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Former SLA Radical Sentenced - 2002-01-18

A former member of the radical Symbionese Liberation Army has been sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for her role in a failed bombing attempt. The former fugitive will face murder charges Tuesday in a separate case.

Judge Larry Fidler on Friday sentenced Sara Jane Olson to two consecutive terms of 10 years to life in prison for her role in planting bombs under two Los Angeles police cars in 1975. The bombs did not explode.

When she was arrested in 1999, Ms. Olson was living a quiet life in Minnesota, the wife of a doctor and mother of three children. Friends and family members spoke on her behalf at Friday's sentencing, but the judge said the law dictates a prison sentence. He said, however, the sentence will be recalculated by the state prison board.

"Because the law has changed, they must pursuant to law recalculate the sentence. They will take a look at the sentence and they will recalculate it pursuant to their guidelines," the judge said.

The recalculated sentence could be as short as five years or as long as life in prison.

After her sentencing, Sara Jane Olson was also arraigned on charges of robbery and murder in connection with a 1975 bank robbery and shooting. Three other former members of the radical organization were also arrested this week for the robbery and murder. All four will stand trial in the California city of Sacramento.

Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley says the case shows there is no statute of limitations for murder investigations, which may continue for decades. "Another message that I got today," he said, "when you saw these decent people, friends of the defendant, her husband, her daughter, getting up there, there was a lot of collateral damage done to individuals, in addition to the real victims."

The Symbionese Liberation Army was an urban guerilla movement, whose members were mostly young college graduates. The group was best known for kidnapping Patty Hearst in 1974. The newspaper heiress later joined the organization and spent two years in prison before President Jimmy Carter pardoned her.