Sara Jane Olson OKed to serve parole in Minnesota

Sara Jane Olson
Sara Jane Olson, in an undated photo from the Sacramento County Sheriffs Department.
Photo courtesy of Sacramento County Sheriffs Department/Getty Images

(AP) - Corrections officials in Minnesota have decided that former 1970s radical and longtime fugitive Sara Jane Olson can serve her parole in St. Paul.

Olson, 62, served seven years in prison in California for violent acts associated with the Symbionese Liberation Army. She was arrested in 1999 in St. Paul, where she had been living as a fugitive for 25 years.

Olson is due to be paroled on March 17. California Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said the decision whether to let her return to Minnesota is still under review by California officials, with a decision expected before she is released next week.

Shari Burt, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Corrections, said Olson was able to make the request under an interstate compact. She invoked a clause that allows parolees to request that they live with family.

"We do not believe the state of Minnesota has sufficient interest in ensuring Ms. Soliah complies with the terms of her parole."

"I want to be clear that Minnesota has nothing to do with the decision to parole her from prison," Burt said. "That's California. We're not weighing in on whether she should be paroled."

If Olson returns to Minnesota, she would be supervised by Ramsey County Community Corrections for the three years of her parole.

Burt said that department conducted an investigation and determined that Olson fit the criteria for placement with family. Burt said data privacy laws prevent her from identifying where exactly Olson would live.

Olson, who was once known as Kathleen Soliah, eluded law enforcement for more than two decades while establishing a life in St. Paul. She had married and raised a family, acted in community theater productions and was active in charity work.

After her 1999 arrest, Olson ultimately pleaded guilty to attempted bombings of Los Angeles police cars in the 1970s and the shooting death of a customer, Myrna Opsahl, during a bank robbery in the Sacramento suburb of Carmichael in 1975.

In March 2008, Olson was mistakenly paroled a year early, and California officials at that time had approved her return to Minnesota. She was about to board a plane back to Minnesota when California officials realized the mistake and took her back into custody.

Los Angeles Police Protective League President Paul M. Weber objected to the possible parole transfer, which he termed "kid glove treatment" by California officials.

"It was a citizen of California whose murder Soliah participated in. It was LAPD officers in California she attempted to kill. It was in California that she was convicted," he said in a statement Monday.

"We do not believe the state of Minnesota has sufficient interest in ensuring Ms. Soliah complies with the terms of her parole," Weber added. "That responsibility should be with the state of California. Ms. Soliah should not be allowed to leave California until she fulfills her parole obligations, and not a minute before."

The union's objections echoed a protest letter they sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a year ago.

Chris Crutchfield, a spokesman for Ramsey County Community Corrections, said Olson would be under strict supervision in Minnesota.

"Public safety is our number one thing here, and we want to make sure we do a good job with all our clients to ensure they're successful for the public's safety," Crutchfield said.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)