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


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

dnr trout stocking helicopter

DNR uses a helicopter to more efficiently stock lakes with trout

In the past, the DNR used airplanes to stock remote lakes with fish, but the survival rate of the fish was only 85%.

steve simon zoom call

Secretary of State explains plans for segregated absentee ballots

Election officials are reminding voters that it's too late to mail in your absentee ballots.

Halloween, trick-or-treating

Osterholm on safe trick-or-treating: 'I would say go ahead with it'

The infectious disease expert's opinion doesn't align with the CDC's guidance.

drop and go ballot plymouth

It's too late to mail your ballot, but you can still vote. Here's how.

Voters can drop off their absentee ballot, vote early in-person or head to the polls on Election Day.

2019-12-11 f1rst Wrestling Hanukka Havok-Darin Kamnetz-154

Dusting itself off after virus blow, F1rst Wrestling returns to the ring this Sunday

Minnesota's premier independent wrestling company was on top of the world before the virus hit.


McDonald's is bringing the McRib back in December

It hasn't appeared on menus for eight years.

Apple Valley High School

2 more Twin Cities districts moving to distance learning for grades 6-12

The decision was announced as infection rates in Dakota County rise.

covid-19 testing site sign

Here are the 4 free COVID-19 testing sites in MN for the week of Nov. 2

People don't need to have symptoms or insurance to get tested for free.

minnesota zoo

Minnesota Zoo launches activities to get people embracing nature

The zoo is hosting a pumpkin scavenger hunt and a "Do the Zoo, Not Zoom Day."


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.