LOS ANGELES-- In a statement written for her probation report, Sara Jane Olson poured out the story of her involvement with the Symbionese Liberation Army, calling it the result of her dedication to a slain friend and a belief she could help save lives.
Olson, who was sentenced Friday to 20 years to life in prison for plotting to blow up two police cars, maintained she did nothing violent.
"I do not condone violence and I never have," Olson wrote. "I am appalled that bombs were set under police cars, and I am grateful that no one was injured or killed in this horrible incident."
She concluded her sworn declaration by saying: "For anything I have done to harm others, I am truly sorry and gracefully accept the prison sentence to which I am assigned."
The 102-page probation report was filled in court .
Olson, 55, said she was a product of turbulent times marked by the civil rights movement, anti-Vietnam War protests, the Watergate scandal and proliferating drug use among young people.
Against this backdrop, she said she met Angela Atwood who worked with Olson as a waitress and became her best friend. Atwood joined what Olson called "a heretofore unknown urban guerrilla group," the Symbionese Liberation Army.
Olson said she never joined the SLA and disapproved of their violent actions, including the assassination of Oakland Schools Superintendent Marcus Foster and the 1974 kidnapping of heiress Patricia Hearst.
Olson wrote she was "grief-stricken and confused" when Atwood was slain in an SLA shootout with Los Angeles police. She organized a memorial for Atwood and soon was approached by "a heavily disguised Emily Harris," an SLA leader.
"Though it seems misguided now, I thought that giving her money would save their lives," Olson said.
Soon she met Bill Harris and Hearst, and arranged to rent cars for them and help them obtain fake identification. The Harrises and Hearst were then among America's most wanted fugitives.
The Harrises have been charged along with Olson in a 1975 Sacramento area bank robbery and murder in which Hearst is expected to be the star witness against them.
"I knew nothing about Ms. Hearst other than what I read in the papers," Olson recalled in her statement. "I never really got to know her, but from what I saw she seemed committed to her cause."
Eventually, she said the Harrises and Hearst left town with activist Jack Scott who was said to be writing a book about the SLA. When they returned, Olson continued to help them.
"Why would I continue to help after they returned?" she wrote. "There was a certain 'glamour' attached to these three. They didn't seem real in a sense ... (They were) three rather small in stature human beings who I thought would be shot to pieces if I didn't do my bit to help."
Olson said she once helped Emily Harris move into a San Francisco apartment, carrying in carloads of clothes, books and household goods. This, she suggested, explains why her palm print was found there.
She said she decided to leave town when her brother, Steven, was charged with harboring Hearst.
"I knew that would probably be my fate as well," she wrote. When her brother was charged with bank robbery and murder, "I was appalled and frightened," she wrote.
Her brother was eventually acquitted.
In retrospect, Olson said, "I have, for many years, realized that my zeal led to some bad decisions ... I am aware that some of the things I did to help people helped perpetuate a course of action that may have contributed to harm and pain for others. If that is so, I have had to and will continue to live with the agony and sadness that my unknowingly participating in such actions brings.
"I never meant to hurt anyone," she said, "and at the time, I didn't think that I was. I believed that the only risk was to myself, and I felt it was duty -- out of loyalty and love for Angela and her memory -- to help her friends."
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