Patricia Campbell “Patty” Hearst (born February 20, 1954), now known as Patricia Hearst Shaw, is the granddaughter of American publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. She became nationally known for events following her 1974 kidnapping while she was a 19-year-old student living in Berkeley, California. Hearst was abducted by a left-wing terrorist group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army. After being isolated and threatened with death, she became supportive of their cause, making propaganda announcements for them and taking part in illegal activities.
Hearst was found 19 months after her kidnapping, by which time she was a fugitive wanted for serious crimes. She was held in custody, despite speculation that her family’s resources would prevent her from spending time in jail. At her trial, the prosecution suggested that she had joined the Symbionese Liberation Army of her own volition, and that sexual activities between her and SLA members were consensual. She was found guilty of bank robbery. Hearst’s sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter, and she was pardoned by President Bill Clinton.
On February 4, 1974, 19-year-old Hearst was kidnapped from her Berkeley, California, apartment. She was beaten and lost consciousness during the abduction. Shots were fired from a machine gun during the incident. An urban guerrilla group called the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) claimed responsibility for the abduction.
The SLA was formed through contacts made by a leftist-oriented study group, coordinated by a University of California, Berkeley, professor. Its purpose was the tutelage of black inmates, and over time the ethos became increasingly radicalized. Eventually, black convicts were viewed as heroic political prisoners, victimised by a racist American society.
On March 5, 1973, Donald DeFreezeescaped from prison. Radical penal activists and future SLA members, Russell Little and William Wolfe, took DeFreeze to Patricia Soltysik‘s house.The SLA was led by DeFreeze, who, after a prison acquaintance named Wheeler left, was the only African American. By the time the group became active, most of the members of the tiny group were women, some of whom have, like Soltysik and her roommate Nancy Ling Perry, been described as in lesbian relationships. The members included William and Emily Harris and Angela Atwood.
DeFreeze was suspected by many on the radical left of being a government provocateur, but his race and prison time gave him unquestioned authority in the SLA. He also had sexual dominion over women in the group. They acquired resources by robbing the homes of leftists in the Bay Area. The first proposed operation, assassinating the head of the state penitentiaries, was cancelled because of possible repercussions for inmates; instead Marcus Foster, a black educator regarded by the SLA as a fascist who had brought police onto school campuses, was targeted and killed.
DeFreeze’s projections of the military strength of the then dozen-strong SLA group were hyperbolic, and he gave himself a concomitantly grandiose title of ‘field marshal’. Soltysik is believed to have created much of the SLA ideological material, which stated the organization was opposed to “racism, sexism, agism, fascism, individualism, competitiveness, possessiveness and all other institutions that have made or sustained capitalism”.
Hearst’s kidnapping was partly opportunistic, as she lived close to the SLA hideout. According to testimony, the main intention was to leverage the Hearst family’s political influence to free two SLA members arrested for the killing of Oakland’s first black superintendent, Marcus Foster. Faced with the failure to free the imprisoned men, the SLA demanded that the captive’s family distribute $70 worth of food to every needy Californian – an operation that would cost an estimated $400 million. In response, Hearst’s father took out a loan and arranged the immediate donation of $2 million worth of food to the poor of the Bay Area. The distribution descended into chaos, and the SLA refused to release Hearst.
According to Hearst’s later testimony, she was in a closet blindfolded with her hands tied for a week, during which time DeFreeze repeatedly threatened her with death. She was let out for meals and, blindfolded, began to join in the political discussions; she was given a flashlight and SLA political tracts to learn. After she had been confined in the closet for weeks, “DeFreeze told me that the war council had decided or was thinking about killing me or me staying with them, and that I better start thinking about that as a possibility.” Hearst said “I accommodated my thoughts to coincide with theirs”. Asked for her decision, Hearst said she wanted to stay and fight with the SLA, and the blindfold was removed, allowing her to see her captors for the first time. After this she was given lessons on her duties, especially weapons drills, every day. Angela Atwood told Hearst that the others thought she should know what sexual freedom was like in the unit; she was then raped by William “Willie” Wolfe, and later by DeFreeze.
Wolfe’s father’s P.I. Lake Headley investigation results
Headley concluded his investigation, and filed a sworn affidavit of his findings. Among these included:
On May 4, 1974, Headley, along with freelance writer Donald Freed, held a press conference in San Francisco. They presented 400 pages of documentation of their findings, some of which included:
On May 17, 1974, The New York Timesran the story of DeFreeze and the Los Angeles Police Department. However, the story was largely overlooked due to this being the day of the shoot out and conflagration that killed DeFreeze and five other members of the SLA.
In a book he co-wrote with freelance writer, William Hoffman, Vegas P.I.: The Life and Times of America’s Greatest Detective, he presented well-documented evidence that Donald DeFreeze, was a police informant and an agent provocateur.
Headley also uncovered evidence that, in the house fire in LA that killed six members of the SLA, at least one of the suspects was shot in the back while trying to surrender.
On April 3, 1974, two months after she was abducted, Hearst announced on an audiotape that she had joined the SLA and assumed the name “Tania”(inspired by the nom de guerre of Haydée Tamara Bunke Bider, Che Guevara‘s comrade).