakland Schools who was assasinated by the predominantly white middle class left leaning Symbionese Liberation Army who decided that they knew what was best for black people. You can see for yourself if the SOLA assassination of Marcus Foster was justified (it wasn’t). I put his book on urban education online so you could judge him for yourself. or Read it or browse it and decide for yourself if Marcus Foster deserved to be assassinated.

    I don’t believe so and in all fairness neither did the vast majority of even the San Francisco far left. This is best seen with David Horowittz’s Rampart Magazine anon (for fear of his life) editorial “Terrorism and the Left”

    The assassination of Marcus Foster by the SLA occurred before the direct involvement by Soliah/Olson but it was an action so racist, and so destructive that it repelled virtually all leftists, even in the San Francisco bay area.

    The attempt, by SLA supporters, including Soliah/Olson to kill Los Angeles police officers happened nearly three months after Soliah/Olson, by her own admission witnessed shotgunned to death by Emily Montague Harris. This is pure racism and pure evil at work.

  10. Sigh. This was a subject that had potential for some really good comments (and there were a couple), but does it always have to degenerate into this insult-trading stuff? Sort of on the boring side….

    (BTW, I myself do not have a scintillating remark to make, I know). But, I will say I absolutely detest Soliah, her “supporters” and every fake activist thing they are about. Self-centered people in the 60’s, self-centered people still. All I have is pure unadulterated disdain.

  11. I think there are many who believed the “everybody was doing it” crap.

    There were other folks — like me — who figured that, as bad as what she had done was (and participating in a plan to murder people is, well, rather more than naughty, even if the plan is never put into effect) she had stayed out of trouble for a long time as a fugitive, and that while some punishment was and is certainly appropriate, she was vanishingly unlikely to be a serious risk for further crimes of violence.

    So, I dunno. I’ve got no serious problem with her being put in prison — commit the crime; do the time, and all — but I don’t think that, whenever she would have or will get out, she’s going to be planning any more murders.

    Could we try a different standard for comparison? Contrary to popular belief, convicted Nazi war criminals (that’s “convicted”, not those like Waldheim who got away with it) very often served very short sentences. (Look at the sentences in the IG Farben trials, for a sadly typical example.)

    I don’t see a lot of good reason, taking the long view, that Kathleen Soliah should end up serving perhaps an order of magnitude more time than Georg von Schnitzler did.

    But I will admit that the injustice of that won’t keep me up at night, at least in terms of how Soliah was treated. (von Schnitzler, in my strongly-held opinion, should have received a suspended sentence — the kind that involves being suspended by the neck with a strong rope.)

  12. There’s a reason why murder has no statute of limitations. Murder is forever. You can’t be a “former murderer”. Was she still a threat to the community? Listen to her supporters dismiss her crimes. Yes, she was a threat to every decent society on the face of the earth! Murder condoned is murder abetted.

    My impression of the interview with her family is that she raised two girls who are as self absorbed as she is. Her first thought when the towers fell was of herself?
    This is the behavior of a sociopath.

  13. “But then I guess if you weren’t scared of everything, you wouldn’t vote Republican.”

    Myrna Opsahl probably was scared. Did that make her a Republican?

  14. Has anyone ever asked the family members (and any others who rationalize Kathy’s acts): Would you condone the murder of your own loved wife or child? Doubtless the answer, if any, would be obfuscation and subject change; these are not fully fair minded/introspective people.

  15. I wonder…. would the Soliah supporters make the same argument for the Mississppi KKKers? After all, if 25 years of good behavior is enough to excuse a murder, what about forty years? Somehow i doubt that her supporters would be in favor of stopping the investigations into the Civil Rights era murders.

  16. “…Could we try a different standard for comparison? Contrary to popular belief, convicted Nazi war criminals (that’s “convicted”, not those like Waldheim who got away with it) very often served very short sentences. (Look at the sentences in the IG Farben trials, for a sadly typical example.) …”

    Ah yes, the unerring eagle eye of “hypocrisy detection”. There’s only one original sin left these days — being “judgmental”. “Who are we to say?”, “progressive” Americans moan, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

    I’ll google and take a look, but didn’t these cases you cite have more to do with the self-imge of the (Western) German people and their desire to assert themselves over their own govt and justice system, after control of it was returned to them?

    I suppose we could have stayed in occupation of Germany for decades until all these people had served their full sentences or died in prison, but we weren’t like the Third Reich Germans (luckily for them).

    Maybe we should have just shot or hanged all the ones who had blood on their hands after proper trial and conviction, to prevent their later pardoning, but again –that would have been Nazi-like. And there were just too many.

    After all, we did kill their citizenry by the millions during the war, as well as burning out the hearts of their major cities. I guess maybe we were a little tired in the postwar period, as well as looking ahead to the next major threat, for which we would need the political support of the newly re-enfranchised citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany.

    I think these shortened sentences (what’s the right legal word, commutation?) began to happen after 1949, when the de facto Allied occupation control began to end (de jure after the peace treaty in 1952). Ref: the famous movie “Judgment at Nuremburg”, which is not about the well-known 1946-7 trial of the major 3rd Reich cabinet level figures (Goering, Speer, etc), but rather about a trial of 3rd Reich era German figures of the Weimar legal system, ones who collaborated with the Nazi suborning of the supposedly independent judiciary (judges, prosecutors, etc, fictional characters I think, don’t know the actual cases they were presumably based upon if any).

    The major Nazi war criminals (the ones who weren’t executed, ie Speer, Hess) were retained under Allied occupation control in Spandau prison in Berlin, which remained formallly occupied territory until after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    Nazi war criminals who were ferreted out years or decades later, and then tried in third countries who were the victims of their crimes (ie, countries overrun by the 3rd Reich), weren’t pardoned or “overlooked” due to the passage of decades. Such as Eichman, Klaus Barbie, others (I think there’s still a German SS officer in his 90’s in jail in Italy, one who was convicted decades later for a 1944 mass shooting of partisans> He was in the news very recently I think over the issue of possibly or actualy letting him out of jail due to his poor health).

    These should be your standard of comparison. If “everybody was doing it” back in the US of the 60’s and 70’s, then presumably Soliah would have been pardoned already (like what happened in post-occupation Germany). Or there wouldn’t have even been the political will to find her decades later and then bring her to trial.

    Well, there’s always the future. Maybe in the next election “progressive” US voters will sweep DFL type politicians into power, ones who will then promptly pardon Soliah into the waiting arms of triumphant crowds cheering her at the prison gates.

    What a spectacle that would be! May I not live to see it.

  17. Alright-now there has been some darn good reading! I had meant to complement you, Mitch, on a VERY excellent post in the first place.

  18. Paul H.:

    Well, no. Any comparison between Kathleen Soliah and the major Nazi war criminals is pretty obviously silly; a proper comparison, given what she actually did, would be with the very minor Nazi war criminals — the ones with no blood on their hands, but in some minor ways participated in Nazi war crimes.

    Find a bunch of those who got a sentence close to hers, and then we’ll talk. I won’t hold my breath.

  19. You said “convicted Nazi war criminals”. Now all of sudden there’s a category of these you are pleased to dub “very minor”?

    Sorry, my mistake; you’re right, of course. You see, I assumed there would be no such thing as a “very minor” Nazi in the mindset of those who whole-heartedly (or half-heartedly) plead for leniency for Soliah.

    The “very minor” Nazis got away with it because there were so many “minor”, “medium”, and “major” ones to deal with. So I guess Soliah made the fundamental mistake of sticking around in a society which still takes “‘very minor” crimes such as hers seriously.

    She should have fled instead to someplace like Cuba, where she could have made a life for herself as a fearless outspoken opponent of the US imperialist, racist, hegemonic, _____ (fill in the blank with further adjectives of your choice) criminal regime.

    Maybe she was just ahead of her time, and in years to come she will be celebrated as a “hero’ of the people. Like Vladimir Lenin’s older brother, executed in Imperial Russia in 1887 for participting in a bomb plot against the life of the Czar.

    Revolutionaries back then were “old school” tough! “….In court, Ulyanov gave a political speech…” [before being hanged].

    No whining, no weeping, no wailing, and above all — no whimpering for leniency. If you’re going to resort to the bomb and the gun, ya gotta be tough! The revolution is remorseless and will demand much blood from its martyrs before it can succeed.

  20. I hit the enter key to go to a new lne and it sent the post before I was done. My point it this: political communication between the two political sides is no longer happening. Here I am reminded of Lincoln’s House Divided speech and it seems to me that we are headed for another civil war.

  21. You really should try to read what I wrote more carefully; let’s try it again:

    Contrary to popular belief, convicted Nazi war criminals (that’s “convicted”, not those like Waldheim who got away with it) very often served very short sentences. (Look at the sentences in the IG Farben trials, for a sadly typical example.)

    Obviously, you didn’t look, and find sentences like 2.5 years, with time off for time served waiting trial — close to a walk for many convicted Nazi war criminals.

    As to leniency for Soliah, no, I’ve not argued in favor of that — I think that she should receive a typical sentence for somebody who committed the crimes she did, with the appropriate additional time for the same aggravating factors that anybody else would get, and the appropriate reduced time for the same meliorating factors that anybody else would get.

    That’s not leniency: that’s justice.

    Your notion that there was something appropriate about the minor Nazi war criminals getting off easy because there were so many of them is very, very strange. Would you like to see that same standard apply to other criminals? If the number of bank robberies go up, should bank robbers get shorter sentences?

    Do you think that “everybody was doing it” is any more appropriate for Nazis than when it’s claimed for Soliah?

    If not, why plead that some sort of special, lenient deal was appropriate for Nazis?

    What Soliah did was horrible, no question; it was criminal, demonstrably. She participated in a failed plan to bomb a police car, and in a bank robbery in which somebody else murdered a woman, an entirely predictable result of robbing a bank. (This is one of the many reasons it’s not okay to rob a bank; innocent people might be killed, even if you don’t kill them, and the law quite properly holds you responsible for participating.)

    Is there some good reason — other than your distaste for her politics (a distaste, by the way, which I share, although not in your rabid, foaming, at best arguably coherent sort of way) — that she should receive a sentence much, much longer than is typical for such crimes in the state in which she committed them? The story of the family of the murdered woman is heartbreaking — but is it unusual that the stories of families of the murdered are heartbreaking?

    I’d say I smell a whiff of double standard here, but that’s an understatement — it’s stinking up the joint.

  22. Just to be clear: I’m not attacking Mitch for raising the issue; any suggestion that he’s the one stinking up the joint was unintentional, and I apologize for any offense given to him.

  23. Great job joelr! You brought in the Nazis early on:'s_Law

    and I stupidly went along with it. Now you get to elegantly and disdainfully “sniff” about my “stink” and darkly imply that I’m a Nazi sympathizer. Well done old bean, I’m sure anyone still here reading is totally awed by your brilliance.

    Yes, I finally looked up the IG Farben trial (which was known but vague to me, in a back corner of my deteriorating mind) and I see now that it was a US military court that handed down “short” sentences originally (not shortened/commuted/pardoned later by the Germans). But what’s the deal with your anxiety to go back in space and time and personally execute a “suspended sentence” (hanging) on von Schnitzler in particular? I see several of the other defendants were acquitted completely.

    Von Schnitz doesn’t even yet have a wiki article of his own yet (his name is mentioned as a defendant but there’s no separate indiv link): ).

    If his short sentence was such a great unknown travesty of justice, maybe you should undertake to write the definitive wiki article on him and explain why that was to the rest of us ignoramuses. Actually of course, I think your attempt to compare and contrast Schnitzler and Soliah (did the alliteration give you the idea?) is just an attempt to set up a strawman argument, so you can align yourself on the side of the angels against long-gone Nazis (I imagine old Schnitzler has schnitzeled off to his eternal reward by now) and of course their modern day stinky sympathizers (ie lil’ ol me).

    I reckon this particular compare and contrast of yours could hold some water if the SLA had taken over northern California in the early 1970’s and then forced the local Republicans into slave labor war work, while trying to hold the eastern front in the snows of Tahoe against the attacking counter-revolutionary forces of the rest of the US. If Soliah had been merely a director/board member for such war work, and then was subsequently tried by a US military tribunal after the reconquista of Northern Calif, I suppose maybe 2 1/2 years for her w/ credit for time served could constitute sort of a coherent sentence, in this fanciful alternate reality of mine (foam is dribbling down my chin even now as you read this…).

    But IMSO (in my stinky opinion) she deserves to do every g.d. bit of her stretch as determined by the final decision of the ins and outs of her standard-strung-out appeal process, where ever it may stand currently:

    For being such a f’ing weasel, as well as for being so f’ing stupid (she should have voluntarily surrendered during the Clinton administration and profusely apologized, while reserving to herself her inner lack of sincerity and contempt for the rest of us citizen sheep who abjectly fail to appreciate her revolutionary brilliance). But I guess it’s really tough to admit to yourself that you have finally and totally given up on retaining the admiration and respect of your old revolutionary colleagues.

    Had she done so, by now she could have done her 2 1/2 years that you’re so exercised about, then had her parole hearing and been out, or maybe even been pardoned by the Big He post-2000 election, like Marc Rich and the NY Puerto Rican FALN bombers.

    And now be back with her family and getting on with trying make redemption for her sins, assuming there was/is any true sorrow in her heart (just how do you kick a pregnant women during a bank robbery, make her lose her baby, and then look at yourself in the mirror every day thereafter?)

    Yes, bad timing for her that she came up for sentencing during the immediate post 9/11 period and that she tried to double-talk the judge. She should have thought of that before. What a loser, breaks my f’ing heart.

  24. “SarahJanecek Says…”

    Sarah Janecek, Sarah Janecek….


    Run, wingnuts, run! Another ’70s terrorist is among you! Gun-wielding grandmas are invading the Twinkie Cities!!!!

  25. Time out, guys?

    Because for the life of me, I can’t figure out what the argument IS?

    Nazis evil, Soliah bad, hubby and kids in ideological denial, Highland DFLers in another world.

    Can’t we all get along?

  26. “angryclown Says…”

    angryclown, angryclown…


    Run, moonbats, run! The bully is a monster with supernatural powers in a clown’s suit! He is deadly, he can be anywhere, anyone, at any time!

  27. Paul H: well, yeah, that’s true. But I didn’t think that was an issue that was in any doubt by anybody. Sheesh; I’d certainly hope not. That’s okay; odds are you have more hair.

    Mitch: it’s really pretty simple, Paul H’s mincing about aside. My contention is that Soliah being a nutsy leftoid shouldn’t have any effect, one way or another, on the length of her sentence — I think it should deviate from the standard range (in California, for the crimes for which she was convicted) upwards and downwards for the standard reasons: the aggravating and meliorating factors that would be applied to anybody else, were they convicted of the same crime, and had the same aggravating and meliorating factors present.

    Now, I’m not sure what the standard aggravating/meliorating factors in sentencing are, under CA law — while I know a bit about some specific areas of the law, I’m not a California lawyer specializing in sentencing, a California lawyer, or a lawyer at all. But I’m willing to bet that a quarter century of leftish nutbar political activity isn’t one of them, and I’m sure that it shouldn’t be. I’m guessing that clear evidence that the criminal was unlikely to reoffend would be a meliorating factor, and is, and I think there’s a strong argument there — not that she won’t continue to be a lefty nutbar, but that she won’t rob any more banks, try to blow up any more cop cars, etc.

    That doesn’t mean that she should be turned loose, necessarily. It does mean that I think she should get the same treatment that a less visible criminal (term used precisely) would.

  28. Why is it, in all of these comments, only one person has pointed out that SJO’s first thought on seeing the second tower fall was for her own security? Good grief. What a selfish bitch.

  29. Joel, most lawyers will speak of ameliorative factors, but meliorate works as well as ameliorate. Given your background, I can understand your frustration and anger about justice denied. But the fact that many war criminals escaped justice, or at least the full impact of justice, does not constitute a mitigating factor for people like Soliah/Olson. Give the sentences justified now, and mourn the failure to do so in the past.

  30. mefolks — oh, absolutely. I wasn’t arguing that she should get off easy because Nazis got off easy (or, in many cases, scott free, courtesy that Vatican’s ratline). Rather than just repeat myself, I’ll point you to what I’ve written, above.

  31. Mitch: “I can’t figure out what the argument IS?….Can’t we all get along?”

    Oh, come on, if you’re going to blog about the culture war you shouldn’t shrink from a Hegelian clash of ideas in your comment section, in favor of some frozen happy-face artificial comity. Given that that type of clash was/is what Soliah was/is all about.

    Joelr and I have an instinctive visceral contempt for each other but don’t worry I wouldn’t get personally violent with another law-abiding American, in spite of my excess body hair and worn knuckles.

    I think he sees the essential Soliah in her non-criminal socially acceptable life in hiding. I OTOH see the essential Soliah in her actions in the bank, in the bombing attempt, and her revolutionary rhetoric both then and now. She wasn’t motivated by common criminality but by revolutionary ardor and I doubt if that’s changed any; she just lacked/lacks the guts to carry her ideals out to their logical conclusion and die for them (unlike her SLA colleagues who chose to burn up in that house rather than surrender).

    Joelr: given your explanation immediately above, do you think a hypothetical “nutsy rightoid” — one who had committed similar crimes in Calif in support of the violent overthrow of the US govt a la Timothy McVeigh, who had subsequently hid out for decades, who had married/ w new young family, who had participated in peaceful “rightoid” but beneficent causes, etc etc….should he/she d be subject to the same considerations in sentencing and/or parole and/or pardon, after finally being caught and brought to trial, as you argue for ref the Soliah case?

    Also, let’s stipulate as a given pre- and post-trial pronouncements of the same mealy-mouth character as Soliah’s — just on the opposite end of the political spectrum.

    I don’t think such a hypothetical character should get any “amelioriation”– both he/she and Soliah oughta be maxed out. But if you are willing to stipulate otherwise then I’ll concede that you are being fair in your argument (assuming you can bring yourself to condescend to accept such concession from an inferior, a difficult proposition for you I reckon).

    Unfortunately I can’t think of an actual “real-life” example of such a “rightoid”, at least an American one — so it’ll have to remain a hypothetical construct (feel free to cite this lack as yet another example of failure to do homework).

  32. Joelr: given your explanation immediately above, do you think a hypothetical “nutsy rightoid” — one who had committed similar crimes in Calif in support of the violent overthrow of the US govt a la Timothy McVeigh, who had subsequently hid out for decades, who had married/ w new young family, who had participated in peaceful “rightoid” but beneficent causes, etc etc….should he/she d be subject to the same considerations in sentencing and/or parole and/or pardon, after finally being caught and brought to trial, as you argue for ref the Soliah case?
    Of course. I would have thought that answer would be obvious: his/her political affiliations — even ones as disreputable in my eyes as those of Soliah and your hypothetical guy — should be irrelevant, with the obvious few counterexamples (say, if he was a member of the New Black Panthers, the various flavors of Klanner and Neonazi organizations, or any other organization promoting unlawful violence against others: the problem there isn’t that those organizations are despicable [although they are] but that they, well, promote unlawful violence against others).

    But nutsy lefto or nutsy righto? That’s not what the crimes were, nor are they properly aggravating factors.

    Hell, we start with that and we’ll get to treating folks’ religious persuasion as such. Might not be a good idea for a member of a religion that still has a binding religious commandment to murder all members of a particular ethnic group.*

    As to your promise not to get violent, thanks much. I so dislike violence, myself.

    * Being a Jew, I’d not like that — we supposedly killed the last of the Amalekites thousands of years ago, but we’re still supposed to nail any we missed.

  33. No need for any thanks on your part, as it was meant not for you but as a reassurance to our host, given his seemingly deliberate choice of phrase.

    Being new here, I couldn’t tell if he was gently chiding or seriously concerned:

    “Can’t we all get along” = Rodney King = nightsticking by police officers = LA Riots = brickbat to the head of Reginald Denny, etc etc.

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