Facts about Patty Hearst
Patty Hearst Biography
The granddaughter of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, Patricia “Patty” Hearst was a college student in Berkeley, California when she was kidnapped in February of 1974 by a neo-revolutionary group calling themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA).
For the next two months, by her account, Patty Hearst was kept in a closet and “brainwashed” by the small group of radicals who targeted wealthy capitalists for what they claimed were political reasons.
The Hearst family agreed to the SLA’s initial demands, which included the distribution of millions of dollars worth of food, but negotiations reached a stalemate. Then the SLA publicized a photo of Patty, machine gun in hand, apparently a willing convert to revolution. She took the name “Tania” (a tribute to the wife of Che Guevara) and participated in the robbery of a San Francisco bank.
Instead of being seen as a victim, Hearst suddenly became a member of the F.B.I.’s Ten Most Wanted List. Although a 1974 assault by police left most SLA members dead, Hearst escaped with Bill and Emily Harris. For about a year she was on the lam, assisted by fugitive Kathleen Ann Soliah and others.
Patty Hearst was eventually arrested in 1975 and convicted of bank robbery. President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence and freed her from prison in 1979. Out of the limelight, Hearst became a wife, mother, author (her own account of the kidnapping and a mystery novel) and sometime actress (she appears in a few John Waters movies).
In 2001, President Bill Clinton granted her a pardon, making Hearst (as author Jeffrey Toobin notes) the first person ever to receive a commutation from one president and a pardon from another.
In her criminal trial, Patty Hearst was represented by F. Lee Bailey, who in 1994 got a slightly better result for accused killer O. J. Simpson… Her account of her experiences was made into a 1988 film, Patty Hearst, with Natasha Richardson playing her… Kathleen Ann Soliah was finally captured in 1999, having lived as a suburban housewife in Minnesota under the name Sarah Jane Olson for nearly 25 years… Patty Hearst’s great-grandfather was mining millionaire George Hearst.
Something in Common with Patty Hearst
- Convicts born in California (2)
- Writers born in California (25)
- Writers born in the United States (342)
- Pisces Writers (55)
4 Good Links
- Nifty project from Cornell University, with notes on Stockholm Syndrome and more
- BBC story looking back on the big news story of the day
- Author Jeffrey Toobin offers helpful background on her life and times
- The New York Times has a nice archive of stories about them