Crime and Punishment Criminal Justice Juvenile Justice

Two Cases, Two Kinds of Justice: PART 2 -UPDATED


6 PM UPDATE: Sara Jane Olson has just been taken back to prison.
It seems that the CDCR counted on its fingers wrong and forgot that she had another two years on her sentence (even though they said she didn’t), meaning they will let her out in one.

(The CDCR has had
a habit of miscalculating release dates of late.)

CONFUSED? HERE’S HOW IT WORKS: For murder you generally get life in prison, but if you’re Sara Jane Olson that’s divided by 2 because your hair is blond going tastefully gray, and you have a really, really expensive attorney, which means your sentance is now…..let’s call it half-life. Divide that half-life sentence by 2 again because you look very sad and are very, VERY regretful, and your attorney says you can’t get a fair trial because of September 11. [Nope. Not joking.] And then multiply the total by point 5 because your husband is a rich surgeon and he is very sad too, and you told the press that you only did the bank robbery, bomb, murder thingy because “It was in the air. It was impossible not to be involved.” Okay, so now the total sentence equals 12 years. Divide 12 by two because although you were in a bank robbing, murdering, kidnapping, would-be-cop exploding cult, at least your cult wasn’t all robby and murdery in a bad way, like say, a street gang; it was more hip and counter-culturally murdery, which is, when you think about it, VERY different, paradigm-ly speaking. Now were down to 6, but then add back 2 because the cops are super-pissed that a murderer and a would-be cop killer is out, which equals eight, but then subtract 1 because the CDCR looks like complete idiots for doing the math wrong, and that means Sara Jane Olson will get out next March 20.

See, once you understand it, it’s simple.


3 PM: Sara Jane Olson, who was released from prison a few days ago after serving six years of her already low 12-year sentence, was re-arrested at noon today when she attempted to leave the state of California, which is a violation of the terms of her parole.


(Its a violation of nearly any felony parole
, girlfriend. In fact, not leaving the state is Parole 101.)

UPDATE: It turns out she had permission from her parole officer to leave the state, although why she was given permission to do something that most parolees would never have been allowed to do so soon after their parole, if ever, is another question.

Now there is some rumbling from the California Department
of Corrections about her sentence being miscalculated.

The LAPPL—LA’s police union—who had not
been in a good mood about Sara Jane Olson’s release to begin with, was very much in favor of her rearrest, and sent out a new press release to that effect this afternoon. The statement from union prez Tim Sands reads in part:

“Justice is not served if convicted murderer Kathleen Ann Soliah
can simply wander back to Minnesota after having served only a token sentence for murder and attempted murder. Her prison sentence is not completed until her time on parole has been served. The fact that parole might be an inconvenience to her should be weighed against the heinousness of the murder she committed and the coldblooded criminal intent she demonstrated by trying to blow up police officers and innocent bystanders. She was a flight risk 30 years ago, and she is a flight risk now.”

As it happens, I agree with the union,
although for slightly different reasons than those Sands cites. Look, I personally have no interest at seeing Sara Jane or Kathleen Ann or whatever her name is…locked up for decades at taxpayer’s expense. Yet she was convicted of 2nd degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

Now, let’s imagine for discussion’s sake
that a former gang member participated in a drive-by shooting in 1994 when he was young and stupid. Let’s say that, as a result of his and his friends actions, an “innocent” person died. Maybe the victim was sixteen-year-old boy who was a good student at a local high school, or maybe the victim was a mom with kids—sorta like Myrna Opsahl, Olson’s group’s murder victim.

Then let’s imagine that this same gang member went on the run,
like Olson, and managed to elude the cops for 16 years, during which time he mended his evil ways and settled down with a good job, a wife, and became a soccer dad—again, like Olson. Let’s further imagine that, at the end of 16 years, he was caught and belatedly tried for the murder. In our insanely law-and-order world, I assure you we’d throw the book at him. He’d not see the light of day again….ever. If he was over 18, at the time of the murder, it would be a special circumstances case if it could be proven that the murder was gang-related, meaning that prosecutors could ask for the death penalty.

By contrast, middle-class Olson is not locked away forever.
She gets fourteen years, which is reduced to 12 years, and she’s out in six. Then, while out, she and her attorney are piqued because she can’t travel as she wishes. Bummer.

I know a guy who was prevented from traveling from California
to Arizona in order to participate in a two-week LA County-sponsored job training program. His parole officer said, absolutely not.

I know another former gang member who was invited personally to the White House by Laura Bush (I’m not kidding about this) after the first lady met the guy during a tour of Homeboy Industries. When he asked his parole officer if he could go with a well-escorted group to the special White House dinner, she said no, and left zero room for discussion.

I could tell you 30 of these stories. I also know another 30 stories that illustrate what happens if those on parole disobey the rules.

I’ll give you one completely average example:
There was the guy named Robert who was accepted into a great LA-based job training course and was doing well. But one weekend he went to the Pico-Aliso housing projects to visit his baby’s mother, who was also his girlfriend. Unfortunately the area was off limits according to the conditions of his parole. Still, everything was going so well, and his girlfriend had no transportation at the time, so he figured he’d just slip in and out for a few hours visit to see his kid and his girlfriend. What was the harm? The cops spotted him when he walked to the little corner market on Third and Clarence Streets to pick up some orange juice for the baby. Robert went back to prison for another ten months—-for that and for no other reason. (Oh, and you and I picked up the tab.)

There is no question that we are in desperately
need of sentencing and parole policy reform. But, as long as we are stuck with this lousy, law-and-order-heavy mess of a system, at least apply the rules equitably.

HINT: Equitable does not mean one person
gets a 12-year-sentence for second degree murder and gets out in six, while fourteen, fifteen and sixteen year olds commit equally tragic murders and get put away for the rest of their lives, and the rest of us nod sagely and mutter things about “urban terrorists” and “public safety.”

I just attended a juvenile justice working group
yesterday and several of those present were mothers of incarcerated juveniles. I talked to a couple of the mothers afterward. In the case of one, he son was present when a kid was killed in the course of a fight, but took no active part in it. Yet, he and all the other participants were given life sentences.

In other words, Sara Jane Olson,
who participated in a murder and two attempted car bombings can reform, but the kids whose mothers I met yesterday, and those mentioned in the post below (who are, after all, young adolescents whose brains aren’t even fully developed, for God’s sake) are totally irredeemable and must be locked away until the end of their lives.

In what world is that imbalance logical or moral?

So are we terribly sympathetic because poor Sara Jane
can’t leave the state whenever she wants to less than a week after her release from lock-up?

No, frankly, we are not.


  • Added to the argument you make, I have a visceral contempt for that branch of the “’60s/’70s Left.” An old acquaintance of mine who was a veteran of the Weather Underground once admitted that the arrogance and self-centeredness of their politics and “strategy”, such as it was, was intrinsically related to a hubris born of class and/or educational privilege. It wasn’t much of a stretch moving from the elitist, self-referential bubble of, say, Columbia University or the University of Chicago to thinking that you were the vanguard of a revolution.

    So do the fucking time, just like the black thugs you emulated.

  • If everything is so cut-and-dried by race, how you explain John White serving Zero time for shooting 17-year-old Daniel “Dano” Cicciaro dead at point blank range, in the face, when he was unarmed and sitting in a car at the end of a driveway? Sure, Dano was drunk and shouldn’t have gone there (mistakenly thought Aaron White, his age, had posted porn on the internet about a cousin, based on what he’d been told), but the teens were unarmed.

    Wouldn’t the normal thing to do to have been, call the cops to get rid of them? They have a much shorter response time out there in Long Island, NY. They posed no imminent danger and the whole case was built on the assumption that they were “a lynch mob,” when they were dumb drunk kids. John White, the father, is out on $200,ooo bail while Cicciaro’s dad is made out as the racist, threatened with a “hate speech” lawsuit, for saying that if the situation were reversed, the white dad would have gotten time and national notoriety. (Rest of story in thread below, with background link to a piece in the New Yorker.) We could cite the Duke case, and go back and forth with numerous others.

    What this really shows is how erratic our justice system is. How imperfect all around. But much as I hate the whole pseudo-revolutionary of Olson’s era as well, a couple of kids who grab a gun and shoot an innocent kid dead because they’re already mired in the gang culture (and have parents who are criminals — how can social services not have taken the kids away, when middle class kids are taken away for an alleged spanking?), ARE a danger.

    What I do agree on is, how sad it is that kids that young are already considered “unfixable,” that our “rehabilitation” system does the opposite, just continues to fail the very kids whose parents have failed them first.

  • In fact, it sounds like Olson is the victim of being on the wrong side of the Police Protective League, who continues to oppose her release and wanted her back because of the cop car involved. The L A Times article quotes as their expert a U C Santa Clara prof. who’s the head of some California Justice Org, saying he’s never heard of such a think — it wasn’t a “mistake,” but clearly the result of pressure.

    Sands of the Protective League claims that she’s still “a flight risk,” referring to a planned trip to see her family in Minnesota. If they want to have the public’s respect, they can’t treat people in this biased a way just because a cop car was targeted (but no one got hurt). The blogs are running about 10:1 outraged against dragging her back to jail, arguing that there are gangbangers and real criminals out there that should be getting this kind of attention. She’s actually more of a Paris Hilton writ large than the symbol of white, middle-aged, middle-class privilege.

  • I don’t think it’s always about race. But I do think it’s often about class.

    This is not to say, by the way, that I don’t think the LAPPL is capable of doing all it can to pressure anybody within reach to have Olson locked up, but I think it’s very likely that the CDCR just screwed up. As for the Santa Clara prof, he just needs to get out more. Remember this post from December about the 33,000 prisoners who may have not had their sentences properly calculated so were spending months more in prison than they were supposed to?

    By the way, the John White piece by Trillin is fascinating.

    Here’s the link again for anyone who missed it on the earlier thread:

  • I know how dangerous it is to point out instances when “WBC” makes statements that are unwarranted, but it’s an indication of ignorance and bias to simply state that Daniel Ciccaro was shot while “sitting in a car at the end of a driveway.” The testimony by White, noted in various journalistic reports – and no one including me or certainly “WBC” knows exactly what actually happened – is that Ciccaro grabbed at White’s gun when he was shot. This after the group angrily followed the son home for supposedly making advances to a white girl. They brought along a baseball bat, but it was not being brandished by Ciccaro when he was shot. He was, apparently – and I would suggest that whatever logic can be mustered in the face of such cruel and irrational fate for all concerned supports this version – engaged in some sort of confrontation with the Whites, which he’d obviously sought or he wouldn’t be there, and it’s not a statement of fact to characterize him as simply sitting in a car at the end of a driveway. None of us can state the “facts” but we can at least report accurately what the contentions are. This confrontation – and possibly grabbing of the gun – explains the manslaughter charge, among other things.

    I’m writing this in my Che Guevara teeshirt and I’m vile scum, uneducated, never been anywhere, etc etc. ad nauseum, but I just couldn’t help but point out, once again, what an unreliable narrator “WBC” happens to be, for whatever reasons. Don’t care really.

  • It’s also a misstatement to characterize White as “serving Zero time” when he’s out on bail during appeal of a manslaughter conviction that carries 2-4, unless the appeal is successful for some reason. It’s not unusual in cases of folks with no record to wait on their appeal before serving sentence for a conviction.

    Just saying…

  • “We could cite the Duke case”…except that it bears no relation to the White-Ciccaro case at all. Also the characterization of the father’s remarks is, shall we say, “spin” to put it in seasonal parlance. The father shouted “Fuck you!” at White’s son and wife, “You let that motherfucker walk?” at the court followed by “Let’s see what happens when Aaron White (the son) gets shot. Let’s see what the laws are then.” I don’t believe he was actually making a threat, but it could sound like one if you were on the wrong end of it. Again, we’re getting an interpretive twist from WBC that leaves a bit too much that any reader deserves to know out of the story.

  • I heard that, WBC who has traveled everywhere and knows everything, was across the street from John White’s house at the time of the shooting. WBC will be appointed to Hillary Clinton’s Staff, at a newly designated post – “Ms. Know It All”.

  • I don’t have information past the Trillin piece but, after reading that article carefully, I’d say this was clearly a manslaughter case, not a murder case. Whether White should have been convicted depends on the details and whom you believe. But, whether one believes White or the dead kid’s friends, at the very most, White was fearful and overreacted. That’s manslaughter—“imperfect self defense.” Period. It’s not murder. It is, however, pure tragedy for all concerned.

    The fact that the grand jury was doing its best to be balanced and appropriate in the charges it brought down suggests that we’ve made some progress.

  • How nice to read this vitriol by resident poster reg on Easter eve. How relevant it all is to his point. The fact is, Dano and friends remained by their car at the end of the driveway, the Whites could have and should have called the cops to check it out, instead of running out with a gun.

    Forensics shows that Dano was shot at 3′ point-blank range with a shotgun — sure, it’s very likely he’d have tried to push the gun away, as for the “grabbing” part. Fact is, White has served no time and if the jury buys that this was all a hate crime, he won’t. The two years he was given here seemed more than reasonable to most objective observers for what he did, shooting an unarmed teen dead the way he did — when the whole confrontation could have been avoided, since the kids weren’t breaking or forcing their way into the house.

    Yet no sympathy from the Celestes of the world for this kid and his family, who are very apt with vivid backstory for minority kids who shoot a total innocent because they’re “trying to defend someone’s honor” (as Dano mistakenly was, since we’re forcing analogies here) and pose an imminent danger to society and already have a rap sheet at 14-15. (And equally vivid descriptions depicting Olson as someone who gets sympathy by virtue of her blonde hair elegantly turning gray and ability to look so sad, whatever your exact terms were. Yes, I sometimes do paraphrase — this is a blog, not my job as a reporter — but anyone can refer to the original sources themselves.)

    By the way, both the Whites and Cicciaros are of the same social class — successful blue collar — vs. the more educated, white-collar average demographic of their community. (A community which the New Yorker piece — talk about “elitist” publications” — describes as homes selling around a half million, and to which the Whites moved for the better schools associated with that price range. (Gee, funny how that’s considered a normal correlation everywhere in the country, but when the horrible westsiders expect decent schools for their homes that cost millions, to some here that’s not just un- P C but reactionary.) Aaron White admits here and elsewhere that he is normally NOT subject to any kind of discrimination, however, so this was unusual. (Althemore reason that “fearing a lynch mob” seems a misuse of that defense — even their lawyers in court admitted that was the case only in a broad historical context, NOT from any personal discrimination or previous tensions between Aaron White and Daniel Cicciaro.)

    As for the last para that reg attributes to himself in #5, he demonstrates that he is worthy of earning his own characterizations of himself. How sad to be so twisted. (Like his “logic.”) I just came from a children’s Easter service and am in a cheery mood, about to go on an egg hunt, and won’t let him upset my day. We’ll even pray for him.

  • WBC, my heart breaks beyond expression for every parent who loses a kid, and for the kid who doesn’t get to grow up and have his or her life. Whatever my other failings, surely that one thing is clear by now.

    Have a good and happy egg hunt.

  • The topic of discussion is L.A. westside schools? Sara Olson attended west-side school?

  • WBC – I don’t need your prayers. You’ve already got your hands full in that department, given the toxic personality on display here.

    As for the rest of it, “there you go again.” Dano was shot with the Baretta that John White brandished, not a shotgun. This is no comfort to anyone involved in the case, but it surely is proof once more that you are careless and random with your alleged “facts” and the inferences you attempt to draw from them. The essentially point-blank range is consistent with the defense contention that Dano – who was apparently quite drunk – lunged at or tried to grab the gun. We don’t know this a “truth,” but it’s quite a different picture than your assertion that the kid was shot sitting in his car – which IS simply false – or that the weapon was a shotgun. This is still a disturbing and muddy picture, but it’s not the picture you paint. Maybe rather than throw crap at me you might try cleaning up your act when you write this stuff.

  • Celeste:
    I always respect your opinion even when I disagree with you. This time, I strongly agree with your point of view. It pains all of us in the criminal justice system to admit that sentencing decisions can be so tainted by class, race and gender considerations. It cannot be denied, however, that if Kathleen Soliah (the “Olson” moniker was just an alias to allow her to remain a fugitive)had been a minority male, he would not have been released after only six years in prison after being convicted of a second degree murder and attempting to kill police officers in two separate bombing attempts. By the way, this was not about attacking a “cop car,” as one poster has described it. The bombs were rigged to go off when the cars were occupied and moved. The only reason the first bomb (in Hollywood) didn’t detonate was that the car was backed out of a restaurant parking space at an unusual angle. The second bomb (in Hollenbeck Division) was discovered when all police cars were ordered inspected after the discovery of the first device. Yeah, the cops take attempts at assassinating them pretty seriously. But race and class considerations are not supposed to let murderers off the hook. So, do you think the LA Times could tell us about that community theater thing one more time?

  • reg, you need everyone’s collective prayers, but you’re right, they won’t help at this point. Plus you missed out on common manners, decency, and ability to listen to others’ opinions that don’t match your narrow views, without vitriol. I’ve never felt such continued negative energy and hatred from one source, so whether Christian or Buddhist, I must push it back at you through prayer. It’s the only way — for the recipient of your vile hatred and words, as much as for you. He has pity for the evil that they represent. That’s how the Dalai Lama has coped with China’s hostility and lies all these years — clearly, that’s not enough for this generation. But they must try, in his spirit. Om mane padme om, Happy Easter anyway.

  • and reg, only a sad psychotic could continue to argue that it’s perfectly defensible to go out of your house to shoot a kid in his car at the end of one’s driveway. He had friends to corroborate his story while White admits he was irrational and, in retrospect, should have had his wife call the cops. (If it were acceptable behavior, people and paps would be getting shot all over L A daily — despite walls, can’t tell you how often they’ve invaded my property to get a better spy on a celeb neighbor, even scaring me at night, and I have to keep calling security.) But to lace your screamings with this personal vitriol, after you allegedly “did the family thing” for Easter… fortunately, you represent some very small percentage of the general public or there would be no hope for this country. Om mane padme om…

  • I respect Sergio Diaz’s arguments and point of view, but frankly, his comments seem to corroborate the theory that it was political pressure from the PPL that got her hauled back to jail so quickly. One commenter on the Daily News story (a much more blue collar, law-and-order blog than most), notes that her being re-arrested at LAX as she was about to board a plane to Minnesota with previous permission from the Courts, is mental cruelty. How often does “the law” swoop down on someone with that force and intensity, with those released too early? (Yes, it’s much more tragic that some innocents, like the black man just released after 25 years, were ever locked up and lost their lives — but the one case doesn’t necessarily have to do with the other, each is individual.) She shouldn’t pay because the system makes errors in the other extreme.

    That’s really what this is about, not her actually being a flight risk, as Sands claimed. She’s certainly not a risk to public safety. Daniel Cicciaro’s parents and neighbors were infuriated by what they saw as the excessive leniency of the sentence, too — the courts can be erratic overall.

  • “only a sad psychotic could continue to argue that it’s perfectly defensible to go out of your house to shoot a kid in his car at the end of one’s driveway”

    And only a sad psychotic would continue to either argue that’s the point of my correcting your wild misstatements or display the arrogant petulance that is – consistently – your reaction to being corrected. Your sense of victimhood is beyond belief. The consequent level of bile these displays trigger is bizarre. And please – keep your “religious” natterings to yourself. It’s embarrassming and near-blasphemous in such a petty, absurd , defensive context.

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