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Final imprisoned SLA member seeks parole deal [UPDATED]

March 19, 2009 |  5:16 pm

Sla_2 Just as the controversy surrounding Sara Jane Olson's release to Minnesota is beginning to fade, another could be heating up with word that one of her imprisoned Symbionese Liberation Army comrades is seeking a similar parole arrangement when he is released.

James William Kilgore, 61, recently asked officials at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to allow him supervised parole in Illinois after his scheduled release in May from High Desert State prison in Susanville, in far northeastern California.

Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said it is early in the process, and that Kilgore's request has been forwarded to Illinois, which must approve the request together with California prison officials.

Kilgore was one of five SLA members — including Michael Alexander Bortin, Emily Montague-Harris, William Taylor Harris and Olson — who pleaded guilty in Sacramento County in 2002 to second-degree murder in the death of Myrna Opsahl during the April 21, 1975, robbery of Crocker National Bank in Carmichael, Calif. He admitted that he entered the bank with a revolver, but said he did not open fire.

The former honors student and UC Santa Barbara graduate participated in the SLA's radical activities in the 1970s and was one of nation's most wanted fugitives for a quarter-century before he was arrested in Cape Town, South Africa.

Similar to Olson, who refashioned herself from radical Katherine Soliah into a Midwestern soccer mom, Kilgore became a university professor under an assumed name, Charles William Pape.

He eventually was sentenced to six years in prison. During his stint behind bars, he was transferred to federal custody and served time for federal explosives and passport fraud convictions.

Kilgore said at his sentencing that he accepted full responsibility for his actions, adding, "I apologize with all my heart to the Opsahl family."

UPDATED, 5 p.m.: Officials with the Los Angeles Police Protective League sent a letter Thursday to state prison officials stating their opposition to granting Kilgore supervised parole in Illinois.

"I urge you not to grant supervised out-of-state parole to James William Kilgore," union President Paul M. Weber wrote in a letter to the parole board for High Desert State Prison and Illinois Gov. Patrick J. Quinn. A copy was provided to The Times. Kilgore "is a terrorist who participated in two bank robberies and a bombing campaign directed against police officers in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, then fled from justice."

—Andrew Blankstein

Photos: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation