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Officials cite error, send former radical back to prison

Sara Jane Olson was a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army in the 1970s.

Sara Jane Olson was a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army in the 1970s.

LOS ANGELES — Just days after her release on parole, a former 1970s radical was headed back to prison Saturday to serve at least one more year after corrections officials said a miscalculation resulted in her early release.

Criticism over the early release from prison Monday of Sara Jane Olson, who lived as a fugitive for years in Minnesota, spurred a review of her sentence and the timing of her parole, said Scott Kernan, the chief deputy secretary for the California Department of Corrections. The review revealed that a 2004 miscalculation led to the former Symbionese Liberation Army member being released a year too early, he said.

"The department is sensitive to the impact such an error has had on all involved in this case and sincerely regrets the mistake," Kernan said.

Olson, 61, was arrested Saturday, Kernan said. She will be returned to the same central California prison that she left Monday and will not be eligible for release until March 17, 2009, he said.

Olson's attorney, Shawn Chapman Holley, called her client's return to custody "ridiculous" and said prison officials caved in to outside influences.

Olson, who was formerly known as Kathleen Soliah, was charged in 1975 with attempting to bomb police cars with the SLA, a group best known for kidnapping newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst. But Olson vanished and reinvented herself as a housewife — changing her name to Sara Jane Olson, marrying a doctor and becoming a mother of three in St. Paul, Minn. She was arrested in 1999 after FBI agents acted on a tip from TV's America's Most Wanted.

In 2001, Olson pleaded guilty to the attempted bombings. She pleaded guilty in 2003 to second-degree murder in the 1975 shooting death of a customer during a bank robbery in Carmichael, near Sacramento. After several adjustments, Olson's sentences, to be served consecutively, included 12 years for the attempted bombings and two years for the bank slaying, said Seth Unger, a Department of Corrections spokesman.

The clerical error that resulted in her release came from a failure to properly factor the Sacramento sentence into her parole calculations, Kernan said.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents Los Angeles police officers, said it was relieved that Olson had been returned to prison but was "far from satisfied."

"Parole shouldn't even be an option," said the group's president, Tim Sands.

Officials cite error, send former radical back to prison 03/22/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:46am]
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