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Patricia Hearst

Patricia Hearst

Patricia Hearst (born 1954) was heiress to a wealthy newspaper publisher when she was kidnapped and held for ransom by a small leftist terrorist group in California. She was later tried and sent to prison, along with her kidnappers, on charges of bank robbery.

Patricia Hearst became an American celebrity, victim, and criminal in February 1974 when she was kidnapped by a leftist terrorist group, the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). This obscure Oakland, California, revolutionary group held her for a $2 million ransom. Patricia was the granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, the wealthy California newspaper publisher, but during months of harsh captivity she was allegedly brainwashed and renamed "Tania." To obtain her release, her parents donated millions of dollars worth of food to the poor, but the giveaway became a fiasco and did not result in her release.

Urban Guerrilla

When Hearst was filmed in April 1974 assisting the SLA in a San Francisco bank robbery, the kidnapping victim was transformed in the public mind into another spoiled, rich college student whose unconventional lifestyle led to crime as a self-confessed "urban guerrilla" and "radical feminist." Patty was captured a year later during a police shoot-out. She was convicted of bank robbery in a sensational California trial in January 1976. On 24 September she was sent to prison for seven years, but President Carter commuted her sentence on 29 January 1979.

Public Skepticism

This was a major news story, but with a bizarre twist. The victim received little sympathy because the public was disgusted with assassins, radicals, and revolutionaries. The naive college student who became a gun-toting bank robber found little understanding or forgiveness. The story did not end when she was released from prison. Public fascination with the abduction of the newspaper heiress was stimulated by a 1975 biography, her own memoirs published in 1982, and a movie, Patty Hearst, in 1988.

Further Reading

Patricia Campbell Hearst and Alvin Moscow, Every Secret Thing (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1982).

Patricia Campbell Hearst and Cordelia Frances Biddle, Murder at San Simeon, Scribner, 1996.

Don West, Patty/Tania (New York: Pyramid, 1975). □

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