Skip to main content

What ever happened to Sara Jane? Post-prison, Olson finds a cause in cocaine laws

  • Author:
  • Updated:

Sara Jane Olson, the Minnesota woman who served seven years in prison for her involvement in the high-profile 1970s Symbionese Liberation Army, has thrust herself back into the public sphere as she petitions the Obama administration to reduce disparities in prison sentences for crack and powder cocaine.

The Associated Press had a sit-down with the former Kathleen Soliah, who spent 25 years as a fugitive after joining the the SLA, the small group best known for the 1974 kidnapping of California heiress Patty Hearst.

Olson lives in the St. Paul home where she was captured in 1999, and has teamed with her neighbor Mary McLeod in filing a petition Thursday asking the president to exercise executive clemency for prisoners serving time under now-discarded sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine. In 2010, Congress cut those sentences to align more closely with those for powder cocaine, but that only applied to new sentences going forward. The women’s petition says that left more than 5,000 prisoners still serving time longer than the new rules would require, the AP reports.

Olson tells the AP that it was her incarceration--in she pleaded guilty to helping place pipe bombs under Los Angeles police cars and participating in a bank robbery near Sacramento that killed a woman--that drew her interest in the cause.

“The war on drugs is a politically convenient peg on which to hang a lot of things, and that has been done by a lot of politicians,” Olson, now 66, said in the interview, which was in McLeod's living room.

Aside from all that, Olson didn't reveal much about her past, or about what's new since she was freed and returned home after her 2009 parole from a California prison. But, in a surreal moment of American pop culture, we do know that her daughter Sophia Shorai was a contestant on American Idol two years ago.

Next Up

Brave New Comedy Workshop in downtown Minneapolis.

Brave New Workshop cancels shows due to COVID-19 cases

The shows were scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Brave New Workshop Comedy Theatre.

Austin Retterath

Body of missing U of M student found in Mississippi River

Austin Retterath was last seen alive in the morning hours of May 8.

"Love" mural seen in St. Paul.

Summer mural events to bring together community, shine light on MN artists

The 2022 Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival will take place this weekend in St. Paul's Creative Enterprise Zone, with ensuing events happening this summer.


Gallery: Remodeled lakeside home in Prior Lake on market for $2.8M

It offers privacy at the end of a dead-end road fronting onto Lower Prior Lake.

golden valley police department

Carjacking outside ice arena in Golden Valley under investigation

Golden Valley PD confirmed it received a report of a carjacking Monday evening.


Signs that MN Legislature could move to loosen liquor laws

A provision was approved by a legislature committee on Thursday but still awaits a final decision from the House and Senate.

US Bank Stadium

U.S. Bank Stadium looking to hire 400 part-time workers

A hiring fair will be held for the positions.

Screen Shot 2022-05-20 at 8.55.56 AM

Officials looking for man last seen leaving Hudson home

David Mckay, 67, was last seen in Hudson Thursday morning.


'Hyper-contagious' BA.4, BA.5 COVID variants confirmed in MN

Omicron continues to evolve into a more transmissible virus.

covid-19, coronavirus

Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Friday, May 20

The latest data shows there are 442 people with COVID hospitalized in Minnesota.


Who is Anoka Co. jail prisoner Jane Doe?

Identified in court documents as Jane Doe, a young woman was arrested Monday, accused of having broken into an empty house in Fridley, changing the locks and putting up drapes. But once in jail, she refused to disclose her identity. Police find no matches in a national database of her fingerprints.

Police find 16 pounds of cocaine in wooden pallet at Minn. business

Cold Spring Police and the Central Minnesota Violent Offender Task Force are investigating after discovering 16 pounds of cocaine inside a damaged wooden pallet at a Cold Spring business. Investigators found several plastic bags of white powder, which tested positive for cocaine. The street value of the substance is estimated to be between $300,000 to $700,000.