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Mar 2009
Olson Husband: No Comments for Family's Safety

Former 1970s radical Sara Jane Olson planned to avoid speaking out after being freed from prison because of concern for her family's safety, her husband said Thursday. Olson, who returned to her adopted state on Wednesday after being freed from a California prison, checked in with her parole officer on her first full day back.

Her husband, Fred Peterson, told The Associated Press in an e-mail afterward that Olson could not do interviews because they "do not comply with the conditions of Sara's parole." But in a follow-up note, Peterson backed away from the statement, citing instead strong opposition by some to Olson serving her parole in Minnesota.

"Giving the police union's and Gov Pawlenty's statements, of course allowed by the 1st amendment, our interpretation of parole conditions is that Sara should not make public comments, for our family's safety," Peterson wrote.

Olson, 62, was freed in California on Tuesday after serving half of a 14-year sentence for crimes committed with the Symbionese Liberation Army. Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the police unions in Los Angeles and St. Paul had urged California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to make Olson serve her one-year parole in that state. Schwarzenegger declined to keep Olson in California.

A spokesman for Pawlenty didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment on Peterson's statement. Dave Titus, the president of the St. Paul Police Federation, had written to Schwarzenegger questioning whether Olson's old neighbors would turn her in if she did anything wrong.

On Thursday, Titus said he had "no idea if there are wackos out there" that would attempt to harm Olson or her family. He added: "I guarantee that the St. Paul Police Federation would not condone such and the officers would absolutely do everything in their ability to do everything to make sure her and her family are secure while they're in our great city."

Olson arrived back in Minnesota Wednesday evening, coming home to the state where she spent more than 20 years in hiding. While she was a fugitive, she discarded her birth name of Kathleen Soliah and assumed a new persona as a housewife, mother, community volunteer and actress. By Thursday afternoon, Olson had checked in with her parole officer, fulfilling a requirement to do so within 24 hours of her arrival.

Ramsey County parole office spokesman Chris Crutchfield gave few details of the meeting, but said Olson would be subject to a long list of standard parole conditions. Those included abstaining from drugs and alcohol, not having guns or other weapons, submitting to unannounced searches and not leaving the state without approval.

California's terms specify that she cannot associate with former SLA members or co-defendants, including her brother, Steven Soliah. Though Olson pleaded guilty to participating in the SLA's deadly 1975 robbery of a Sacramento-area bank and helping place pipe bombs under Los Angeles Police Department patrol cars, she was law-abiding in her new life in Minnesota before her arrest. Crutchfield said that may enter into decisions on how closely she's monitored during her one year of probation.

"Because we supervise 16,000 people in Ramsey County in a year we really need to prioritize," he said. "So we set the level of contact based on risk."

Ramsey County's probation officers have good tools for evaluating that risk, he added."Someone who is a predatory offender, we're checking up on all the time," he said. "Other offenders, especially those who've been around a while, we try to tailor it to the risk levels."



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