Former fugitive and radical released on probation after serving seven years in prison

CHOWCHILLA, Calif. – Sara Jane Olson, the 1970s radical who assumed a new identity as a Minnesota housewife while spending a quarter century as a fugitive, was released from prison yesterday, a corrections spokeswoman said. Olson, 62, was freed just after midnight from the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, in the heart of the state’s farm country about 150 miles southeast of San Francisco, said corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton. Thornton said two parole agents picked Olson up and took her to an office in Madera County, where she was processed and released to her husband, Dr. Gerald ‘Fred’ Peterson. Olson served seven years – half her sentence – after pleading guilty to placing pipe bombs under Los Angeles Police Department patrol cars and participating in the deadly robbery of a bank in a Sacramento suburb. The crimes took place while she was a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, most notorious for kidnapping newspaper heiress Patty Hearst. She was released by mistake a year ago after California corrections officials miscalculated her parole date, joining her family for five days before she was re-arrested. Authorities now say she has served the proper seven-year sentence. There was no immediate indication when Olson would head back to St. Paul, Minn., where she lived during her years as a fugitive. She was expected to first return to Palmdale, where her mother lives. Critics, including police protective leagues in Los Angeles and Minnesota, had urged Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to have Olson serve her time in California. They said Olson should finish her parole where her crimes were committed. ‘It is not enough to simply send her off to another state and hope for the best,’ Los Angeles Police Protective League President Paul Weber said in a statement issued yesterday. ‘It was a California mother of four she was convicted of murdering. It was Los Angeles police officers she attempted to blow up. We continue to believe that the community she targeted with her crimes retains the right to ensure she complies with the terms of her parole.’