Steve Karnowski, Published March 19 2009
Sara Jane Olson spends first full day back in MinnesotaMINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Sara Jane Olson was expected to check in with her probation agent Thursday on her first full day back in Minnesota after seven years in California prison for crimes the former 1970s radical committed with the Symbionese Liberation Army.
Chris Crutchfield, a spokesman for Ramsey County Community Corrections, said his agents had not heard from her or California prison officials as of Thursday morning. But he said they expected her to check in with her agent in person at an agency office by the end of the business day. The county has several, and he would not say which office will handle her case.
Olson, 62, arrived back in Minnesota Wednesday evening, coming home to the state where she spent more than 20 years in hiding. While she was a fugitive, she discarded her birth name of Kathleen Soliah and assumed a new persona as a housewife, mother, community volunteer and actress.
She returned with her husband, Dr. Fred Peterson, to the home in an upper-middle-class St. Paul neighborhood where they were living with their three daughters when she was arrested in 1999. She declined to comment to journalists staking out Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and her home.
California prison officials agreed to let Olson serve her probation in Minnesota over the objections of Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the police unions in St. Paul and Los Angeles. Parolees coming to Ramsey County from other states generally have 24 hours to check in with their agents.
Ramsey County probation officials will look at the conditions California set before deciding whether to impose any additional requirements. California's terms specify that she cannot associate with former SLA members or co-defendants, including her brother, Steven Soliah.
Ramsey County typically requires that parolees remain law-abiding, stay in regular contact with their officers, let them know if they leave the state, and get approval if they change residences, Crutchfield said.
Though Olson pleaded guilty to participating in the SLA's deadly 1975 robbery of a Sacramento-area bank and helping place pipe bombs under Los Angeles Police Department patrol cars, she was law-abiding in her new life in Minnesota before her arrest. Crutchfield said that may enter into decisions on how closely she's monitored during her one year of probation.
"Because we supervise 16,000 people in Ramsey County in a year we really need to prioritize," he said. "So we set the level of contact based on risk."
Ramsey County's probation officers have good tools for evaluating that risk, he added.
"Someone who is a predatory offender, we're checking up on all the time," he said. "Other offenders, especially those who've been around a while, we try to tailor it to the risk levels."
Dave Titus, president of the St. Paul Police Federation, wrote to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger earlier this month, saying Olson's return to her old neighborhood "is hardly conducive to strict parole monitoring. If having a convicted domestic terrorist living in their midst didn't bother her neighbors, why would the State Department of Corrections think they would report her if she violated parole?"
And the Los Angeles Police Protective League said in a letter to Schwarzenegger on Tuesday that Olson's family in Minnesota could be motivated to cover for her if she violates the terms of her parole.
Olson's attorney, David Nickerson, called that claim "just plain idiotic."
Schwarzenegger said in a response to Pawlenty dated Tuesday that studies have shown that reuniting families protects the public by reducing the chances ex-convicts will commit new crimes.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.