September 18, 1975: Patty Hearst is arrested
The circumstances surrounding newspaper heiress Patty Hearst’s kidnapping and subsequent sympathy for her captors remain shrouded in murky mystery and intrigue. What is certain, however, is Hearst did take part in a pair of robberies with her captors and was arrested on September 18, 1975, for being a party to the crimes— one at a bank in San Francisco, the other at a store in Los Angeles.
Hearst, the granddaughter of American publishing powerhouse William Randolph Hearst, came from a wealthy family. Her rich resources made her a target for the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), whose members kidnapped her from her apartment in Berkeley, California. During the altercation, Hearst reportedly was beaten and lost consciousness.
The SLA, considered a radical left-wing terrorist group, made announcements in the following days, stating Hearst was being held for ransom. Demands were made to distribute $2 million worth of food to serve Californians in need. A subsequent demand asked for an addition $4 million.
Hearst says she’s joining the SLA
Here’s where the Hearst kidnapping saga takes a sharp twist: Two months after being held captive, Hearst announced in a widely distributed recording she decided, on her own free will, to join the SLA and had changed her name to “Tania.”
It was during this time Hearst took part in the pair of robberies — an act that switched law enforcement resources from seeking her safe return to seeking a wanted criminal.
A long, winding search for Heart’s whereabouts
Nearly a year-and-a-half after taking part in the robberies and amassing a growing rap sheet, Hearst finally was taken into custody in a San Francisco apartment.
During her trial, Hearst claimed she had indeed been brainwashed and was forced to join the SLA. Nonetheless, she was sentenced in 1976 to seven years in prison, though she was released in 1979. President Bill Clinton in 2001 granted Hearst a full pardon.