tv The Radical Story of Patty Hearst CNN February 3, 2019 4:00pm-5:01pm PST
our first guest, patty hearst, the victim of the most bizarre kidnapping in american history. carried, kicking and screaming, from her california apartment, shoved into the trunk of a car and sped off into the night. four months later, she stunned the world with the announcement she had joined her captors. she became a gun-toting revolutionary and was branded a common criminal. >> less than 30 minutes ago we arrested patty hearst. >> four counts of robbery, five counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to murder >> authorities said they found ten automatic weapons in the hearst apartment.
>> how in the world does the granddaughter of william hearst become a terrorist? >> the symbionese liberation army kidnapped someone from american nobility. >> it's a story that is violent. >> i was kidnapped by terrorists, brutalized by them, threatened constantly that you'll be killed if you don't cooperate. it finally breaks you down. >> my name is william taylor harris. ask me a question. >> did you kidnap patty hearst? >> i personally took patty hearst out of her apartment and put her into a getaway car. reality is not always on the surface. sometimes you have to look a little bit deeper to see what's real. >> is she america's most famous crime victim, or is she the most famous, rich turncoat in american history?
>> the granddaughter of william randolph hearst was abducted by two men and a girl in a bizarre kidnapping. >> no ransom note, no phone calls no word, nothing. >> the sla is the people's army, and we fight in their interests. >> the fbi said the girl in the wig with the automatic rifle was patricia hearst. >> rich college girl turned armed terrorist in a matter of weeks. >> southern california's largest manhunt continues. >> for someone my age, i've been through an awful lot. >> we don't know where she is. >> mom, dad, i'm okay. >> looking at it 45 years later, however long it's been, it
wasn't a simple story. when somebody you love, is close to you, is kidnapped, it's a particular kind of torture. it's very hard to understand unless it's actually happened to you. she did change, and it wasn't too many months before i realized that we weren't getting back together. everything was crushed. it was gone, it was done. but i'm just trying to -- you know, if this is a documentary and you want the history, you want to know what it was like before the kidnapping, that's my answer. 1972, i went to work at crystal springs teaching math and geometry. it was a small private girls' school. she came to some guitar classes i was giving. i don't think she was interested in learning the guitar, she just wanted to hang out with one of the older teachers.
that was the first introduction. she would find ways to talk to me, and finally one day she just showed up at my house for some math tutoring, and that became a constant thing eventually. >> patty and steve always said their romance began when steve was 23 and she was 16. by my accounting, it may well have been she was 15. but as both steve and patty have subsequently said, it was patty who targeted steve for romance first, not the other way around. >> i never would have initiated something like that, but i was receptive over time. she knew what she wanted and she went for it, and she was kind of fearless, actually. >> patty was just 18 years old when she decided to move in with steve weed. and they got a nice little
apartment very near the campus of berkeley. >> her father was pretty easygoing about it. all right. you're going to shack up with my daughter? you just treat her nicely. her mother was very unhappy about it, but she didn't show it. her breeding was to be polite, and she was. and i appreciated it. >> in the 1970s, randy hearst's title was publisher of "the san francisco examiner." >> he would come into the office, although not necessarily be there every day. he would be working at the paper and then he'd say, well, tomorrow i'm going to go duck hunting. just reminding us inadvertently that he led a very different kind of life than the rest of us did. >> the name hearst really meant something in america. it was really synonymous with big corporations, big media, and outstanding, over-the-top wealth. to the extent that california held up any family as royalty, you would have to say it was the hearsts. and that made patty in her own small little way a princess.
>> patty's grandfather william randolph hearst owned dozens of newspapers. and he didn't just own them, he used them for political power and economic power. >> hearst was a larger-than-life figure. he was more than a businessman. he was a celebrity before there were celebrities. >> orson wells wrote and directed "citizen kane" as the life story of william randolph hearst. >> randy and catherine hearst lived with their five daughters in hillsborough, a very wealthy, beautiful community on the peninsula. >> randy treated patty, of his five daughters, the most like a son. because she was tough. he channeled it on the outings they went on together. they went hiking. they went fishing. they went hunting. and he taught her to shoot. >> her relationship to her
mother was a lot more problematic. catherine was a southern belle. she was a woman that had come from georgia, swept off her feet by the cosmopolitan hearst heir. i wouldn't call her snobby, but she had an upper-class kind of attitude. >> her mother wanted patty to do well in school, come out in society, go to college. but basically lead her mother's life. she was in rebellion against some of the strictures her mother in particular imposed on her, like convent schools. she loathed convent schools. and she got thrown out of several of them. >> she wanted independence. she really wanted to become an adult was really what it was. >> i was just a college student
at berkeley. and i was living with my boyfriend. you know, and i was just like a dumb 19-year-old. that's about it. >> we lived in a two-story townhouse. there was still kind of a dicey street scene in berkeley, petty crime, it was fairly rampant. i think three days before the kidnapping, a couple showed up at night looking a little bit sketchy asking about rentals. it didn't seem right. in retrospect, obviously, they were checking us out. but at the time we just dismissed it as a random berkeley kind of thing. but we weren't at all paranoid. we had just finished having dinner, watching a tv show and getting ready to study. there was a knock on the door. there was a woman at the front door. >> there was a person standing there. and i had moved into the kitchen.
what i could hear was that they they thought they had hit a car downstairs, they said, and could they use the phone. and then with that, people just burst into the apartment. this has been a difficult time. tonight at 9:00 eastern daylight time, the president of the united states will address the nation on radio and television from his oval office. applebee's all you can eat is back. now with shrimp. now that's eatin' good in the neighborhood.
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"get your face on the floor, get your face on the floor." your mind is trying to come to grips with what is this? what's going on? started kicking me, hitting me. >> there was just a gun in my face, and i was pushed down to the kitchen floor. i was tied up and gagged and blind folded and i bit down on the gag because i had just assumed that they were going to burglarize the apartment. >> at about that point they started demanding where's the safe? where's the money? i was trying to figure out what was happening. the natural conclusion is that it was a robbery. i could hear patty whimpering in the other room. i said we don't have a safe. take anything you want. just leave us alone. every time i would look up, they would kick me in the face. i do remember the woman saying they've seen our faces, we have to get rid of them. we had this $1 bottle of romance
wine. and he grabbed one and started hitting me on the head with it really hard. even if he was not trying to kill me, he was going to bash my head. it looks like they were going to kill us. by this time my eyes were full of blood. i couldn't really see. i lurched up. instead of running out the front door, i just went running around the living room yelling at the top of my lungs, knocking over furniture, knocking over plants, just banging into things, just hoping the distraction would drive them away. i opened the door, went down to the back patio, jumped over the fence, started banging on the neighbor's door. even in my state of delirium, i could tell they weren't going to answer the door. i realized i was just terrifying somebody inside. and i assumed it was a robbery gone bad. i didn't know at the time. of course, i learned it a lot
later that it was the sla. >> patty hearst was kidnapped by a small, violent revolutionary group called the sla. to understand the sla, you have to understand berkeley in 1973. and to understand berkeley in 1973, you have to understand the '60s and what san francisco became. if you were radical in the '60s and early '70s, if you wanted to change the world, you were at least giving a passing thought to going to berkeley. it had become a huge melting pot for young people who wanted a brighter, more beautiful future. >> there was so much turmoil in those years. there had been the civil rights movement and then the anti-war movement. and young people were rebellious, they were protesting and they had a sense of power that we can make a difference, that we could end the war in vietnam.
>> by the '70s there was anger and an incredible amount of violence that we can hardly imagine today. >> it was as close to a revolutionary situation in some people's minds as we had ever had. once you get beat up a few times by the cops when you protest, you have to make a choice between turning the other cheek or do something more extraordinary in reaction. to the violence of the state. they were killing us on college campuses. >> nixon is definitely looking at students as the enemies in the country right now. we have to go underground. i think it looks pretty bad for us. >> a lot of these groups got even more radical because they believed that there should be a revolution, that it will be an armed revolution that needs to overthrow the government. and so a lot of these groups,
they studied basic marx, they studied lennon, the studied communism in underground cells, and they truly believed that the only way that you could change a society for the better was to have this armed revolution. >> we felt that we had to kind of ramp up the response. stuff was hitting the fan everywhere. i didn't come to this conclusion to do what i was doing in two weeks or a month. you know? it was a huge evolution. i graduated high school in 1963. the civil rights movement was ramping up. but i had no political consciousness of any kind. vietnam totally flipped my perspective. my first day in vietnam, i had to witness a torture of a vietnamese prisoner. when you get in that level of conflict, it's really hard to adjust coming back home. really, vietnam was the precursor to the sla.
i met emily late january of 1968. she was a sorority girl. emily evolved during our relationship from a person that didn't have politics to somebody that felt strongly about her politics. as she got more involved in women's issues, she became more and more radicalized from her own self-interests. >> emily and i got married in november of 1971. we moved to the bay area to get involved in political work. i looked up an old friend from college that i found out was getting more deeply involved in things. i met angela atwood in the theater department of indiana university. she always had ideas, influenced by modern feminist thinking. you know, she went through dramatic changes during the same period. the three of us were interested in getting more deeply involved
in things. we didn't really know anybody to hook up with until i met joe remiro. joe invited me to a community meeting. it was at this meeting that i met another future comrade, russ little. we started planning for the future. we were kind of on a path to where this stuff is going to necessarily escalate. we're going to catch people's attention because we're going to do something audacious. alright, i brought in
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patty and i, we just had a really good life together. she was fun-loving. she was easy to get along with. we had great times together. we had travelled. we went on road trips together. and patty was really getting anchored in her art history. and everything seemed like it was heading in the right direction. patty and i decided we should get married. we announced our engagement through "the examiner," of course. and we were looking forward to it. >> while steve weed and patty
herself are going about their everyday business in berkeley, the sla is starting to form in a very different place, in a prison. one of the key aspects of the political environment in the bay area was the prison movement. for a lot of radicals in the '70s, prison symbolized everything that was wrong with american society. its racism. its violence. its oppression of poor people. and the radicals saw the prisons as a place where they could foment revolutionary change. >> at that time joe and russ were doing work inside the california prison system. it's inherently political if the process of the system hammers people of color more than white people. this is the beginning of things like mass incarceration. this is how we deal with poverty. we lock it up.
>> since berkeley was the epicenter of the protest movement, it was a place where radicals wanted to try to spread the gospel to prisons. and the nearest prison was vacaville. and so you had this pipeline where students and ex-students at berkeley would go to vacaville sort of as teachers, but really as political organizers. one prisoner really stood out as the leader of the political group in the prison, and that was donald defreeze. donald defreeze was basically a professional criminal. he had been in and out of prison his whole life, but what landed him there for the last time was when he beat up a prostitute, stole a check from her and tried to cash it. and he got caught.
willie wolff was an upper middle class kid, a physician's son from new milford, connecticut, who went to berkeley to try to be an archaeologist. but in short order he became radicalized and he became part of this group that spent its time going to vacaville prison, and he became friends with donald defreeze, joe remiro, and russ little. defreeze had a plan. >> back then all the jobs in the prison were done by a convict. defreeze knew enough from talking to the prisoners that manning the boilers is a job outside the fence. the first time they sent him to his job, he stayed there for a couple hours and he was gone. i'm not certain who picked him up. i always thought it was willie. when defreeze escaped, that was the beginning of the sla.
>> donald defreeze goes to the only place he knows that he's likely to get a warm welcome, and that's berkeley. he hooks up on the outside with some of the students who had been visiting him on the inside, and that includes joe remiro, willie wolfe, russ little, and in their social circle are nancy ling perry and ms. moon soltysik. mizmoon and nancy wind up moving in with donald defreeze and start coming up with these ideas about revolutionary change. the three of them become the nucleus of the symbionese liberation army. >> the symbionese liberation army committed a horrendous crime before kidnapping patty hearst. that incident gets lost when we talk about the patty hearst kidnapping. >> during the fall of 1973,
donald defreeze is a fugitive. so he can't be out and about. so he sits in the apartment and he stews. >> and then one night on tv, defreeze sees a piece on the oakland superintendent of schools. >> the schools cannot do the job of education in the big cities alone. >> marcus foster became a controversial figure partially because he was trying to have a police presence in the schools and establish a kind of i.d. system for the students. the concern was that the police would be in the schools not to protect the students, but to control them. defreeze became convinced that foster had to be killed. >> one night marcus foster was
walking from the school board building to his car. >> they waited for the end of a school board meeting. and as he walked into the parking lot, they shot marcus foster dead at point-blank range. the theory was that defreeze, nancy ling perry and mizmoon soltysik were the shooters and joe remiro and russ little were the lookouts. remiro and little had guns with them but they were not involved in the shooting. >> in a newspaper, the sla took credit for foster's murder. it was the first time anyone had ever heard of the group. >> they were proud of what they had done and they put out a press release or a statement saying they had done this. >> the sla was not indiscriminately issuing death warrants for foster, blackburn or anyone else. such an attack was the only
means left open to us to demand that the people's wishes be met and all such dangerous genocidal programs be stopped. >> i was surprised by it. i didn't know they even existed. so i was thinking, oh, my goodness, hell, i thought the panthers did it. >> the bullets that were used to kill him were cyanide tipped. they knew how to draw attention to themselves. >> i've never heard of anybody putting cyanide into a lethal round. i've never heard of that. so it was a mark of the sla. >> my reaction was who the hell are these guys? we had better find out who they are and what they are about. tg between us. listen cassie, there's no need to cry. besides, i've got really great news. you're leaving jessica? no. i just saved a load of money on car insurance
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patty and i had no interest in politics. politics was not part of our life. it was not part of patty's life in any respect whatsoever. i'm emphasizing that because a lot has been said that paints her as who somebody who was already picking up politics. it's not true. there was even a theory floated later very seriously by a lot of people that she had been in on her own kidnapping.
it's crazy. we're very much in the middle of a counterculture movement but it didn't affect us one way or another. everybody had heard of the sla because of the assassination of marcus foster. it was on the news. we had heard about it. we didn't know anything about the people that were in the sla. >> donald defreeze did have a dramatic sense about him. he was the one who came up with the name of the symbionese liberation army. symbionese, which was based on symbiosis between students and prisoners. defreeze too came up with the logo of the seven-headed cobra, and the seven values of each head of the cobra were the same
values that underline the african holiday of kwanza. it would certainly be a mistake to think that the symbionese liberation army had some sort of clear agenda for change. they believed, if you engaged in small-scale but intense violent struggle, that would set off a larger revolution. how it would work, what they would do was very unclear. the sla, in killing marcus foster, established that they were completely isolated, even from possible allies in the counterculture. but then they get three new recruits. >> we were approached and asked if we wanted to meet the people who carried out the foster assassination. emily and i and angela were
taken to a location. hoods were put over our head. and we were led into a van and we were transported to a place where we didn't know where we are. we had no idea. emily and angela and i were just trying to understand what was going on and listen to what they had to say. because of the nature of the foster assassination, i was prepared to possibly not be impressed. joe and russ were not happy with that particular operation. i think they were troubled by it enough to talk to emily and me and angela about hooking up with them and separating off into a separate cell. that was my intention always. combination of impatience, despair, the real malaise of my own existence, you know. and the ineffectualness of the left was what caused me to make this decision. about the beginning of january,
okay, of 1974, when we finally come to that decision. january 10th, 1974, literally changed my whole life. and all of my plans. joe and russ were driving in their van back to the safe house. they were running errands, picking up guns that had been altered. they went to a printing unit and picked up a stack of drawings of the seven-headed cobra. the leaflets were propaganda presenting what the program of the sla was, including recruiting comrades. i don't think they noticed the cop. all of a sudden he pulls them over out of the blue. >> check the car for remiro, r-e-m-i-r-o, joseph. >> instead of coming back to the driver's side, he goes to the
passenger side and tells joe to get out of the van. they're both armed. and they have illegal guns and some leaflets that connect them to something much more serious. they ended up in a shootout at close quarters that had both of them so freaked out that they missed each other. >> 11-99. >> van is stopping. >> we have one suspect and we have the car. >> the leaflets, however, were a big, big problem. that connects them to the foster assassination. >> joe was arrested and he had a ppk that was one of the murder
weapons that he had let one of the women use to shoot foster. >> they were charged with being the actual shooters of marcus foster, and they were not. and i realized that very soon it would be determined that they were associated with us. and so in reality, what we're going to have to do is we're going to have to disappear. >> let me get these lights properly. my always have -- get past 60, that's level. good evening. this is the 37th time i have spoken to you from this office. . (cat 2) smell that? (cat 1) gravy! (cat 2) that's not gravy, that's extra gravy. (cat 1) whoa! (cat 2) that's friskies extra gravy! paté and chunky!
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not long ago, ronda started here. and then, more jobs began to appear. these techs in a lab. this builder in a hardhat... ...the welders and electricians who do all of that. the diner staffed up 'cause they all needed lunch. teachers... doctors... jobs grew a bunch. what started with one job spread all around. because each job in energy creates many more in this town. energy lives here.
a book that you're ready to share with the world? get published now, call for your free publisher kit today! two men, joseph remiro and russell little, were arrested for foster's murder. they refused to talk about their membership in the symbionese liberation army. >> joe and russ were arrested a few blocks away from the safe house. there were so many cops in the area trying to figure out what was going on. defreeze, nancy and mizmoon had to abandon the safe house. they had things that were stored in this house and it had been a safe house i'm not even sure for how long, but a long time. there were boxes and boxes of stuff. after they soaked the house in 20 gallons of gasoline, they attempted to torch the house. and unfortunately someone
lowered the garage door, all the windows were closed because it was wintertime. but when they closed the garage door, it cut off the oxygen to the fire and it immediately went out and left everything in perfect condition almost for the feds and the police to go through. >> the house in which they lived in a quiet san francisco suburb, police found weapons, revolutionary literature and material linking them to the sla. >> my original decision was to be with some people federated with the sla. okay? there's a distinction in my mind. and ten days later, joe and russ are arrested and that throws everything out the window. the circumstances had made our choice for us, we were going underground immediately. >> at this point the sla consisted of bill harris, emily harris and angela atwood, donald defreeze, willie wolfe, nangy
ling perry and mizmoon soltysik. and she had a lover named camilla hall, and she also joined the group. when the police start going through the concord house, they start to find the sla's list. on one of the lists is possible kidnap victims. and there is a young college student named patricia hearst because they had read her engagement announcement in "the san francisco examiner." the police never warned anyone on that list. >> during the months and months before we were ever introduced to the members of the sla, they had been acquiring intelligence on potential local targets, including maybe a couple news articles announcing patricia's betrothal to steven weed.
articles didn't say where she lived, but they gave enough information to easily find it out. the decision to kidnap patricia hearst was the direct result of joe and russ' arrest. we had to do it as a matter of principle. possibly work toward an exchange. it also was the result of our general politics and who we targeted in our minds as being enemies of the people. we had already determined that hearst was a particular easy target and that the propaganda that could be generated from it was perfect. >> bill and emily and angela came out of the theater program at indiana university. and this was a time when theater had a very political component. it was known as guerrilla theater. and they believed in using
theater, in using propaganda as as a way of exposing the contradictions in modern society and recruiting people to their cause. one idea that bill and the others start to discuss is, instead of killing people, why don't we kidnap someone. why don't we use someone as a living pawn to symbolize the nature of our revolutionary activity. >> emily and i and angela's influence was to do things that were more inspiring, that weren't as scary. we had to do things that not only inspired people because they were radical and forceful, but they had to be relevant. patricia hearst was a symbolic target. she was an heiress. her family was in control of a
media empire that we viewed as an arm of propaganda for the united states government. she was more of an innocent if there ever was one, which we're trying to explain is the symbolic connection to joe and russ. she's innocent, they're innocent. we're going to treat her like you're supposed to treat them. it didn't take us long to do the surveillance. she was in an ideal location. there was no security. her front door was right there. handy dandy. and her apartment was blocked from the street, so there wasn't going to be a lot of easy sidelines for people to see what was going on or even hear. i think it was a weeknight that we chose. everybody in the group was involved in the operation. willie's driving. mizmoon is the passenger in the vw. emily's car is parked three spaces down the street. camilla was driving the getaway
nobody saw us going up there. alluded to an accident and asked to use the phone. defreeze grabs wie. angela pounced on patricia and started to secure her with clothesline rope. i'm standing there with my machine gun in plain view to make sure no one came in or out. defreeze believed they were so rich they must have a safe. he's demanding to know where the safe is. you know? of course, they're flummoxed, we don't have a safe. he has no idea that we're kidnapping his fiance. he was scared, splitless. i remember him saying don't harm us, take whatever you want. i remember defreeze saying keep your [ bleep ] head down. he kept looking up, almost like a total compulsion. all he had to do was lay there and nothing would have happened
to him. all of a sudden weed jumps up to escape the front door. i'm not planning on this. a tall, skinny guy. i'm 5'6", 145 pounds, a little light in the ass. now i have to make sure he doesn't leave. here we go. he comes up screaming and he's like looking me dead in the face. i knock him back and i got him a good one. and then he knocked him out some more. not in a position to do anything and ended up looking bad about it. you know? he didn't get himself shot so big [ bleep ] deal. you know? but he would be a dead weed instead of a live weed.
hearst is gagged, blindfolded. she's a petite person. i pick her up, sling her over my shoulder in a fireman's carry and proceed to leave with her. i leave angela and defreeze in the apartment. weed jumps up again. we're gone by that time. he thought he had escaped us. come out to the courtyard, walked down the steps next to the garage. i was losing control of her on my shoulder. i reached down and open the lid to the trunk. as soon as i let go of the trunk and take my left hand to further secure her, the dam spring on the trunk immediately shuts the lid and locks it. she's tied up. i run around to the side of the car, get me the keys. i get the key again. i come around. she's not even there. [ bleep ] . i unlock the [ bleep ] trunk and realize i have to not
do it too hard. i close it slightly and start looking for her. she's like not there. i look around. sure enough, she's hobbled into the [ bleep ] garage. go and grab her, throw her in the trunk. i must have made too much racket. neighbors situated across from her and next door to her came out of her department. defreeze came around, blast fourd or five rounds to get them to back off. that woke up nancy, sitting shotgun in emily's car. she got off a few rounds, too. we're ready to boogie. pull out of the spot. we make it around the corner. all of a sudden out of nowhere, here comes a berkeley cop who stops the vw with willie in it.
now this is not even 30 seconds after all this gunfire. i thiching this is a cop responding to the [ bleep ] gunfire. we're armed to the gils. we're going to get in a shootout with the cop. if he's detaining the lead car, we can't move. we'll have to blast this guy. then we saw the vw. the cop stopped him because they didn't have their lights on. he rolled up his window and went past us. i can see him do this as he's driving by. the call is coming in to him. he just happened to show up a little bit late. and we got away.
>> there has been a big kidnapping on the west coast. the victim is patricia hearst. >> mom, dad, i'm okay. >> she was clearly terrorized. >> do what they say, dad, and just do it quickly. >> just flat-out, barking mad. she desperately did not want to go home. we had to prove that. who would have think that patricia hearst would be robbing a bank as a revolutionary act? i think she was spectacular. >> she's a victim of thought control. >> 56 days in the closet turned her into an urban guerrilla. the police wanted to be the ones who caught us or killed us. >> it is the longest, most intense shootout in the city's history. >> there is a 20% chance she's going to get out of this. >> patty had dramatically
changed. something had snapped. >> she's not a stereotypical hollywood victim. we kidnapped a freak. the name hearst was really synonymous with over-the-top wealth. >> and who we targeted as being enemies of the people. >> assuming these liberation army committed a horrendous crime. >> marcus foster was killed. >> the bullets that were used were cyanide tipped. >> two men, joseph romero and russell little were arrested for foster's murder. >> i was just a college student at berkeley, living with my boyfriend. >> reporter: >> there's a knock on the door. >> people just burst into the apartment.