“The entire group is common criminals… and Miss Hearst is part of it”
The granddaughter of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst was kidnapped from the flat she shared with her fiancé, Steven Weed, by four masked members of the left-wing guerrilla group, the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) on 4 February 1974. The group, led by Donald DeFreeze, who had escaped from prison on 5 March 1973, wanted to overthrow the capitalist state and contained any number of losers and dropouts from every strata of society.
The SLA demanded that imprisoned members be freed in return for Hearst and, when that was refused, wanted the Hearst family to give $70 of food to every poor Californian, around $400 million in total. Hearst’s father, Randolph Apperson Hearst, immediately gave $6 million of food to people living in the Bay area. On 3 April a tape recording was released in which Hearst announced that she had joined her captors and was now known as Tania.
Twelve days later, at 9.40am, she took part in robbing the Sunset District branch of the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco. (The family of Patricia Tobin, one of her close friends, had founded the bank.) The SLA stole $10,960 and Hearst, wearing a beret, carried a sawn-off .30 calibre carbine. A warrant was issued for her arrest. Attorney General William Saxbe said, “The entire group is common criminals… and Miss Hearst is part of it.”
Another tape, released on 24 April, had Hearst calling her father a “pig”. On 17 May the leadership of the SLA died in a shootout at 1466 East 54th Street in Los Angeles. Hearst was arrested on 18 September 1975 at 625 Morse Street in San Francisco. She told her lawyer to “Tell everybody that I’m smiling, that I feel free and strong and I send my greetings and love to all the sisters and brothers out there.” Her trial began on 15 January 1976 and F. Lee Bailey defended her (see also Sam Sheppard and O.J. Simpson). On 20 March 1976 Hearst was convicted of bank robbery and sentenced to seven years in prison.
Apartment 4, 2603 Benvenue Street, Berkeley, California, USA
9pm Monday 4 February 1974
On 1 February 1979 Hearst was released from prison, having served just 22 months after President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence. In one of his odder decisions, President Bill Clinton pardoned her on 20 January 2001, his last day in office. Hearst married her bodyguard Bernard Shaw and has two children, Gillian and Lydia.