Saturday, March 29, 2014

Forty Years Later - Patty Hearst: Victim or Criminal?

It seems lost in the mists of time now, but forty years ago the bizarre saga of Patty Hearst made headline news.  Had there been 24-hour cable news networks then, they would have had an absolute field day.  Not only was a newspaper heiress brazenly kidnapped but she later joined her kidnappers and openly participated in criminal activities with them.  It was shocking for Americans to see this daughter of wealth and privilege helping a group of radicals as they robbed banks and planted bombs.  It was also a diversion from the Watergate scandal that was gripping the nation and threatening to bring down a president.

Four decades later, so many questions remain unanswered about the Patty Hearst affair.  Was she truly brainwashed by her captors?  Did she fear for her life?  Did her kidnappers dose her with LSD?  Did she suffer from the Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological condition in which hostages empathize and bond with their abductors?  This condition was named after a 1973 robbery at a bank in Stockholm, Sweden in which several bank employees were held hostage in a vault.  The hostages became emotionally attached to their captors and developed sympathy for them.  It is interesting to note that the Hearst case occurred less than a year after the Swedish case.

Did Patty, as her prosecutors insisted, act willingly and knowingly in the commission of crimes?  If completely innocent, why did she repeatedly invoke the Fifth Amendment at her 1976 robbery trial?  Why did she refuse to answer government questions about her actions during the year before her capture? According to a February 21, 1976 Associated Press report during the trial, Patty's attorneys "faced another legal skirmish today in their battle to keep what they claim is potentially incriminating evidence from the jury."

Let's examine the background of the case in our attempt to find some answers.  Patricia Campbell Hearst, now known as Patricia Campbell Hearst Shaw, was born on February 20, 1954 in San Francisco, California.  She is the third of the five daughters of Randolph Apperson Hearst and Catherine Wood Campbell - the others being Catherine, Virginia, Anne and Victoria

Patty's father, Randolph Apperson Hearst, born December 2, 1915, was the fourth and last surviving son of famed newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst (Orson Welles' 1941 classic film, Citizen Kane, is loosely based on the life of the press tycoon who was Patty's grandfather)  In 1938, Randolph married Catherine Wood Campbell, a Southern belle from Atlanta, Georgia in the city's splashiest wedding of the year. Catherine, a staunch Roman Catholic, was the  only daughter of Morton Campbell, a well-to-do telephone company executive.  She became a prominent San Francisco socialite, a philanthropist and a defender of conservative causes.

From 1973 until 1996, Randolph Hearst served as chairman of the board of Hearst Corporation.  At the time of Patty's kidnapping, he was president and managing editor of the San Francisco Examiner.  Patty and her sisters were raised in the upscale San Francisco suburb of Hillsborough.  In her 1982 autobiography, Every Secret Thing, Patty wrote that she grew up in an "affluent and sheltered environment sublimely self-confident."  A rebellious teenager, she attended the Crystal Springs School for Girls in Hillsborough and then the Santa Catalina School, a private Catholic school in Monterey, California.

It was at the Crystal Springs School that she first met Steven Weed, a math teacher who tutored her.  Weed became her boyfriend and when he received a teaching fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, Patty enrolled there for her sophomore year, majoring in art history.  The couple moved into a Berkeley apartment a few blocks south of the campus and in November of 1973, they announced their engagement in the San Francisco Chronicle.  They planned to marry in the summer of 1974 - until their lives were forever changed!

On the evening of February 4, 1974, there was a knock on the door of the Benvenue Ave. residence of the 19-year-old college student and her fiancé.  On that fateful evening, three armed radicals stormed into their apartment and assaulted Weed, 26.  They then tossed Patty, clad in a bathrobe, into the trunk of a white car and drove away. Bullets were fired as the vehicle sped into the night.

Patty Hearst with Steven Weed

Patty Hearst's abductors were members of an obscure left-wing urban guerrilla group called the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA).  The leader of the SLA was a militant named Donald DeFreeze, also known by his nom de guerre, "General Field Marshall Cinque Mtume."  DeFreeze, who had escaped from a California prison in March of 1973, organized a band of Berkeley activists that hoped to spur a left-wing revolution. The SLA's stated goal was to shut down prisons and to destroy "all other institutions that have made and sustained capitalism."  Kidnapping the daughter of a well-known multi-millionaire was a means of publicizing the group's radical agenda of inciting guerrilla war against the government of the United States.

Donald "Cinque" DeFreeze

In short, the SLA was a small band of domestic terrorists.  It adopted the seven-headed cobra as its symbol and demanded as a core belief, the use of of certain instances of violence - kidnappings, assassinations, bank robberies - that would attract media attention to its Marxist agenda.  The organization advocated revolution as a means of achieving racial harmony and eliminating poverty.  The name "Symbionese Liberation Army was derived from the biological term "symbiosis," meaning a close and interdependent relationship between two different species," thus interpreted as the bonding of classes and races.

Soon after Patty's abduction, the SLA began releasing audiotapes to KPFA radio Berkely demanding millions of dollars of food donations to the poor in exchange for her return.  In response, Randolph Hearst pledged $2 million to People in Need program, a food distribution program for the needy. Yet, that did not secure the release of his daughter.  The SLA was not satisfied and insisted on a larger contribution.

On April 3, 1974, however, the SLA released an audiotape in which Patty announced that she was now a member of the revolutionary organization.  On the tape, she declared that "I have been given the choice of being released . . . or joining the forces of the Symbionese Liberation Army and fighting for my freedom and the freedom of all oppressed people.  I have chosen to stay and fight."  She also stated that she had taken a new new name. From now on, she was to be called "Tania" after Tania Burke, an Argentine revolutionary whom Patty described as "a comrade who fought alongside Che (Guevara) in Bolivia."

What happened next was completely unexpected and absolutely incredible!  On April 15, 1974, Patty participated in the SLA's robbing of a branch of the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco.  The Hibernia holdup landed the group over $10,000 but the biggest spectacle was the image of Patricia Hearst or "Tania" wielding an assault rifle and shouting orders at bystanders.  It was a chilling image and it was captured by video surveillance cameras.  In a stunning turn of events, the newspaper heiress would became a member of  the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List.

Hearst with rife in hand, robbing San Francisco bank with Donald DeFreeze

On April 25, 1974, in a sixth audio tape, Patty offered evidence that she participated willfully in the bank robbery and she referred to her family as the "pig Hearsts."  She also denounced her fiancé Steven Weed as "an ageist, sexist pig" and claimed that the idea of her being brainwashed was ridiculous.

On May 16, 1974, two SLA members, William and Emily Harris, were caught shoplifting at Mel's Sportng Goods in Inglewood, California.  Patty, who had been sitting alone in a Volkswagen van, saw them arguing with the shopkeeper.  She fired a barrage of machine gun bullets in  front of the store and helped them escape arrest.  The following day, SWAT teams surrounded a house in the South Central District of the city where six SLA members were hiding out. All six of the fugitives, including Donald DeFreeze, were killed in a televised shootout with the L.A. police.  Patricia Hearst, however, was not there and she remained at large for over 16 months longer.

William and Emily Harris

Patty's strange odyssey ended on September 18, 1975 when she was captured by the  FBI in a San Francisco apartment along with SLA member Wendy Yoshimura.  She was charged with robbery and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. After her capture, her picture appeared on the September 29, 1975 cover of Time magazine with a banner reading "APPREHENDED."

At her sensational trial, beginning on February 4, 1976,  Patricia Hearst was defended by famed attorney F. Lee Bailey.  Bailey portrayed the heiress as a victim of brainwashing.  In his closing argument, he stated that Patty committed robbery in order to survive.  Here are some excerpts from Bailey's closing argument at the trial.

This is not a case about a bank robbery. The crime could have been any one of a number.  It is a case about dying or surviving --that is all Patricia Campbell Hearst thought about. And the question is, what is the right to live? How far can you go to survive? We all know that it is a human impulse, a generic, irresistible human impulse to survive. People eat each other in the Andes to sur­vive. The big question is, and we don't have it in this case, thank God, can you kill to survive? We do it in wartime, but that is a different set of rules. 

A young girl, who absolutely had no poli­tical motivations or history of activity of any kind, was rudely snatched from her home, clouted on the side of the face with a gun butt, and taken as a political prisoner. 

The prosecu­tor offered only the statement of Patricia Hearst, admitting that she had robbed the bank - and she did rob the bank. You are not here to answer that question, we could answer that without you. The question you are here to answer is why? And would you have done the same thing to survive? Or was it her duty to die, to avoid committing a felony? 

Despite F. Lee Bailey's defence, the jury found Hearst guilty and she was convicted on March 20, 1976. Although she was sentenced to seven years of incarceration, her sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter.  Patricia Hearst was released from prison on February 1, 1979 after being confined for 22 months.

After her release, Patty renounced her kidnappers. She also wed her former body guard, Bernard Shaw, an ex-San Francisco police officer.  The two had met in 1976 at Top of the Mark restaurant in San Francisco, the day after she was freed on $1.5 million bail for bank robbery.  After Hearst's conviction, Bernard. a divorced father of two, drove regularly from his home near San Francisco to the Federal Correctional Institution in Pleasanton, California where Patty was imprisoned.

Patty and Bernard were betrothed on Valentine's Day, 1978.  On April 1, 1979, they married in a classic double-ring ceremony at the redwood-walled navy chapel on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay.  The couple settled in Garrison, New York and had two daughters, Gillian and Lydia Hearst-Shaw (born September 19, 1984). Bernard Shaw, who became vice president of corporate security for the Hearst Corporation, died of cancer on December 18, 2013.  He was 68 years old at the time of his passing.

The marriage of Patricia Hearst and Bernard Shaw lasted 34 years and by all indications, it was a happy union.  In 1996, Patty revealed to talk show host Conan O'Brien that her family had not been optimistic about the chances of her marriage remaining intact.. “My parents gave us a Sears vacuum cleaner as a wedding present,”  she told O'Brien.  “They thought it wouldn’t last.”

Patricia Hearst has long maintained that she was held in close confinement and brainwashed by her SLA kidnappers.  When interviewed on CNN's Larry King Live. (Air Date: January 22, 2002), King asked her if the Stockholm Syndrome was "part of the thinking or not?"

She made the following reply.

I'm sure it was. Of course it was. I mean, they call it Stockholm Syndrome and post traumatic stress disorder. And, you know, I had no free will. I had virtually no free will until I was separated from them (her kidnappers) for about two weeks. And then it suddenly, you know, slowly began to dawn that they just weren't there any more. I could actually think my own thoughts. It was considered wrong for me to think about my family. And when Cinque was around, he didn't want me thinking about rescue because he thought that brain waves could be read or that, you know, they'd get a psychic in to find me. And I was even afraid of that.  

On February 20, 2014, Patricia Hearst Shaw celebrated her 60th birthday.  Since her release from prison, she has lived a relatively normal life.  Any traces of her "Tania" persona seem to have vanished.  She appears to be very devoted to her two daughters and is now a grandmother.  Patty has taken guest roles on television series such as Veronica Mars (2006) and Boston Common (1996).  She has also appeared in four films directed by John Waters: Cry-Baby (1990), Serial Mom (1994), Pecker (1998) and Cecil B. Demented (2000).

The Hearst kidnapping would have been the biggest American news story of 1974 except  for one other event.  In a televised address on August 8, 1974, Richard Nixon, besieged by the Watergate scandal and facing impeachment, announced his intention to resign as President of the United States.


* President Bill Clinton granted Patricia Hearst a full pardon in January of 2001, shortly before he left office.

* Patty's parents divorced in 1982.  Her father, Randolph Apperson Hearst, died of a stroke in a New York hospital on December 18, 2000.  He was 85 years old at the time of his passing.  His second marriage, to Maria Scruggs (originally Maria Pachi of Rome, Italy) also ended in divorce. He was survived by his  third wife, Veronica de Uribe, whom he wed in 1987.

* Patty's mother, Catherine Wood Campbell, moved to Beverly Hills after her divorce from Randolph Herast.  She passed away at the UCLA Medical Center on December 30, 1998 after suffering a stroke. She was 81,

* At last report, Steven A. Weed, born 1948, was a real estate agent in Menlo Park, California.  An unconfirmed web source stated that he married and is the father of two sons.  In 1976, Weed published a tell-all book, written with Scott Swanton, titled My Search for Patty Hearst.  In his book, Weed described his relationship with Patty as "pleasantly routinized with our studies, movies on weekends, laundromat and grocery runs . . . We were just two people.  We were in love and planning to be married."  It was not to be, however.  Patty's kidnapping ordeal changed their lives irrevocably.

* In 2007. Patty's daughter, Gillian, married lawyer Christian Simonds.  Last year, Gillian gave birth to a daughter named Harper - Patty's first grandchild.  According to a March 5, 2014 report in the New York Post, Gillian is expecting her second child, due this summer.

* Patty's youngest daughter, Lydia Hearst-Shaw is now 29 years old.  Known professionally as Lydia Hearst, she is an actress, fashion model and socialite.

Lydia Hearst-Shaw
                  PHOTO ATTRIBUTION: Porter Hovey at 

- Joanne

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