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The Kidnapping of Patty Hearst 

Born on February the 20th 1954, Patricia Campbell Hearst was the granddaughter of American publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. William created the largest newspaper, magazine, newsreel, and movie business in the world. Patricia's great-grandmother, William's mother, was the famous philanthropist Phoebe Hearst. The Hearst family had immense political influence in the USA and were strongly anti-Communism, going back to before World War II. 

In 1974 Patricia Hearst was a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley, studying the history of art, and living with her fiancé, Steven Weed. Although Hearst's grandfather was well known and wealthy, her father was one of a number of heirs to the Hearst fortune and had no direct access to, or control over, any of Hearst senior's funds. As a result, no special precautions such as bodyguards were ever taken to protect the family or their children. 

On February the 4th 1974, Hearst's apartment was invaded by armed members of a left-wing radical group calling themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army. Shots were fired from a semi-automatic weapon and Hearst was beaten unconscious.

The Symbionese Liberation Army

The Symbionese Liberation Army was formed through contacts made by a leftist-oriented study group coordinated by a University of California, Berkeley professor. The group believed that American society was inherently racist, and that many African American's were incarcerated purely because of this fact, or else driven to crime as a result of it. In the late 1960s Donald David DeFreeze was an inmate at Vacaville Prison. DeFreeze met with some far-left radicals who were working as volunteers in the prison and was converted to their political ideas. Two of the white radical visitors were Willie Wolfe and Russ Little. This is believed to be the beginnings of the Symbionese Liberation Army. 

DeFreeze escaped from Soledad Prison, where he had been transferred the previous year, on March the 5th 1973. He 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. The SLA acquired resources by stealing from the homes of known and notable leftists in the Bay Area. It distributed literature in which it proclaimed to be opposed to "racism, sexism, agism, fascism, individualism, competitiveness, possessiveness and all other institutions that have made or sustained capitalism".   

In 1972 Marcus Foster, Oakland's first African-American Superintendent, was targeted and killed by the group because of his alleged support of a plan to create a student identification card system. Joseph Remiro and Russ Little of the SLA were arrested for his murder and sentenced to life in prison.

The Abduction

On February 4th 1973 the unconscious Patricia Hearst was taken from her home and transported to the SLA hideout located nearby. Initially the idea had been to force the Hearst family into using their political influence to free Remiro and Little but these demands were not met. Instead, the SLA demanded that Patricia's father distribute $70 worth of food to every needy Californian – an operation that would have cost an estimated $400 million. Randolph Hearst managed to raise $2 million with which he arranged food to be distributed among the poor of the Bay Area. The SLA however, were not satisfied and refused to free Patricia.

During all this time Patricia was kept blindfolded in a cupboard with her hands tied behind her back. Repeatedly threatened with death by DeFreeze, she was allowed out and untied for meals and, as time went by, political discussions. Her blindfold was never removed however. In time she was given a torch and SLA literature which she was allowed to read and learn in the cupboard. Then DeFreeze told her that “the War-council” had decided Patricia must either face death, or else join the SLA in their struggle. Patricia chose the latter. 

Her blindfold was finally removed, allowing her to see the faces of her captors for the first time, and she was given jobs and weapons drills to perform. The abuse and psychological torture did not end there however; SLA member Angela Atwood told Hearst that the others thought she should know what sexual freedom was like in the unit and this turned out to be the precursor to Hearst being raped by William Wolfe, and later by DeFreeze. 

"Tania" and the SLA 

On April the 3rd 1974, two months after her initial abduction, Patricia Hearst announced on an audiotape which was released to the press that she had joined the SLA and assumed the name "Tania". On April the 15th Patricia  was recorded on CCTV video wielding a gun during a bank robbery in San Francisco. As a result of this evidence it was deemed that Hearst had joined the SFA, and was now a willing participant in their terrorism. 

The United States Attorney General William B. Saxbe public ally describing Hearst as a "common criminal". Over the following months Hearst was seen on a number of occasions actively participating in the SLA's crimes including gun battles and the manufacture of explosive devices.  On September the 18th 1975, Hearst was arrested in a San Francisco apartment by Police Inspector Timothy F. Casey and FBI Special Agent Thomas J. Padden.

At the time of her arrest Hearst weighed just six stone, and when tested was found to have dropped seven IQ points from her previous, pre-kidnapping, score. She showed signs of post traumatic stress disorder. A court appointed doctor stated that he had no doubt Hearst had been brainwashed. Her defence lawyer went further, claiming that his client had been fed drugs by the SLA, keeping her in a dazed and complicit state for the duration of her time with them.

Despite all of this however, the prosecution argued that Hearst has a willing participant in the deeds of the SLA. On March the 20th 1976 Hearst was convicted of bank robbery and using a firearm during a felony. She was given the maximum sentence possible of thirty-five years imprisonment. 

Release and Aftermath

A 1976 judicial review resulted in the reduction of Hearst’s jail sentence to seven years, but on the 1st of February 1979 President Jimmy Carter commuted the sentence, and she was released under strict parole conditions. On January the 20th 2001, on his last day in office, President Bill Clinton granted Patricia Hearst a full pardon.  She married Bernard Shaw in 1979 and the pair had two daughters togther. Shaw passed away in 2013. Patricia Heart wrote a memoir in 1982, entitled "Every Single Thing".

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