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'American Idol' contestant's link to LAPD attacks brings no protest from police union

California's decision two years ago to allow former radical Sarah Jane Olson to serve parole in Minnesota instead of California drew strong criticism from the union representing Los Angeles police.

The union said the former Symbionese Liberation Army member, who was then known as Kathleen Soliah, deserved no special treatment stemming from her 1975 conviction for the attempted assassination of two Los Angeles police officers.

Now Olson is the focus of renewed attention as her daughter, Sophia Shorai, has been winning rave reviews on "American Idol."

Olson also was one of five SLA members, including Emily Montague-Harris, William Taylor Harris, Michael Alexander Bortin and James William Kilgore, who pleaded guilty in Sacramento County to second-degree murder in the death of Myrna Opsahl during the 1975 robbery of Crocker National Bank in suburban Carmichael.

So what will the Los Angeles Police Protective League do if Olson returns to Los Angeles to root on her daughter in the popular talent contest?

"While we still believe that letting domestic terrorist Kathleen Soliah set the terms of her parole was an insult to the memory of Myrna Opsahl and all the men and women of LAPD past and present, we have no plans to protest or disrupt Sophia Shorai performances on 'American Idol,'" union President Paul M. Weber said in a statement to The Times.

"We harbor no ill-will against Sophia Shorai, who was born in Zimbawbe while her mother was on the run for decades from law enforcement for her role in the murder of Myrna Opsahl during a bank robbery, and the attempted murder of two LAPD officers," Weber said.

On Saturday, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune profiled Shorai, noting that the 28-year-old, who uses her middle name professionally, landed jobs singing in commercials and was a regular in Twin Cities music venues before her current run on "Idol."

Shorai expresses "awe of my parents and their ability to not only love each other dearly after 40 years [but to] promote each other's good qualities" in her video biography posted on the "Idol" website.

Not mentioned is her mother's controversial and well-documented past.

The product of a middle-class Palmdale family, Soliah joined a radical group best known for kidnapping newspaper heiress Patty Hearst in the mid-1970s. Soliah fled after being charged with placing nail-packed explosive devices under police cars.

The devices were discovered before detonation when the trigger on one malfunctioned and failed to explode.

Soliah changed her name to Sara Jane Olson, left California and married Peterson, an emergency-room physician. The couple lived for a while in Zimbabwe, where Shorai was born, before settling in St. Paul,  Minn.

Until she was re-arrested, Olson lived the quiet life of a homemaker and mother of three daughters in a Tudor-style home near the Mississippi River and performed in  local Shakespeare productions.

She was arrested in 1999 after police received tips about her identity from old acquaintances and viewers of the TV show "America's Most Wanted," which publicized a $20,000 FBI reward for her arrest.

Olson began serving a seven-year prison sentence in 2002. Her time behind bars was uneventful until March 2008, when she was released a year early because of a clerical error. She was promptly rearrested as she prepared to fly home to Minnesota to serve supervised parole and spent another year behind bars until her 2009 release from custody.

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-- Andrew Blankstein

 
Comments () | Archives (15)

Leave this girl alone. Isn't this America?

so what? who really cares what the LAPD thinks about her DAUGHTER being on American Idol. What, is she going to get special treatment or something?

Sounds like union President Paul M. Weber wants some kind of award for not disrupting the life of an adult child who had nothing to do with the crime of the mother.
And for that matter, the Mom has served her time so..... where's the story?

First of all, if perhaps she were a lesbian, black or some other minority status then perhaps she would have some chance.

But the fact that she is related to Sarah Jane Olson or a former member of symbiones liberation Army has perhaps done her in or ruined any chance she may have had in winning the competition.

For example, supposing a contestant were related to Charles Manson, this alone would ruin anyone's chances or prospects of progressing further in the competition.

Oh, just leave the two of them alone! The daughter shouldn't have to bear the burden of her mother's sins. Also the mother served her time, paid her debt to society.

so despite the headline of the front page of this web site, there is no controversy.this is a story about something that did not happen. move on please. nothing to see here.

They were all right with having Tom Delay and Bristol Palin on 'Dancing with the Stars' - and the only reason to have them was politics, *and Delay was under indictment at the time*.
I don't see why Olson's daughter can't be on American Idol - she isn't the one who served the sentence. Her mother having served her sentence, her mother should be treated like anyone else, and I expect law enforcement to obey the laws too.

The only way this is relevant to current affairs is if American Idol wimps out and cuts her from the competition to avoid controversy despite her talent. All things considered, however, it's a thought provoking back story. I dare say the greater percentage of Idol watchers are clueless regarding the history of this time period. Maybe a few of them will hit the Google button and learn a few things. There was an anti government movement in this country that was pretty interesting.

The fruit doesn't fall far from the tree. Perhaps the judges let her through because mom was outside the audition. The judges didn't want a surprise gift underneath their audition table. Only reason why this Idol contestant was even born was because mommy had her freak on while she was a FUGITIVE.

Yeah leave this girl alone. Probably coming from the same people who bashed Bush's daughters while Bush was president.

Read the article dummies

The Police Union president said they harbor no ill will toward the daughter and have no plans to protest

I hope they just clear all pregnant women from the set of American Idol. Sara Jane Olson might kick one in the stomach and cause another miscarriage. Or does she just save that for bank tellers?

Much the same way, I do not hold the Bush daughters, responsible for the war crimes of their father, George Bush.

Bunch of pathetic and callow indaviduals on this thread commenting! As a Proud Los Angeles Police Officer, i hope this young lady continues to be a contrastingly productive and law abiding citizen, compared to her criminal mother.

Same as Clinton's daughter. I do not hold Chelsea Clinton repsonible for the chilling cruise missile attacks on civilin targets. schools, hospitals and civilian neighborhoods when her father was president. Something how we can remember some war criminals and not others. Search Clinton war crimes.

On April 21, 1975, SLA members robbed the Crocker National Bank in Carmichael, California, in the process killing 42-year-old Myrna Opsahl, a mother of four depositing money for her church.[9][10] Patty Hearst, who admitted to being a getaway driver during the crime, provided the original information that led the police to implicate the SLA in the robbery and murder;[9] she also stated that Soliah was one of the actual robbers.[9] According to Hearst, Soliah also kicked a pregnant teller in the abdomen, leading to a miscarriage.[11]

Several rounds of 9 mm ammunition spilled on the floor and found in Opsahl's body[12] during the robbery bore manufacturing marks that matched that of ammunition loaded in a 9 mm Browning Hi-Power semi-automatic pistol found by police in Soliah’s bedroom dresser drawer at the SLA safehouse on Precita Avenue in San Francisco.[10] In 2002, new forensics technology allowed police to link these shells definitively to those found at Crocker Bank prior to charging the former members of SLA, including Soliah, with the crime.[9] Prosecutor Michael Latin said that Soliah was tied to the crime through fingerprints, a palm print, and handwriting evidence.[10] The palm print was found on a garage door from a garage in which the SLA kept a getaway car.[13]


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