ST. PAUL, Minn. – Gov. Tim Pawlenty sent a letter Monday to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asking him to prevent former 1970s radical and longtime fugitive Sara Jane Olson from returning to Minnesota to serve her parole.
Pawlenty urged Schwarzenegger, a fellow Republican, to consider the requests of the St. Paul Police Federation, the Los Angeles Police Protective League and the Los Angeles City Council to keep Olson in California after her release from prison, which is scheduled for Tuesday.
Olson, once known as Kathleen Soliah, has been serving time in California for her role in the attempted pipe-bombings of Los Angeles police officers and a fatal bank robbery near Sacramento in the 1970s. She was arrested in 1999 after eluding law enforcement for more than two decades, during which she had married and raised a family in St. Paul, acted in community theater productions and did charity work.
She later pleaded guilty to her roles in the attempted bombings and the 1975 shooting death of a bank customer.
The police organizations, both of which have also made written requests to Schwarzenegger, had opposed Olson spending her parole in Minnesota as she wishes. The groups say she should serve her sentence in the state where she committed the crimes.
If Olson's release goes as planned, her attorneys say, she will be paroled to her mother's house in Palmdale and will have 24 hours to report to her California parole agent. The attorneys say that unless there is a change, she then will be allowed to return to St. Paul, Minn., where she changed her name and married Dr. Gerald "Fred" Peterson.
On Monday, Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Lisa Page said she did not know whether the governor would try to intervene in the parole process.
"We received it and we will respond. But we just got it," she said, referring to Pawlenty's letter. "At this point, the California Department of Corrections is following its normal process and no decision has been made. But a decision will be made before her release tomorrow."
One of Olson's attorneys noted that corrections officials in Minnesota have said Olson can serve her parole there if California officials decide to send her home.
"Why is the governor of Minnesota writing to the governor of California? Why doesn't he just deal with the people in Minnesota?" said her attorney, David Nickerson.
"Everyone she knows is in Minnesota. The statute says she's to be paroled to the place where she has the best chance to succeed. That's where her family, friends and home are. She's served her time, she's paid her debt. Now they want to punish her some more. This is just being vindictive."
Pawlenty's letter came as two Republican Minnesota state lawmakers made a last-ditch effort to pass a resolution urging California to keep Olson while she's on parole, but the Senate rejected a motion to treat the resolution with urgency. House leaders ruled the resolution out of order.
Even if it had passed, the measure would have only been symbolic.
"Just because a parolee wants to go to a certain place doesn't make it so," said Rep. Laura Brod, a Republican from New Prague who tried to bring up the resolution for a vote on the House floor. "It's about having someone serve their full debt to the community."
During a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen argued the Legislature should support the law enforcement officers who were targeted by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, with which Olson was associated.
"Law enforcement there certainly wanted her to stand trial but also complete her whole sentence," said Ingebrigtsen, a Republican from Alexandria who is a former county sheriff.
At least one senator questioned the urgency of the matter.
"I think the real immediacy is that we need to deal with Minnesota's budget crisis," said Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, a Democrat from Fridley.