Randolph Hearst was stunned. “Damnit! You went ahead without even talking to me. I can’t believe it!” His wife Catherine stared defiantly. The SLA had threatened to kill their 19-year-old daughter if Mrs. Hearst accepted an appointment to the University of California Board of Regents. On the afternoon of March 13th, 1974, then-governor Ronald Reagan phoned her with an offer.
“I can hold your appointment until this is all over,” Reagan said. “I don’t want to pressure you one way or the other. Do what you think is best for Patty.”
Catherine refused. “I don’t want it held up. I’ll take it right now. I’m not going to give in to a bunch of hoodlums.”
Randy (as he is called by his friends and employees), president of the San Francisco Examiner, the youngest son of William Randolph Hearst, heard about it on the radio. He confronted her late that night at their Hillsborough mansion: Patty’s life was at stake. Catherine was adamant; she knew the stakes and she had done the right thing.
Randolph Hearst swore at her and stalked out. At the SLA’s San Francisco hideout 20 miles north, Patty also heard the radio broadcast. It was the final evidence that her parents had abandoned her. It became the pivotal moment in her change from a Hearst to Tania.
Catherine had never forgiven Patricia for leaving Sunday mass, forsaking the Burlingame Country Club and moving in with Steven Weed, her one-time prep school tutor whom Catherine considered a charmless gold digger. It was Randy who indulged Patricia; he had been wrong to pay for her living with Weed then, and he was wrong now. It was his fault more than anyone’s: If Patty had not been let loose in the radical life of Berkeley, none of this would have happened.
Patty was his favorite daughter. She was known as “Randy’s spoiled brat.” From the beginning he had been willing to reach an accord with the SLA. He set up the $2 million food giveaway over Catherine’s objections. He liked the agent in charge of the FBI’s San Francisco office and often invited him into the mansion for drinks. But he had little faith that the FBI could find his daughter … or bring her back alive.
With his political clout and the family fortune, he felt better equipped to find Patty himself. His daughter was apparently in the hands of radicals; so he tried to hire the left. He put the aging dean of San Francisco’s left-wing lawyers on a $50,000 retainer and recruited Sara Jane Moore because she hung around political activists.
Hearst wanted to handle the negotiations personally. In Berkeley’s radical circles the word went out: For the right information Randolph Hearst was willing to pay a handsome finder’s fee.
Steve Soliah took only a passing interest in the SLA. He spent his days painting houses and reserved his evenings for partying with friends and playing his guitar to tunes like the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses.” Becoming Patty’s lover never crossed his mind.
But like many Berkeley people, Steve knew some of Patty’s kidnappers secondhand. A good friend had once roomed with Patricia “Mizmoon” Soltysik, and his older sister, Kathy, had waited tables with Angela Atwood.
Then on May 17th, 1974, Los Angeles police surrounded a grubby bungalow where the SLA was holed up. As the news spread through Berkeley, several friends and neighbors gathered with Steve in front of a black-and-white television set at the old house he shared with friends near the University of California campus. Mizmoon’s former roommate arrived and slumped into a chair, her face averted so she couldn’t see the flames searing across the screen. But she could hear the barking of police gunfire long after there was no answer from the bungalow.
Steve moved next to her and tried to comfort her. He was 26 years old and had been living in the Berkeley area for three years. But this was the first time he’d felt sympathy for people he regarded as violent revolutionaries.
“I feel sick,” he said, flicking off the TV.
Kathy Soliah, a year older than Steve, felt a more personal outrage. Her good friend Angela Atwood was dead in the ashes, her body so burned that identification had to be based on her dental records. Kathy had met Angela a year before when both auditioned for roles in a local theatrical production of Hedda Gabler. Angela then had helped her get a waitress job at the Great Electric Underground restaurant in the basement of the San Francisco Bank of America world headquarters building. They had quit their jobs together after the restaurant manager refused to alter uniforms they felt were demeaning.
In the days following the L.A. shootout an anger welled up in the coffeehouses and communes of Berkeley. Many radicals initially had shunned comment about the SLA because of its violent tactics and because of suspicions that SLA leader Donald DeFreeze was a police agent. Now they spoke up at rallies that eulogized the six dead SLA soldiers as heroes in a progressive cause. Randolph Hearst saw the shifting mood and remarked acidly that, had the police not overreacted, the SLA members “wouldn’t have been martyrs but would have been seen as dingbats.”
Kathy Soliah was among those most affected by the shootout. At a memorial rally for the SLA on June 2nd, Kathy pledged solidarity with the group.
The Soliahs had grown up in Palmdale, a small town near Los Angeles, where their father coached the high-school football team and taught civics. Steve had played football under his father, then had become a track star and a sociology major at Humboldt State University in Northern California. Kathy had graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara and taught English at a private school. Both Steve and Kathy moved to Berkeley in 1971.
The two were close and liked to do things together. Steve felt protective toward his sister, whose blonde-haired good looks sometimes brought abuse from untoward strangers. When a man assaulted Kathy as she walked to a nearby liquor store one night a few weeks after the memorial rally, Steve heard her screams and came running out of the house. The man fled in a car but Steve, a burly guy, grabbed the car door and was dragged half a block before he let go.
Yet Steve had been slow to join Kathy’s growing involvement in militant politics. During the summer of 1974 she helped organize the Bay Area Research Collective (BARC), a tiny group of SLA sympathizers who pooled a few dollars to print homemade booklets filled with writings of the SLA and other underground groups. She began devoting her spare time to radical textbooks and long political discussions. During house parties, while Steve and others were enjoying the bonhomie, she would sit in a corner and talk politics with her boyfriend, 26-year-old James Kilgore.
Kilgore, who wore a bristling handlebar moustache that belied a mild-mannered, intellectual nature, also was a good friend and housepainting business partner of Steve. As Kathy and Kilgore both became more absorbed by the SLA, Steve was inexorably drawn in.
In the fall of 1974 Kathy helped plan a BARC conference entitled “Eat the Rich, Feed the Poor, SLA Knows the Score.” Only a few people attended. Four months had passed since the L.A. shootout and the indignation had dissipated. But the convention was a kind of homecoming rally for Patty Hearst.
Patty had spent the summer on a Pennsylvania farm with the other two SLA fugitives, Bill and Emily Harris. They had been harbored by Jack Scott, the controversial sports author who had wanted to write a book about the SLA. But the three had split with Scott because of his aversion to violence and, in late September, they returned to California.
Patty and the Harrises had left California after the shootout because they couldn’t find anyone willing to hide them. Standing up for the SLA at a demonstration was one step; risking a police siege by inviting the country’s most wanted fugitives under your roof was an incalculable leap beyond that. The situation had not changed by the fall — except for the emerging boldness of the Soliahs, Kilgore and a few close associates who formed the SLA’s “new team.”
The fugitives decided to set up a base in Sacramento, the California state capital only 90 minutes north of the San Francisco Bay Area. Two of their SLA comrades, Joseph Remiro and Russell Little, were awaiting trial for the SLA assassination of Oakland School Superintendent Marcus Foster and were expecting a change of venue to Sacramento.
With help from some members of the “new team” who knew the Sacramento turf, the Harrises moved into a dingy frame duplex about a mile from the Sacramento courthouse in November 1974. The front porch looked out onto the stark cement buttresses of Interstate 80. But the expressway noise, which sometimes shook the windows, helped prevent eavesdropping by a fellow tenant who lived on the other side of a thin wall dividing the house. Steve Soliah loaned the Harrises his 1962 turquoise Corvair, which they parked in the backyard next to a pile of plywood, broken chairs and other junk. The Harrises left the grass and bushes untrimmed, and the house’s peeling white paint blended into the unkempt neighborhood. Their only renovation was a bronze-plated mail slot in the front door to restrict any snoopy neighbors.
One of their correspondents was Wendy Yoshimura, the 32-year-old fugitive who had met the SLA fugitives through Jack Scott the previous summer. After sharing room and board at the Pennsylvania farmhouse, Wendy had returned to the Bay Area at the same time as Patty and the Harrises. She had been driven across country by 22-year-old Margaret Turcich, a tall brown-haired waitress and close friend of Kathy Soliah. Instead of joining the SLA in Sacramento, Wendy decided to stay in San Francisco with Turcich.
Turcich and Kathy Soliah kept working as waitresses in the Bay Area; Kilgore and Steve Soliah continued to paint houses. And the Soliahs and Kilgore kept their address in Berkeley.
Patty moved to Sacramento with the Harrises but, as another security precaution, took an apartment nearby. She regularly visited the Harris house, pedaling there on a ten-speed bicycle. The Harrises also bought bikes a few months later when Soliah’s battered Corvair broke down and had to be abandoned.
Patty still regarded the Harrises as her family — they were her big brother and sister. For months they had protected and cared for her. But Patty began seeing a lot of Steve Soliah. The two became close friends and lovers. When Patty became depressed or tense, Steve could change her mood. Nothing seemed to upset him. A couple years before, a woman roommate had dumped a stack of dirty dishes in his closet because she felt Steve’s sexism kept him from remembering to clean up the kitchen. Steve had shrugged off the incident without an argument. Since then his awareness of sexual politics had heightened. But he was still as easygoing. Walking with him down a street full of panhandlers was a maddening experience as he took the time to hear almost any story and hand out a few coins.
Since her kidnapping Patty had been living with intense, serious-minded people. Steve’s capacity for humor was a welcome change. He was full of smiles and hugs. He had a full beard and golden hair to his shoulders. Friends called him a big teddy bear. He liked to get outdoors, go jogging or cycling. With him Patty had fun and seemed somehow divorced from the reality of the SLA.
Randolph Hearst’s well-bred ability to adapt to his guests and a self-deprecating sense of humor charmed nearly every radical who met him during his search for Patty. “I’ve never put in an honest day’s work in my life,” he liked to joke. “I don’t really know what it’s like out there.” But during the long months of 1974 he called upon all the resources under his command: a newspaper, some considerable political influence and his Hearst inheritance.
In the first weeks after the kidnapping, Winnebagos and TV sound trucks clogged the street outside his Hillsborough mansion. The press had encamped for what they thought would be the duration. Someone at one of the television networks hit on the idea to nail a portable phone on a convenient tree. So the other two networks quickly installed phones on their own trees.
Hearst stayed calm through all this, shaking hands and chatting with anyone who might have word of Patty. He hired three secretaries to answer all letters and phone calls no matter how irrelevant they seemed. Several offers of help came from psychics, mystics, seers and ESP experts. Hearst expressed interest. Soon he was entertaining a host of ripoff artists. One swami set up an altar on the dining room table, using one of Patty’s shoes for inspiration. After a week of unanswered prayer he moved into the San Francisco Hilton where he ran up a $300 liquor bill on Randolph’s tab. Another psychic asked to be thrown into the trunk of a car and driven away in a reconstruction of Patty’s abduction.
Hearst didn’t believe in the hocus-pocus. But he scrutinized the con men with the shrewd assumption that someone among them might be a real SLA informant dressed up like a Mama Crystal Ball to get past the FBI.
Hearst was willing to try almost anything for Patty. He debated one plan that involved hiring an ex-CIA agent to infiltrate the underground. The spy was to contact the SLA and offer an all-expenses-paid trip to Cuba, where they would be safe from the FBI. But Catherine vetoed the idea. She was afraid Patty might become a Communist. Catherine, however, wasn’t around for most of the scheming. The constant tension unnerved her and doctors ordered her to a sickbed.
Hearst’s biggest clout was at the San Francisco Examiner, the leading survivor of the newspapers established by his father. Initially he tried to placate the SLA by printing its long treatises. He also censored stories about Donald DeFreeze’s history as a police informer and ordered one reporter not to investigate the SLA.
Later, another Examiner reporter used an old underworld contact, Mickey Cohen, to look for Patty. Mickey talked to a numbers racketeer in Cleveland who claimed to have seen her. But Mickey dropped out of the chase because, he said, he didn’t want to see Patty end up in prison.
Most of Randolph’s hope, however, was devoted to the world of political radicals. “Radicals may think I’m a reactionary asshole,” he told one, “but at least I’m a reactionary asshole who will talk to radicals.”
Hearst personally phoned the presiding judge at the Wounded Knee trial to obtain permission for defendants Russell Means and Dennis Banks to fly to California. In secret meetings with Hearst, the two Indian leaders agreed to act as intermediaries with the SLA, but only if Patty chose to surrender on her own.
Joanna Harcourt-Smith, the girlfriend of Timothy Leary, approached Hearst with a prospective trade: the imprisoned Leary for the kidnapped Patty. Joanna claimed that 48-year-old Clifford Jefferson, a San Quentin inmate known as Death Row Jeff, could set up the deal. Death Row Jeff was considered a godparent of the SLA. He had introduced Cinque to some of the original SLA members and, according to his own court testimony, had approved the SLA assassination of Marcus Foster.
Randolph quickly sidestepped Leary and Joanna and hired attorney Vincent Hallinan, the 77-year-old hero of the Thirties labor movement and the Fifties anti-McCarthy movement. Hallinan visited Death Row Jeff and for a while the connection seemed promising. Jeff, hoping that Hearst’s intervention might make life behind bars more bearable, agreed to help. But negotiations broke down with no visible result.
These failures frustrated Hearst. But they also changed him. For the first time he was dealing firsthand with people who lived on the edge of desperation. His own fears for his daughter seemed less anxious by comparison.
Wilbert “Popeye” Jackson was one example. For 19 of his 44 years, Jackson had been behind bars. Now he was facing a parole hearing that threatened to return him to prison because he had been arrested carrying a packet of heroin.
Hearst had met Popeye during the food giveaway. As head of the United Prisoners Union, which had been selected by the SLA to help administer the giveaway, Popeye had been among the few California radicals to support the SLA publicly. Despite this, Hearst was impressed with Popeye’s ability to win arguments and mobilize workers.
Hearst also saw the chance for a quid pro quo. Each man seemed in a position to help the other.
In April 1974 Hearst directed the Examiner to give Popeye some favorable publicity. Ordinarily the staunchly conservative daily would have provided the opposite. But an April 7th story appeared telling of Popeye’s work to curb recidivism among other ex-cons. That was followed two days later by an editorial urging the state parole board to keep Popeye on the streets. Two weeks later the parole board did so.
Popeye was impressed with Randolph. He told his girlfriend that “Hearst has great respect for me as a man.” The two met and talked.
But before any serious bargaining began, Sara Jane Moore intervened. Moore, a 45-year-old who later became well known as a would-be assassin of President Ford, was an FBI informant. According to Moore, the FBI assigned her in the spring of 1974 to spy on Popeye’s dealings with Hearst. Apparently the FBI wanted to be the first to know if Popeye did lead Hearst to his daughter.
Moore was in an excellent position to eavesdrop — she already was on the Hearst payroll. She had been among the many volunteers who helped during the food giveaway. By the time the program ended she was its bookkeeper and she was kept on to sort out the tangled leftover accounts. But her real value was as one of those people who worms her way into other people’s lives and conveys their closest secrets to the highest bidder.
Moore was hanging around with SLA sympathizers — she attended the memorial rally where Kathy Soliah spoke, for instance — and Hearst hoped she might supply some valuable leads about the SLA. But he did not know Moore was an FBI informant and the FBI did not tell him.
Apparently she never gave any real information to Hearst. But she was appreciated by the FBI, which continued to pay her through the spring of 1975. She told the FBI she was present when then Examiner publisher Charles Gould phoned the parole board at Hearst’s request to plead for Popeye.
Through the summer and fall of 1974, Moore completed the triangle by edging into Popeye’s circle of friends. “She tagged after him like a puppy dog,” Popeye’s girlfriend explained.
During the same time, Popeye was arrested two more times, once for interfering with a cop who was questioning a girl thought to look like Patty Hearst, the other time for shoplifting $21.56 in film supplies. But on February 20th, 1975, the parole board again ruled in Popeye’s favor.
Popeye was not above making deals — “He wanted to keep his ass out of jail,” agreed a friend. So, when he had a falling out with Moore in early 1975, he was vulnerable to her accusations that he had cut a deal to keep his parole. Looking to hurt him, Moore wrote and distributed a letter among political groups in the Bay Area. It contained a denunciation of Popeye for dealing with Hearst and it became the equivalent of a death warrant.
In October 1974, Bill Harris wrote a friend that he and the other SLA fugitives considered themselves at war with the system. But they were not “mad revolutionaries,” he claimed — they were urban guerrillas training to fight on “sanely, calculatedly.”
At the same time, Harris added the title “General” to his adopted name Teko. Emily and Patty had accepted Bill as the group’s leader after the death of Donald DeFreeze, the SLA field marshal known as Cinque. But Harris’s new title signaled a renewed emphasis on militarism. He now was the official commander in charge of his own army.
Harris had been born 29 years before on an Army base at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. From there he had become an Episcopal acolyte, a golfer, a thespian, a postgraduate in urban education and a U.S. Marine in Vietnam.
Vietnam was his introduction to violence. He came home bitter and no longer sure of his goals. With his wife, Emily, a school teacher he’d married while both were students at Indiana University, Harris moved to Oakland in 1972 and became active in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). There he met Joseph Remiro, a vet seemingly so deranged by Vietnam he used the antiwar movement to show off his combat training. Remiro once almost blew himself up while lighting, gasoline he’d splashed around the fuselage of a display Air Force jet in a city park.
But Harris was different. Friends remember him as quiet and rational, more interested in serious organizing than in violence. The Harrises began visiting Bay Area prisons where both were profoundly affected by the black men in cages. In the spring of 1973 they met Cinque, a street tough from Los Angeles who had just escaped from Soledad prison. Cinque was being harbored by Remiro and other people they knew from their work in the VVAW and the prison reform movement. To some old associates Cinque was an unimpressive thug who once had robbed a prostitute of ten dollars, turned in a buddy to the police and frequently got drunk on plum wine. But to Remiro, the Harrises and a few close friends, Cinque was a charismatic prophet whose talk of killing and kidnapping somehow made sense.
Meeting Cinque became a decisive juncture for the Harrises. Emily was completely entranced. “I am in love with a beautiful black man,” Emily wrote in a letter to her mother. Suddenly Bill had to confront his own latent feelings of jealousy and racism. His response was dramatic.
Bill began affecting a black slang that mimicked the accents and ideas of Cinque. He became Cinque’s right-hand man in an army of four white men and five white women that included Emily and Remiro. Harris helped lead the nascent Symbionese Liberation Army through boot-camp drills in the secluded hills above Berkeley and taught the women members how to load, shoot and break down Army carbines that Cinque secured on the black market.
Cinque divided his tiny militia into even smaller units: medical, intelligence, combat, communications. He might have been game playing had his soldiers not taken him so seriously.
In the fall of 1973 Cinque began selecting targets for political assassination. His first choice was Charles O. Finley, the Oakland A’s owner depicted on many sports pages as the petty tyrant of baseball. Cinque expected Finley’s execution to produce a media splash for the SLA. But Cinque changed his mind when he heard that the Black Panthers were criticizing the conduct of Marcus Foster, the first black superintendent of Oakland’s schools. “We’re gonna waste that nigger,” Cinque announced.
In January 1974, two months after Foster’s execution with cyanide-tipped bullets, Remiro and roommate Russell Little were arrested while carrying one of the murder weapons. (According to what Bill Harris later told his aboveground supporters, Remiro and Little had scouted out the murder site but had not pulled any triggers.) The two SLA soldiers were jailed and charged with the killing.
That set into motion the kidnapping of Patty Hearst a month later. Patty was to be bartered for Remiro and Little’s release. But before these negotiations ever began, Patty changed into Tania.
The SLA’s illusion of growing military strength was soon shattered in a Los Angeles bungalow. Now, five months later, Harris was determined to replace Cinque and rebuild the SLA.
Using old streetwise contacts, he reassembled an arsenal of carbines, 9mm pistols, sawed off shotguns and gas masks. He reinstituted Cinque’s rigid rules and decorum. When giving orders to his soldiers — Patty and Emily — he stood at strict attention and addressed them from four or five feet away. He insisted they be armed at all times; if he caught them without a gun, they were subject to an automatic 50 pushups. Patty had developed a wiry strength from a daily routine of calisthenics and jogging. But she still couldn’t master 50 pushups, an inadequacy that Bill came to ridicule.
Before leaving the Pennsylvania farmhouse Harris had told Scott he believed the SLA had a large reservoir of public support, especially in what he viewed as a monolithic “black community.” But Harris was frustrated that the Weatherpeople, generally regarded as the vanguard of the underground, still had not contacted the SLA — and that people like Jack Scott and Wendy Yoshimura had refused to join in his new SLA plans. He felt he was on the front line of the revolution and that it was everyone’s duty to obey.
“There is no one to rely on or sap off of,” Harris wrote in the unfinished book the SLA had tried to write with Scott. “The three of us are totally different people after L.A. We’re a lot stronger and tougher but we won’t get any sense of that until we give the pigs another defeat that each year they wish they could forget.”
At the new SLA headquarters in Sacramento, the Harrises and Patty prepared for the SLA’s first major action under Bill’s command: the liberation of captured soldiers Remiro and Little, who were to stand trial starting March 31st, 1975, in Sacramento.
The three fugitives worked meticulously on their disguises. They used makeup, wigs and new clothes to look like straight middle-class students. On January 31st they enrolled at Sacramento City College so they could obtain identification cards with their pictures.
Photo-proof ID was required to get past heavy security at the Remiro-Little trial. But the SLA army never made it inside the courtroom. Harris could not find a way to finesse a second rule that required all visitors to ‘be fingerprinted at the courtroom door. Furthermore, for the first month of the trial, Remiro and Little stayed in their basement cell and watched the trial proceedings on closed-circuit television.
So the SLA apparently switched to another action. “The only high we get is from our actions,” Harris felt. On April 12th, 1975, a woman (later identified as Patty Hearst wearing a curly brown wig) drove a 1967 black-over-green Pontiac Firebird to a secluded garage in Sacramento. She told the manager she wanted to leave her mother’s car there for about a week. She was nervous. She lit three or four cigarettes, stamping each out after a few puffs.
After she left, the garage manager remained suspicious of her behavior and was not surprised when the address she’d given did not check out. He called the Sacramento police. They arrived, discovered that the Firebird had been stolen earlier the same day in Oakland and decided they were on to something big — a gang of car thieves. Plainclothesmen were assigned to stake out the garage.
During the early morning of April 21st, however, the Firebird was driven away from the garage while the police weren’t looking. Neighbors of Crocker National Bank in nearby Carmichael noticed the Firebird parked about six blocks from the bank that morning. Sometime after 8:00 a.m. it was moved next to the bank.
At 9:01 a.m., as the Carmichael bank opened for its early customers, four masked bandits shoved through the rear door and, without warning, shotgunned a 42-year-old woman waiting to deposit the weekend collections from the Carmichael Seventh Day Adventist Church. They ordered everyone else on the floor, kicking those who did not move fast enough.
One bandit, a woman, looked at her wristwatch and began timing the operation: “Twenty seconds, 30 seconds …” The others scooped up $15,000 from the teller cages. When the count reached four minutes, all four fled outside and jumped into the Firebird. They abandoned the car a few blocks away and escaped in another car into the midmorning traffic.
The exact identities of the bank robbers, who wore wigs and covered their faces with ski masks and scarves, may never be known. But the FBI, in leaks to the media, has put forward the following allegations, based on fingerprints and other physical evidence:
Bill Harris, they say, was the gunman who murdered the woman customer. Emily Harris was the woman timing the action. Their accomplices were Steve Soliah and Patty Hearst. A fifth robber who served as the lookout was James Kilgore, Kathy Soliah’s boyfriend.
According to police sources, this was the second SLA robbery in two months. On February 25th, two SLA members allegedly held up the Guild Savings and Loan Association in Sacramento for $3729. The next day a man identified as Bill Harris bought a 1966 Chevrolet station wagon with $20 bills apparently taken in the robbery. Soon after, Steve Soliah allegedly used crisp new twenties to buy a 1967 Ford Galaxie later recovered by police near Kilgore’s apartment.
Harris had plans for a half-dozen more bank holdups in Sacramento, according to police. The banks had been scouted and detailed maps had been drawn. But the robberies were not carried out. Instead, as the Remiro-Little trial ended with guilty verdicts in early June, the SLA fugitives moved back to San Francisco.
Patty allegedly carried with her “bait money” from the April 21st robbery. As required by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Carmichael bank had registered the serial numbers from a sheaf of bills and planted the “bait money” in a teller’s cashbox where any bank robber would be sure to snatch it. Three months later the FBI would find the money in a refrigerator cache at a San Francisco apartment where Patty lived.
In a second San Francisco apartment rented by the Harrises, agents would find an unmailed communiqué that took credit for the Carmichael bank robbery and advertised it as a political act. The Harrises apparently wrote the communiqué but they signed it as a message from “The New World Liberation Front” (NWLF).
Since the early Seventies the political underground had kept the aboveground informed of its thoughts and actions through a series of communiqués delivered sporadically to the Berkeley Barb and other media. The Weatherpeople had popularized this method. If Weather’s name was typed at the bottom of a communiqué, it was accepted as a valid message from the Weatherpeople. But as more underground groups sprang up — and as more communiqués arrived — so did the problem of authenticating these political letters. Imitators could sign any group’s name to any communiqué.
According to several underground sources, that is what happened on the bank robbery communiqué. The SLA, at odds with the NWLF, intended to pin the robbery on the NWLF through a fake letter.
Initially the Harrises and Patty had welcomed the NWLF as a companion underground group when it formed in response to the L.A. Shootout in May 1974. But then came a split. The NWLF was waging a West Coast bombing campaign from Seattle to Santa Barbara, planting about 25 small bombs at selected corporate and law enforcement buildings in a way that minimized damage and effectively avoided injury to people. The SLA, believing that such symbolic actions made the underground look weak willed, wanted the underground to embrace its own military style of violence. Instead, the NWLF was gaining respect both in the underground and among aboveground supporters.
So, according to the sources, the Harrises wrote the bank robbery communiqué as part of a plan to discredit the NWLF. For reasons still unexplained, they did not deliver it. But another unaccountable communiqué was sent in the name of the NWLF during early June — around the time the Harrises and Patty returned to the Bay Area.
On June 5th the KPOO radio station in San Francisco broadcast an apparently legitimate NWLF communiqué that denounced Popeye Jackson for the preferred treatment he seemed to be getting from the parole board. Three days later Jackson and a friend were murdered as they sat in a car outside his Mission district apartment in San Francisco, after coming home from a late-night party. A gunman, described as a young man by a witness, crept up from behind and fired five rounds from a 9mm automatic pistol.
One day later another communiqué signed by the NWLF claimed credit for Popeye’s execution. Almost immediately a third NWLF communiqué arrived; it labeled the second communiqué a fake and disowned any blame for the murder. The second communiqué, according to some underground analysts, was sent by the Harrises and Patty. These sources believe the SLA fugitives seized on the opportunity provided by the first NWLF communiqué to kill Popeye and try to frame the NWLF. But several other people, including a few police officers and ex-cons, also had motives for shooting Popeye.
Some circumstantial evidence supports the theory that it was the SLA. Although the SLA has no known black members, its white members are proficient at blackface disguises. The 9mm pistol is a favorite SLA weapon. And the fugitives almost certainly had heard Sara Jane Moore’s allegation that Popeye was dealing with Randolph Hearst to organize Patty’s surrender.
Three months after Popeye’s death, the SLA authored another communiqué that was, essentially, a wanted-dead-or-alive poster. It condemned as an enemy of the people Maalik-el-Maalik, a prison reformer who also was rumored to have tried arranging Patty’s return home.
When Jack Scott left the fugitives in September 1974, he believed he was finished with the SLA. He was living in Oregon with Portland basketball star Bill Walton and looking forward to writing about sports again. By now he counted himself a critic of Patty and the Harrises. He disagreed with their affinity for violence and disliked their preoccupation with themselves.
Yet part of his initial fascination remained. Being underground with the fugitives had been the most exciting time in his life.
Then one morning in late fall he received a phone call from his parents in Las Vegas. His older brother Walter had just arrived with a request for money.
Walter was 41, nine years older than Jack. The two brothers had become political opposites since their days as high school sports stars in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Walter had worked most of his adult life for a government that Jack felt was dangerously repressive. Walter had been a computer specialist and, he claimed, a hit man for various intelligence agencies. But now he needed money, he said, because he had been fired by the government after going on an unauthorized shooting spree that left three people dead in Egypt.
Working for the government was Walter’s only major motivation left in life. His two marriages had fallen apart and he was no longer close to any friends. His father, an unsuccessful businessman now managing a modern middle-income apartment building in Las Vegas, did not know how to handle him. Walter’s homecomings always seemed to cause trouble.
But Jack felt a loyalty to his brother. When Jack was a kid, Walter had coached him on how to run races and had helped keep him out of trouble. So Jack grabbed his checkbook and caught the next plane to Las Vegas. He had spent nearly $20,000 helping the SLA fugitives during his unsuccessful book venture. But he still had money left from the $40,000 given him in settlement earlier in the year for stepping down as athletic director at Oberlin College.
Jack loaned Walter $3000 and the two poured a few drinks. By the time their parents went to bed, both Jack and Walter were high. Walter talked boldly of his secret life as an assassin. Jack could not resist an urge to shock Walter with his own summer adventures at the Pennsylvania farmhouse. He had been fishing and sunbathing with Patty Hearst only a half-hour’s drive from where the Scotts had grown up.
“The cops were chasing all over the country for her and all the time she was there with me,” Jack congratulated himself. “Would you believe it?”
Walter said he found it hard to believe. So Jack persisted, filling in dates and other details until he had furnished Walter with a story he could trade for countless favors from the FBI.
Even when he was living with the fugitives Jack had tended to involve others in the experience. At one point he had invited a journalist friend to the farmhouse to tape an interview with Patty. The friend had spent the afternoon on the banks of a pond learning all about Patty’s SLA sex life. When he played the cassette back to the Harrises, they were incredulous — they had assumed Jack’s friend wanted to talk about Patty’s politics. They had confiscated the tape and admonished Jack in a quarrel that had contributed to their eventual departure from Pennsylvania.
But confiding in Walter was a much worse mistake for Jack. In two months Walter was again short of cash. And he was relying heavily on the bottle. Twice while on binges he found himself tempted to sell Jack’s secret. In early January he phoned the police in Washington D.C. A few days later he called the FBI office in Philadelphia. He gave each the message that Jack Scott had harbored Patty Hearst but he hung up before revealing his name.
The FBI, frustrated for months by the SLA case, routinely chased down the anonymous tips. Agents visited Walton’s A-frame house in Portland to ask Jack and his wife Micki for a response. The Scotts pretended ignorance and the matter was dropped.
Then on the Friday night of January 31st, Walter got drunk again and stopped by the police station in his hometown of Scranton to see an old high school buddy. “I’ve got the hottest fucking story in the world to tell you,” he told Captain Clem Ross. “I know where Patty Hearst is.”
Ross listened and, after Walter sobered up, marched him over to the FBI. This time Walter spilled the full account and then packed off to England and Ireland, flush with a fat informant’s fee and the promise of a future high-paying government job.
With Walter’s information FBI agents soon discovered the SLA’s farmhouse hideout. Lab experts found fingerprints from Bill Harris and Wendy Yoshimura on broken glass and a trained dog detected Patty’s scent in a bed. The FBI had its first solid lead in the months since the L.A. shootout.
Federal grand jury subpoenas were issued for Jack and Micki. Jack learned of them February 26th when FBI agents showed up with the subpoenas at his parents’ house while he happened to be visiting. The agents didn’t spot Jack, however, and he took the opportunity to pick up Micki and disappear together so they could think things through.
In the meantime FBI agents chased down the rest of Walter’s information and located Jay Weiner, a 21-year-old sportswriter who had become friends with the Scotts while a student at Oberlin College. During the SLA stay in Pennsylvania, Scott had asked Weiner to serve as a backup for the fugitives in emergencies. Weiner had refused. But he had seen the fugitives and he knew the essential story of Jack’s affair with the SLA.
Three FBI men found Weiner at 11:00 p.m. March 11th, as he was leaving a friend’s apartment near the Oberlin campus. Weiner was backing out the driveway when the FBI car veered across his path. One agent jumped out, rushed over, pulled out his badge and flashed the gun in his shoulder holster.
“Are you scared?” he asked.
“Sure I’m scared,” Weiner replied. “What do you want with me?”
The agents brusquely escorted the short-haired young writer to a nearby campus security office. There he sat sweating in a brightly lit room while the three agents took turns questioning him.
Weiner felt alone and intimidated. The agents made him believe his whole future was in jeopardy. Three hours later he had confessed everything he knew about Jack.
But Weiner’s disclosures, according to one FBI source, doused the agency’s enthusiasm. He convinced them they were following a cold trail. The fugitives had left the farmhouse five months before, Weiner told the agents, and Jack had not seen them since.
Jack and Micki were still hiding out in tourist hotels under false names while they talked to attorneys about their legal status. On April 9th, six weeks after they had dropped from sight, they surfaced at a San Francisco press conference. But by then the FBI had lost interest in the Scotts. And the federal grand jury in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which had been studying charges against the Scotts, dropped its investigation after Weiner — angered by his FBI treatment — refused to repeat his testimony to the grand jurors.
But Randolph Hearst was very interested in Jack. A few hours after the Scott press conference, while Jack and Micki were watching themselves on the evening news, Hearst was on the phone to a friend of the Scotts.
“If it’s at all possible I would like to meet with Mr. and Mrs. Scott right away.” Hearst was tactfully urgent. “I understand they are good people who may be able to tell a father something about his daughter.”
When Jack heard that Hearst wanted a private audience, he was excited. Patty had told him she did not feel her parents were both equally “Pig Hearsts.” Catherine was an irredeemable snob, Patty had explained, “but my father can be reasonable — he tries to understand why everyone isn’t rich like him.”
Now Scott had a chance to see for himself. But Jack also was leery, afraid the FBI might be using Hearst to trick him into a confession that could be used against him in Harrisburg. In a second phone conversation the next morning, Randolph assured Jack’s friend that the talk would be clandestine. “I give you my word the FBI will not know of it. This is something that concerns only me.”
Scott still hesitated. He wanted to test Hearst’s eagerness. He typed out a three-sentence statement that lauded Jack and Micki as “nonviolent, sincere people [who helped Patty] for humanitarian reasons.” If Hearst would embrace the statement as his own, Scott bargained, he could have the meeting.
The next day the statement appeared, with a minor qualifier, in a front-page story in the Examiner. It was presented as if it were Hearst’s personal opinion.
With that Jack was satisfied Hearst was in earnest. The next night Hearst met the two Scotts at the home of their San Francisco friend. The meeting began with a roast beef dinner. Jack and Randolph quickly struck up a conversation about sports. Jack explained how he turned from star athlete to political activist. “I was a pretty fair athlete myself,” Randy smiled. “Look where it got me.”
The two were still talking and drinking vodka on the rocks two hours before dawn. Hearst was trying his best to put Jack at ease.
Finally he asked about his daughter. “I’m really worried about Patty’s health.”
Jack answered cryptically. “If the person we’re talking about was in fact your daughter, she was in good health when I saw her six months ago.”
“What about her being pregnant?”
“If that same person was Patty, she wasn’t pregnant. That was a disguise.”
“It isn’t true that Cinque was responsible for getting her pregnant?”
Randy asked only a few more questions about Patty. He didn’t want to antagonize Jack. For the first time he was talking to someone who had been underground with Patty. He was just happy to hear she was okay.
But at the end of the long evening Randy made a standing offer to Jack. “If there’s anything I can do for you, let me know anytime.” Jack filed it away for a future day.
Patty and the Harrises read about Scott’s new notoriety in the newspaper room at the Sacramento public library where they occasionally went to keep acquainted with the media chronology of the SLA saga. They were grateful that Jack — having been identified publicly with the SLA — did not seem to be carrying a grudge against them. From what they read he had refused to tell anything to the FBI.
In their accumulated stacks of books and newspaper clippings they still had the unfinished manuscript Scott had helped write before their falling-out. It was divided into a history of the SLA and a political statement of purpose. Bill seized on an idea: They could do Jack and themselves a favor if the manuscript could be sold to a major book publishing company.
In early May an SLA messenger presented the proposal to Scott in San Francisco. If Scott would play literary agent for the fugitives, they would split the profits with him. They planned to revise and expand the manuscript and deliver it when they reached San Francisco in early June.
Scott had not heard from the SLA since the previous fall. He knew nothing of their life since then. But the message seemed like a welcome chance to recover the $20,000 he’d invested in them. So he flew to New York and contacted editors at Doubleday and McGraw-Hill. The FBI investigation of Scott’s SLA connections gave a special legitimacy to his overture. He was told that a genuine SLA manuscript should fetch a six-figure advance.
Scott returned to the Bay Area, excited again about being involved in an SLA book. But the manuscript did not arrive. Instead, the SLA messenger contacted Scott and told him that, because the fugitives were changing locations, they did not have time to complete the book; they were abandoning the project indefinitely.
Feeling abused by the SLA and embarrassed about his promises to the New York publishers, Scott decided to peddle a personal version of his life underground with the SLA. But when his asking price of $300,000 was refused, he turned angry and then depressed. In late June he flew back to Walton’s house in Portland where Micki had returned earlier because she disagreed with Jack’s unilateral decision to try selling his SLA story.
A strange bitterness had begun to consume Jack. “It’s impossible for me to resume a normal life,” he told Micki. “My whole family has been ruined just because I helped out Randy Hearst’s daughter for a few months.”
His brother Walter had become an FBI informant. His mother’s high blood pressure had been perilously increased by repeated visits from agents. His father had gotten so riled by pestering reporters that he’d smashed a TV camera and barely avoided a lawsuit. And Jack himself was nearly broke.
Micki, who had come to feel a sustaining sympathy for the fugitives, blamed all this on Walter’s snitching to the FBI. But Jack had come to quite another conclusion: The Hearsts were at fault for the miseries of the Scotts.
“If that rich little bitch hadn’t decided to play revolutionary, none of this would have happened,” he fumed in a moment of uncontrol. In particular, he now believed Randolph Hearst owed him something — he had hidden Hearst’s daughter away from police guns, he felt, when no one else in the country would.
In early July he called Hearst for another conference. This time Micki argued against a meeting. She feared it might lead to a breach in the fugitives’ security.
So Micki stayed in Portland while Jack traveled back to the Bay Area. On July 11th, 69 days before Patty would be captured, Scott dined with Randolph and Catherine Hearst at Señor Pico, a popular restaurant in Ghirardelli Square near San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.
Based on his talks with the SLA messenger, Jack had learned that Patty’s loyalties were drifting away from the SLA. She was beginning to feel that the SLA’s macho style did not fit with her new sense of feminism. Patty had also expressed an awakening homesickness for her family; she even had talked of secretly visiting them.
Jack kept most of this information to himself. But he hinted broadly to the Hearsts that he knew how to contact Patty and that she might be willing to return if the right arrangement could be reached. Jack explained that he personally could function better as an aboveground radical; the Hearsts felt he was suggesting that Patty might soon feel the same way.
Scott and Patty’s parents drove the few blocks from Señor Pico to the Hearsts’ new apartment on Nob Hill, where they had moved after putting their Hillsborough mansion up for sale. Scott and Hearst continued their talk in the living room of the apartment while Catherine went into the bedroom. They sat on couches in the wood-paneled room, which has the atmosphere of a corporate board room except for an incongruous, two-story-high, domed ceiling. Through the windows they could look out on the famous Mark Hopkins Hotel in one direction and the exclusive Pacific Union Club in another.
As at their first meeting Scott was careful not to say anything that could later become court testimony against him. But this time he was the aggressor, trying to sound out what Hearst’s standing offer of last time actually meant. Jack felt that if Patty could surface with her new political beliefs intact, he could cut a deal and still retain his credibility as a radical. But he wasn’t sure what he could get from Hearst — a lump sum for his expenses and legal fees or a long-term syndicated sports column in the Hearst newspapers or perhaps some other favor that could not be traced to a deal.
Hearst perceived Scott’s motives for calling the meeting. Scott was the closest he had come to his daughter in more than a year of searching and Hearst wanted to proceed scrupulously. Picking up on Scott’s conversation about Patty, he broached a hypothetical scenario for his daughter’s return.
“What if Catherine resigned from the Board of Regents?” Randy asked. “Would that help convince Patty to come back?”
“It might,” Jack answered.
Since their quarrel during the SLA ransom negotiations, Randolph had not said anything to Catherine about resigning her regent seat. But if it came down to a deal, he had decided, he was going to overrule any objection from her. He had never liked her ultra-conservative contributions as a regent anyway. When some of her more vitriolic remarks at a 1972 regents meeting made headlines, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen reported that Catherine was “catching a little hell on the home front.” Catherine told another Chronicle reporter that Randolph “says the only time he wants to see my name in the paper again is in the obituary column.”
Jack again stayed up drinking with Randy until the early morning hours, a circumstance that so irritated Catherine she barged out of her bedroom at one point and confronted her husband: “What is he still doing here?” Jack left shortly after, unsure whether a deal would, or could, ever be worked out.
Then Randolph told Catherine of Jack’s feeling that her resignation “couldn’t hurt.” “I will not,” she snapped. “I don’t trust that little weasel Scott for a minute — he’s just like all those other glory seekers.” Even before the Señor Pico dinner Catherine had tried to convince Randy not to see Scott again. She always had felt her husband’s dealings with these radicals were distasteful and she had hoped he would tire of the failures. But now he seemed more resolved than ever that he would succeed.
The FBI had maintained a watch on Hearst for any move that might indicate he was getting close in his pursuit of Patty. The FBI had paid Sara Jane Moore as an informant and had even followed the Hearst family when they took a Mexico vacation. “We thought Patty might contact you while you were out of the country,” an agent later explained.
The day after the Señor Pico dinner, FBI agents dropped by the Hearst apartment to ask about the meeting. Randolph evaded the FBI’s questions, anxious not to jeopardize his budding relationship with Scott. But the FBI anticipated Catherine’s cooperation and she provided an obliging account.
Yes — Scott was offering a deal. If Catherine resigned as a regent, he would appeal for Patty’s surrender. Yes — he seemed to want money. Yes — he really seemed to know how to get in touch with Patty. That same morning an FBI source tipped off a Los Angeles Times reporter to the talks between Scott and Hearst. The reporter phoned Catherine and she volunteered her understanding of the proposed deal. The next morning, a Sunday, the Los Angeles Times featured a story about the discussion both Jack and Randolph had assumed would remain their secret.
Within hours other reporters started calling Jack for a response. He was enraged and demanded that Randolph deny the story. Hearst did so. But the Hearst-Scott negotiations had been effectively scuttled. The chances for Patty’s return, Jack told Randolph, had been greatly diminished.
The FBI did not think so. They had just stumbled across their most promising clue since the case began.
During the previous long months, according to the FBI’s own account, it had checked nearly 50,000 tips, interviewed or spot-checked some 30,000 persons in the Bay Area alone and, at one time or another, employed 8500 agents — about 75% of the agency’s field force. Fictional sightings of Patty Hearst, according to one source, had taken them as far afield as the Algerian Embassy in Paris. They had put an Alexandria, Virginia, woman in a hospital for several weeks when they traumatized her by bursting unannounced into her apartment on a tip Patty was inside. Another tipster in Colorado had them convinced that Patty had been a show stopper at a radicalchic banquet called to recruit helpers for the SLA.
None of that had produced the missing heiress. But now it was going to be different. “Our luck in this case started to change the same time our opinion about Jack Scott changed,” one FBI agent recalled later.
Until Jack’s July meeting with the Hearsts, the FBI had regarded his SLA connection to have been severed long ago. But if Jack now knew Patty’s whereabouts, and Catherine had persuaded the FBI he did, then a fresh look at him was needed.
The FBI did not fancy the prospect of Patty making her aboveground debut at a press conference cohosted by her father and her former underground benefactor. So, the FBI, which assumed that Jack could be bribed, tried to outbid Hearst.
A week after the Señor Pico dinner, an FBI offer of $200,000 was delivered to Jack by his brother Walter, recently returned from his vacation abroad and still on the take as an FBI informant. Walter also told his parents about the FBI’s proffered bribe and asked them to urge Jack to accept. A day later Walter brought along two FBI agents who made the same pitch.
But Jack refused to take the bait. “Tell the FBI they can shove the money up their ass,” he told Walter. There was not enough cash in the Treasury Department, he said, to buy his cooperation with the FBI. Jack objected to deals with the FBI because of his political principles. But he also realized that the SLA fugitives had read of his aborted talks with Randolph Hearst. If they thought he was dealing with the FBI, there was no predicting what might happen. Already he had received one mysterious phone call that he interpreted as a death threat.
On July 29th the FBI changed tactics and sent 12 agents to Oregon to subpoena Jack and Micki before a new Harrisburg grand jury that had just reopened the Scott case. Micki called a Portland record store that evening to reserve some rock concert tickets for her and Jack. When they arrived to pick up the tickets a half-hour later, the agents were waiting with the subpoenas.
In so doing, the FBI was following a suggestion from Catherine. She had given them the impression Jack was a “nut who will crack if you put some pressure on him.” The subpoenas meant Jack and Micki would have to talk to the grand jury or face going to jail for contempt of court.
Jack was stunned by this turn. Frantic with worry, he appealed to Randolph Hearst, his greatest potential source of power. A week after receiving his subpoena, Scottmet with Hearst in a bar at the Fairmont Hotel, across the street from the Hearst apartment. Jack also brought along Walter, who was starting to sour on the FBI because the promised high-paying job still hadn’t materialized.
Jack wanted Walter to tell Randolph how the FBI had tried to undercut the Hearst-Scott negotiations with its proposed $200,000 bribe. He hoped to persuade Hearst to denounce the FBI at a press conference in New York.
All three drank freely. Walter began feeling guilty about his role in the case and tried to transfer some guilt to Randolph.
“My brother risked his life just so your goddamn brat daughter could play her games,” Walter snarled. “The least you could do is help him stay out of jail.”
Jack told Hearst he had made up his mind to accept jail before informing to a grand jury. Randolph felt sorry for Jack’s predicament. But he couldn’t comply with Jack’s request — “If I speak out against the FBI, they might end up shooting Patty.”
“I thought you were different.” Jack was disgusted. “But I guess you’re like every other rich bastard.”
Their arguing attracted the attention of a drunken onlooker who sidled up and inquired about what was going on. Jack cursed angrily at the surprised drunk and Walter had to restrain his brother to prevent a fistfight.
When the bar closed, the trio went across the street to the Hearst apartment. At the Hearsts’ front door, at the top of an inside stairwell, they again started arguing. Walter threw a punch. Randolph stepped back. The two Scott brothers tumbled down the stairs and landed unhurt by the elevator door.
It was the end of the Scott/Hearst negotiations.
Only a few miles away, in a less affluent district of San Francisco, the SLA fugitives were unaware of the future building for them. They were continuing their daily routine, jogging a mile, debating new actions and trying to mend the emerging split between Patty and the Harrises — oblivious to an FBI dragnet finally closing in.
The FBI itself did not know how close it was. But its agents had happened onto the right track. They had decided that if Scott wouldn’t lead them to Patty, his footprints might. They figured that the lead to Jack’s current SLA connection could lie in his past SLA involvement. They had two leads left over from their earlier investigation of the Pennsylvania farmhouse: Wendy Yoshimura and a red Volkswagen.
The FBI’s first hint of Wendy’s ties to the SLA had been her fingerprints in the farmhouse. Although the FBI did not know how she happened to be at the farm, its California agents assumed correctly that Jack had met the SLA fugitives through Wendy or friends of hers. In their initial investigation of Wendy, the FBI had turned up Willie Brandt, a Berkeley radical sent to Soledad prison in 1972 for bombing a Naval ROTC building. Brandt had been Wendy’s boyfriend; she had gone underground after being accused of aiding in the bombing.
Scott also knew Brandt. They had met at a 1970 demonstration of radical athletes and Jack later had written a letter to Brandt’s probation officer before his sentencing. Brandt could not be Scott’s SLA contact because he was still behind bars. But agents guessed that a friend of Brandt might be. So they rechecked the names on Brandt’s list of prison visitors. One who stood out was Kathy Soliah, a friend who had visited Brandt six times, who had waited tables with slain SLA member Angela Atwood and who had made no secret of her sympathies for the SLA.
The FBI knew of no prior connection between Jack and Kathy. But its New York agents were reinvestigating a red Volkswagen. Neighbors had noticed the VW parked at the farmhouse during the previous summer. Originally the FBI had traced the car to Martin Miller, a New York friend of Scott.
Now the same agents rechecked the car’s registration. The new name on it was Kathy Soliah.
The FBI had begun a preliminary investigation of Kathy in mid-July when it spotted her name among Brandt’s visitors. Agents had interviewed her then but now, a month’ later, they found she had abruptly quit her job at the Plate of Brasse Restaurant in San Francisco’s downtown Sir Francis Drake Hotel.
Friends hadn’t seen her — or said they hadn’t. So the FBI speeded up its investigation. Agents trekked to the home of Kathy’s parents in Palmdale. Kathy’s 58-year-old father, Martin Soliah, still a high school teacher and still a booster of Richard Nixon, was mystified by the FBI inquiry. But he agreed to help find Kathy.
He told the agents he had been sending letters to her at a San Francisco address he presumed to be her apartment. A quick check by the FBI showed that the address belonged instead to the Post Rent-a-Box, a mail-drop service that advertises its services to creditor dodgers for $2.50 a month. Kathy had been collecting her mail there about three months.
This added to a growing portrait of Kathy Soliah as someone with something to hide. Still the FBI found it hard to believe that Soliah herself was a direct connection to the SLA fugitives. Since she had been an outspoken SLA supporter, they figured the fugitives would not risk seeing her in person. If Kathy was involved with the fugitives, they decided, her closest contact probably was with a third party who knew where Patty and the Harrises were.
They hoped that a thorough interrogation of Kathy could give them names of people who might be direct intermediaries. So they placed a call to Martin Soliah in Palmdale.
At the FBI’s request the elder Soliah flew to San Francisco and dropped a note at Post Rent-a-Box. On August 29th, 20 days before the SLA capture, Kathy met him on the steps of the Federal building while an FBI team waited upstairs on the sixth floor for the father to convince the daughter to talk. Steve Soliah and a younger sister, Josephine, also joined the reunion. All three had been living away from home for six years or more.
Kathy assured her father she was not in any trouble. “Then please go inside and talk to the FBI,” he pleaded. “If you don’t have anything to hide, you don’t have anything to be afraid of.”
“I don’t have anything to hide,” Kathy lied. “I just don’t trust the FBI.”
The elder Soliah informed the FBI that his intercession had failed. So Kathy was placed under surveillance, a task the FBI expected to be long, wearying and probably unproductive.
On September 7th, a week after the Soliah reunion, Patty Hearst and Wendy Yoshimura rented a $180-a-month, modern one-bedroom flat in a working-class section of San Francisco, about three miles from where the Harrises lived. But the Harrises, who had just moved on August 18th into a $200-a-month, second-floor flat in a two-story, walk-up building in a Latino neighborhood, did not change locations again. They were not overly worried about the FBI’s renewed interest in Kathy Soliah. After 18 months of eluding the FBI they were confident their success would endure.
General Teko was preoccupied with his latest strategy for the SLA: a bombing campaign in the Bay Area. He had gathered 40 pounds of black powder, do-it-yourself bomb kits and helpful public library books like The Science of High Explosives and Fuels, Explosives and Dyestuffs. Recently they had ordered a box of bomb fuses from Western Reserve Enterprises, a mail-order firm in Independence, Ohio.
One of Harris’s schemes called for the SLA to infiltrate the Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), a longtime target of political violence. Harris had obtained a PG&E job application and had prepared a fictitious work resume. Getting inside PG&E as an employee could furnish information about the company’s security system and where bombs could cause the most damage.
Both Harrises continued to excel at the disguises they wore during frequent excursions through the Bay Area, a territory they found easy to travel in after a year of living in unfamiliar places. They seldom bothered with elaborate disguises, preferring wigs, sunglasses, floppy hats and the casual clothes of the street. But when they used mascara, pencil shadow and brown lipstick to change the lines and complexion of their faces, they could have fooled any old associate who passed them by.
For pseudonyms Bill and Emily could choose from a selection of assorted credit cards, Social Security cards, drivers’ licenses, Blue Cross cards and other IDs they had received by filing phony applications or stealing purses.
Patty kept a similar assortment of disguises and fake IDs. But by late summer 1975, she had lost almost all fascination for the intrigue of the underground. Most of her time was spent away from the Harrises, who no longer seemed like the brother Teko and sister Yolanda she once admired.
The new influence in Patty’s life was Wendy Yoshimura, the small black-haired daughter of Japanese parents who were interned in the U.S. during World War II. Wendy had been born behind barbed wire, had grown up in Hiroshima after the atom bomb and had studied art in California, before going underground. Patty had begun living with Wendy in June 1975 after returning to San Francisco.
The two often fell into long conversations about their fathers and former boyfriends. Wendy had become an articulate feminist during her three years underground and Patty began to appreciate Wendy’s judgment, especially about the two men who had dominated the history of the SLA.
Until recently Patty had been willing to serve as a soldier in the army that had been founded by Field Marshal Cinque and was now run by General Teko. Patty had obeyed all official orders from Cinque and Teko, accepting them without question even if they involved bank robberies.
When Wendy initially criticized the SLA as sexist, Patty had defended Cinque and Teko. But over the summer her opinion changed. She was beginning to view the SLA as a gun-toting gang heavy on machismo.
Patty’s turnabout was reaching a crisis point. She decided she had to confront Bill about her new feelings.
An uneasy tension had been building between Patty and Bill since she’d been sleeping with Steve Soliah. But it did not come out in the open until the SLA settled back into the Bay Area.
Bill felt Patty was reverting to the casual student life she enjoyed before she was kid-napped. He scolded her for growing a marijuana plant in her apartment and complained that she was playing tennis at neighborhood playgrounds when she should have been working on SLA projects.
In early September Patty and Wendy set down their criticisms of Bill and the SLA in a seven-page letter. The two women censured Bill for his machismo and suggested that the SLA’s past violence had more to do with chauvinism than radical politics.
On the evening of September 14th, Patty and Wendy took the letter to the Harris apartment for a discussion. Bill read the letter and lashed out at Patty: “What does this mean? Are you trying to say you can be a better leader than I’ve been?” Before Patty could answer, Bill yelled at Wendy. “This fucking letter is all your doing. You don’t even belong here. You’re not part of our organization.”
Emily sided with Bill. “This isn’t a political criticism,” she argued. “This is a personal insult to Bill. You’re trying to hold him responsible for the things we all did.”
The argument continued late into the night, kept the next-door neighbors awake. Patty and Wendy returned home after deciding to seek the counsel of Kathy Soliah, who was herself both a feminist and an SLA supporter.
Kathy had been staying away from the two SLA houses, waiting for the FBI’s interest in her to pass. But the dispute required immediate attention. And, in the SLA’s cocky estimation, Kathy had already lost whatever tail the FBI had put on her at the meeting with her father.
So Kathy began commuting between the two houses, acting as mediator in the dispute.
The FBI agents who had been watching Kathy were puzzled by the additions to her itinerary. They jotted down the addresses — 288 Precita and 625 Morse — and asked their superiors for extra surveillance teams.
Only one team was sent out. It chose the Precita house and set up a stakeout. On the afternoon of September 17th, a short, muscular man with a black beard emerged from the flat toting a load of clothes and headed toward a nearby laundromat. One agent crossed the street, walked casually past the man and nodded pleasantly while he studied the man’s face.
The “make” fit General Teko. The agents phoned in and asked for orders.
Charles Bates, the FBI’s San Francisco bureau chief, had suffered unceasing humiliations since the early days of the case when he sat sipping Randolph Hearst’s finest liquors. Week after week Bates had waited in his spacious office for the key telephone call, the case-breaking tip. Now suddenly the end was in sight. All that was needed was patience. He ordered his men to sit tight and keep a close watch.
The next morning neighbors of the Harrises noticed four men in a green LTD pull up next door. Well-dressed men in other late-model cars also moved into the area. Bates was among them.
Shortly after noon both Harrises left the house dressed in sweatclothes and tennis shoes for their daily jog around the neighborhood. Bates and his agents waited until 1:25 p.m. when the Harrises returned. Then they swarmed onto the street and handcuffed the couple.
Bates had hoped to spot Patty Hearst before making the arrests. But it seemed reasonable that she was hiding inside the Precita Avenue house. FBI agents rushed up the steps in grinning anticipation of the final SLA capture.
No one was there.
Nevertheless Bates drove back to his office flushed with victory and called a 3:00 p.m. press conference, in time to meet the deadline of the television reporters. A half-hour before the news conference a mop-up crew of FBI agents and San Francisco cops checked out the Morse Street house that Kathy Soliah had visited. San Francisco police inspector Tim Casey and FBI agent Tom Padden knocked on the door. Wendy Yoshimura came to the door and saw a gun pointed at her head. The cop raced in and caught Patty as she took a step toward a closet. He seemed as surprised as she was. “What are you doing here?” he stammered.
It was lucky timing for Bates. He was able to announce the end of the SLA hunt with an understated flourish before 100 assembled reporters.
Steve Soliah heard an initial radio report that the Harrises had been busted. He hurried over to Patty’s apartment and into the hands of the police who were guarding the scene of the arrest. He was arrested and later charged with harboring Patty.
That same afternoon Patty, Wendy and the Harrises were arraigned at the Federal Building. The three women sat quietly but Bill talked out loud at several points during the proceeding and turned often to survey the audience with a strange, uncomprehending smile. Neither General Teko nor Yolanda talked to Tania. But as Wendy stood up from the defense table to be escorted away, she reached over and laid a comforting hand over Patty’s.
Wendy was driven across the Bay Bridge to the Alameda County jail. Steve Soliah was locked in the San Francisco jail. Patty and the Harrises were taken down the peninsula to the San Mateo County jail. Kathy Soliah and boyfriend James Kilgore remained at large.
In the booking room Patty was fingerprinted and asked the usual questions: name, age, date of birth, occupation. Emily stood next to her as she answered.
“What do you do for a living?” the matron asked.
“Are you a student?”
“Well, what are you?”
“Well, I don’t do anything.”
“Well, how do you make a living?”
“Well, I’m an urban guerrilla.”
Randolph was in New York tending to Hearst Corporation business and Catherine was in Los Angeles at a regents meeting when they heard Patty had been caught. It was well past midnight when they arrived at the San Mateo County jail.
Catherine clutched a dozen yellow roses that an FBI agent had provided and presented them to the tiny young woman who had been the most celebrated fugitive of her generation.
Patty smiled tentatively, then hugged her parents. She was still confused by her new circumstances. She seemed unaware of the armed guards and locked doors. Patty listened politely as Randolph told her he was willing to put up the $1 million or more for her bail.
Catherine introduced a subject calculated to be neutral. “Do you want us to bring you some clothes?” Patty nodded. But Catherine could not resist a matronly impulse. “I’ll bring you a few nice dresses and some stockings.” For the first time in the visit Patty looked irritated, as if suddenly remembering a bitter argument of long ago.
The next day she smiled freely and raised a confident fist as she entered the Federal Building for a hearing to decide her bail. She expected to be leaving without the handcuffs. Randolph and Catherine waited anxiously in the spectator seats behind Patty.
But U.S. District Judge Oliver Carter, a social friend of the family, surprised all three Hearsts by refusing any bail and ordering the heiress back to the San Mateo County jail. The judge decided she could not be trusted to show up for trial. Patty was kept in an eight-by-ten-foot maximum security cell separated from other prisoners. Her view out the cell’s tiny window was another wall. There was no outside yard in the jail and a rowing machine for exercise was broken.
Patty would need her father’s money, she knew, to get back outside. Randolph had retained Vincent Hallinan’s law firm more than a year before in preparation for this time. Patty remembered Vincent as the negotiator with Death Row Jeff during Randolph’s early efforts to arrange her return. She had called him “Pig Hallinan” in one of her taped SLA statements and she had not changed her mind about him — when he showed up to see her in jail she called him an “asshole” and went back to her cell.
But she liked his youngest son, bushy-haired Terence, an activist lawyer who had once successfully defended several members of the Presidio 27. He had earned his nickname, “Kayo,” by a propensity to jump into fist fights in his youth. Patty had accepted him as her attorney of record on the day of her capture.
In the San Francisco Federal Building that same day, Terence had talked briefly with Wendy Yoshimura. She had mentioned Patty’s recent disaffection with the SLA. Now, two days later, he sought out Wendy in the Alameda County jail and asked her to elaborate. Wendy explained that in the past several weeks Patty had begun to see that the SLA had been run by two chauvinist tyrants — Cinque and Teko — posing as revolutionaries.
Had Patty’s SLA conversion been part of the tyranny? Yes, Wendy answered. As she understood it, Cinque had locked Patty in a closet, threatened her with death and forced her to follow his orders.
Terence recognized the legal implications for his client. A few hours later he confronted Patty in the San Mateo County jail: “Is that the way it happened? I need to know, if I’m going to get you out of here.”
Patty had told only a few people about her change into Tania. Wendy had been one. Jack Scott had been another. Her talk with Scott had been in 1974, before she’d become disillusioned with the SLA. At that time she’d told Scott that she’d been poorly treated at first but eventually had asked to join the SLA.
Now she looked at Terence and didn’t say anything. She did not want to discuss it.
But Terence persisted. If Patty had never been Tania, her legal problems might be overcome.
Patty realized that the full story of her conversion was much more complicated than Wendy’s one-sided recounting. But Patty hated jail and harbored a nagging fear that she might never get out. After a long hesitation, she agreed to sign an affidavit that told of brainwashing, fear and intimidation.
The next day Terence returned with the affidavit based on Wendy’s information and a notary to witness Patty’s signature. Patty was dressed in a blouse, dungarees and white wool socks. She had sent back the dresses and panty hose that Catherine had delivered.
Patty looked frail and tired and complained of not eating or sleeping well in the jail cell. She chain-smoked and twisted her fingers through her dyed red hair. Up close it seemed a softer hue than the garish strawberry color transmitted by television cameras.
She read the affidavit twice. It claimed that the SLA had terrorized her and that her entire underground life had been spent in a kind of trance. According to the affidavit she no longer remembered much of that time, which was an attempt to lay the groundwork for keeping her from having to testify against others.
Patty asked for a few factual changes in the document. Hallinan briefly left the room and Patty asked the notary for her opinion of Terence’s legal abilities. She assured Patty that Terence knew what he was doing.
“What about the affidavit? Do you think this is a cop-out?” Patty blurted.
“No, I don’t think so. If Terence says you should do it, then I think you should.”
Patty seemed relieved. She picked up a pen, initialed each page of the corrected affidavit and scribbled her name at the end. The notary changed the subject. How were the matrons treating her?
“Oh, they’re all okay except for one,” Patty smiled. “And she’d be okay too if she came out of the closet.”
Terence took the affidavit to Judge Carter and asked that Patty be freed on bail. But the judge again refused. “The average public doesn’t believe one thing she says in that affidavit,” he later told a reporter.
The judge’s decision led to an urgent phone call from Randolph Hearst to one of the best criminal lawyers in the country, Boston’s F. Lee Bailey. Bailey arrived, met Patty and conferred with the two Hallinans. He decided he wanted the case but didn’t want to work with Terence.
Terence was also opposed to working with Bailey and quit the team, telling associates he was getting out because Bailey planned to turn Patty into a prosecution witness. Actually no deals were in the works yet. Bailey was proceeding slowly. He felt the affidavit had damaged Patty’s credibility and he didn’t want her answering questions in court until her entire legal strategy was set.
That left Patty in jail for the meantime. But Judge Carter had appointed three psychiatrists to examine Patty for a possible transfer into a state hospital. The three psychiatrists became her confessors.
The judge had ruled that nothing she said to the psychiatrists during their examinations could be used as evidence against her in court. So Patty talked candidly of crimes and underground activities that the affidavit had claimed she’d forgotten. She also told the psychiatrists a full account of her conversion. Overall it was jumbled and defied easy translation. She refused to admit that she had asked to join. But she admitted being intrigued by the SLA lifestyle. “I was sick of the middle-class life I was leading,” she explained. “The SLA members seemed to have some purpose to their lives.”
Patty’s last day with Emily was a bitter one. Both were being held in the maximum security area of San Mateo County jail; though physically separated and in the presence of guards, they could still communicate. It was the day after Patty’s affidavit had been filed, and Emily began criticizing Patty’s legal strategy. She told Patty that she wanted her to see Susan Jordan, a radical attorney then representing Emily. Patty refused. She no longer wanted her future directly tied to the Harrises. Their argument grew so loud that matrons rushed over to investigate.
That night, the Harrises were secretly flown south under heavy guard to the Los Angeles County jail. There was still one more message from Emily; a tape-recorded communiqué was played to the national media by her Los Angeles lawyer, in which Emily charged the Hearsts and Patty’s lawyers with “brainwashing” Tania.
Patty’s response was to the point: Emily Harris was “out of line.”
Patty seemed to be returning quite easily to her family. She was more mature, better able to tolerate Catherine. On one visit, Catherine noted Patty’s natural brown hair peeking out from under the red dye she’d used while underground. “Why don’t you go to the prison beauty shop?” she asked.
Patty just smiled, as if to say, “Catherine will never change.”
The stream of visitors every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday was steady. She asked to see her sisters and cousins. She also saw old high school and childhood friends. The most frequent visitor was Stanford student Tricia Tobin, her oldest friend. With Tobin, Patty talked the most openly.
But talking freely to anyone in jail was difficult. Her jailers had been taping her conversations and had released one with Tobin to the press. So Tricia and Patty used sign language for private matters.
The jailers had been ordered to stop the taping of lawyers and family. But a late October visit of one friend was suddenly interrupted by a loud conversation accidentally being replayed from a recorder in an adjacent room.
For these reasons the family did not talk to Patty about her life in the underground, fearing that any details might be used against her. Thus visits became awkward — there was only so much family chitchat to cover. Patty told visitors of her horror at seeing fellow inmates fighting and vomiting. She also described odd moments of horror such as when one cellmate staged a fall down a stairwell to avoid a court appearance.
She met with F. Lee Bailey’s investigative partner, Al Johnson, and recounted the details of her case. One visitor had asked her if she was satisfied with Bailey.
“I’m cool,” she answered. “I’ve got it under control.” She had liked Terence Hallinan but understood that the affidavit was a blunder. “It’s too bad about what happened to Terence,” she remarked.
In general, her visitors felt that she was only as depressed as anyone would be, stuck in a holding cell, with the barest sunlight and isolated from other inmates.
“I’m doing my best to keep my spirits up and stay amused,” she told them. “But some days it seems like I just don’t care at all about what happens tomorrow.”
She said she held no grudges against the Harrises and remained close to at least two of her underground comrades — Steve Soliah and Wendy Yoshimura.
She is in love with Steve and keeps in touch through handwritten letters smuggled back and forth between their jails. (Steven Weed has not seen Patty, and she does not want to see him, “not while I’m in here,” she adds.)
As her parents were leaving after one jail visit, a bystander asked if he could peek through the door at Patty. Randolph shrugged, unwilling to cause a confrontation. But Catherine grabbed at the man and yelled, “This isn’t a zoo. Patty isn’t an animal in a cage.”
In a sudden flourish the man’s wife interrupted and rushed past the jail door. “I’ll look at her if I want,” the woman said defiantly. “She’s a public figure now. There’s nothing you can do about that.”
Two years after its birth the SLA is in ruins, its members either dead or facing long years of confinement. The survivors have come full circle — from the prison reform movement to imprisonment themselves.
Joseph Remiro and Russell Little, whose January 1974 arrests led to Patty’s kidnapping, received life sentences for their roles in the Foster slaying. They are currently on trial for trying to kill the policeman who arrested them. Considered highly dangerous, they are held in isolation on the fourth floor of the maximum security section of the Los Angeles City jail.
A year ago Bill and Emily Harris hoped to bust out Remiro and Little. Today the Harrises have joined their two SLA comrades at the Los Angeles jail. They have maximum security cells one floor below Remiro and Little. The Harrises are awaiting trial for assaulting and kidnapping a teenager during their May 1974 getaway from Mel’s Sporting Goods store in suburban Los Angeles.
Because Remiro and Little are acting as their own lawyers, they have the right to interview view people germane to their case. And the Harrises qualify. So in recent weeks the four SLA soldiers meet together under the scrutiny of armed guards. All four stand a good chance of spending the remainder of their lives behind bars. Remiro and Little must face still another trial for stabbing a prison guard in an escape attempt. And the Harrises might be tried for armed robbery, interstate flight and murder.
Officially, Jack and Micki Scott are still under investigation for harboring the SLA fugitives. But the FBI hasn’t come up with enough legally admissible evidence to indict them. So Jack and Micki — who got involved with the SLA to write a book — may not spend any time behind bars. That would leave the Scotts free to resume writing other books that they abandoned to meet Patty Hearst and the Harrises, or at last sell Jack’s book on the SLA.
Jack’s brother Walter is down on his luck again. But he isn’t hoping for any loans from Jack this time. The last time the two brothers met was in Las Vegas shortly after the capture. That same evening Walter showed up at a police station saying he was an FBI informant and that his brother Jack had beaten him up. Police shrugged and arrested Walter for an outstanding traffic warrant. He has since jumped his $50 bail and his current whereabouts are unknown.
Wendy Yoshimura is awaiting trial on a 1972 charge that she was seen visiting a garage containing explosives later used to bomb a ROTC building in Berkeley. She lived with the SLA fugitives in the summer of 1974 and again in the summer of 1975 but apparently took part in no crimes. Even if she is convicted on the explosives charge, she is not expected to receive a long prison term.
Steve Soliah is being held in the San Francisco city jail on charges he harbored Patty Hearst. He has not seen her since the day of the capture. Fellow inmates have begun asking him for favors, figuring that as Patty’s boyfriend he must have influence somewhere.
If Soliah’s worst crime is that he sheltered his girlfriend, then he almost certainly will not go to prison. But he also is under investigation for the Carmichael bank robbery where a woman was killed — a crime that carries the death penalty.
Kathy Soliah and boyfriend James Kilgore have disappeared into the underground. A warrant for Kilgore’s arrest has reportedly been issued.
Patty Hearst probably will end up in court as a defendant early next year. Both Randolph and Patty prefer that to her becoming a prosecution witness — a move Randolph fears would put Patty on an underground hit list. Patty’s lawyers are preparing one basic defense they hope to use at all her trials. The gist of Patty’s defense will probably be that the SLA planned both the Hibernia and Carmichael bank robberies — not for money but to weld Patty closer to the SLA. Hibernia came just at the point of her conversion and turned Patty into a fugitive. (The U.S. attorney general then labeled her a “common criminal.”) Carmichael came apparently when her commitment to the SLA was starting to slip and may have been designed to turn her into an accomplice to murder. Patty’s lawyers will argue that this explains why she did not come home when she had chances to. She did not want to face the heavy prison sentences or capital punishment she now faces. Public opinion has been running strongly against her; however, F. Lee Bailey intends to shift it in her favor by the time her first trial is held, by the careful release of selected evidence from his office, which perhaps explains why he has yet to request from the court the gag order which it would surely grant.
Two years ago the SLA announced itself as a revolutionary vanguard but the Weather Underground and most other radicals have refused to support them. Today the SLA’s members are all either dead or behind bars. When similar groups have popped up in other societies in times of social upheaval, history has judged them not as revolutionaries but as terrorists. Marx, Lenin and Mao all opposed the terrorism of such groups because it could be used by anyone and was, in effect, counterrevolutionary.
By its own standards the SLA failed. It attempted to scare the rich and powerful but managed instead to scare the American people. And history has no record of a people who have been frightened into making a revolution.
“The petty bourgeois, ‘driven to frenzy’ by the horrors of capitalism, is a social phenomenon which, like anarchism, is characteristic of all capitalist countries. The instability of such revolutionariness, its barrenness, its liability to become swiftly transformed into submission, apathy, fantasy and even a ‘frenzied’ infatuation with one or another bourgeois ‘fad’ — all this is a matter of common knowledge.”
V. I. Lenin