LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Sara Jane Olson says she knew she was breaking the law when she helped members of the Symbionese Liberation Army evade authorities in the 1970s, but insists she had no evil intention and never tried to kill police officers.
Olson, who faces 20 years to life in prison when she is sentenced Jan. 18, told the Los Angeles Times she gave SLA members money and fake IDs and helped them rent cars and apartments as they hid from police. She insisted, however, that she played no part in failed attempts to kill police officers by blowing up their patrol cars in 1975.
"I didn't blow anything up -- or even try to," she said during an interview in her lawyer's office.
Olson pleaded guilty in October to possessing bombs with intent to murder police officers, but told reporters outside court she was really innocent. When called back into court and ordered to explain herself, she reiterated her guilty plea, then later tried unsuccessfully to withdraw it.
Olson, who was a fugitive in the bombing case for more than 20 years, said she began helping the SLA after six members of the radical group that kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst were killed in a shootout with Los Angeles police in 1974. Among them was her close friend Angela Atwood.
"I thought I was doing society a favor by preventing more deaths, and it was in honor of my friend Angela," she said Thursday.
"It doesn't mean there are no regrets," she added. "There were just not bad intentions."
Olson, whose given name was Kathleen Soliah, vanished before a grand jury indicted her on the bombing charges in 1976. She was arrested in 1999 in Minnesota where she was living under her new name with her husband and three children.
Olson said she didn't think she did anything wrong flip-flopping on the issue of innocence or guilt. She said innocent people cut deals with prosecutors all the time to avoid long prison terms.
"What did they expect?" she asked. "They knew it was a deal. A plea bargain. What difference did it make?"
She remains conflicted about the plea, at one point calling it a mistake, then adding moments later that it was "the right thing to do."
"But I don't like it," she said. "I wanted to go to trial."
Her attorneys have expressed hope she will be released in about five years.
Olson, 54, said she hopes to use her prison time to learn Spanish and teach other inmates English.
"I don't expect it will be a lot of fun," she said. "But it will be educational in many ways."
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