One Friday evening 10 years ago, Patricia Campbell Hearst, then a 19-year-old student of art history at the University of California in Berkeley and a granddaughter of the late publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, returned to her apartment. She pulled on a blue terrycloth bathrobe, fixed a soup and sandwich dinner for herself and her fiancé, Steven Weed, and flicked on the television set to watch Mission: Impossible. Then she washed the dishes and had just sat down to study when the doorbell rang. Outside stood a three-member kidnap team from the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a three-man, five-woman, self-styled urban guerrilla group. Within seconds Patty Hearst was their prisoner, on her way to becoming North America’s most celebrated revolutionary terrorist.
Few stranger paths could have led to the quiet suburban cul-de-sac in a commuter town outside New York City that is home today to Mrs. Bernard Hearst Shaw, a 29-year-old housewife, mother and convicted bank robber in one of the most sensational criminal trials in North American history. The Westport, Conn., house is a modest blue colonial. Daughter Gillian will be three years old this spring. The family shares the house with an even-tempered Alsatian guard dog. Each weekday morning at 7, the thin, almost fragile, brown-eyed former debutante makes the five-minute drive
to drop her ex-policeman husband at the station, where he catches a train to his job as chief of security for the Hearst Corp.’s New York headquarters.
Shaw wears a 3.4-carat diamond wedding ring, visited Studio 54 recently and still prefers to be known by her maiden name. But if traces remain of the slightly spoiled young heiress she once was, there is clearly nothing left at all of Tania, the combat-dressed, rifle-toting “freedom fighter’’ who in 1974 helped the SLA rob the Hibernia bank in San Francisco and eluded hundreds of police and FBI agents during a 19-month continentwide manhunt.
Patty Hearst’s story first appeared, sketchily and to stunned disbelief, in the front-page headlines and evening newscasts that began on Feb. 4, 1974, when the SLA members dragged her from her apartment. More details of her story followed two years later from the witness stand in a San Francisco courtroom where she and the two surviving SLA members stood trial. And as far as Patty Hearst herself is concerned, the saga finished slightly more than two years ago when she published her own account of the experience, Every Secret Thing. The book, for which Doubleday paid her $800,000, defends her actions in essentially the same terms as her lawyers did in court. Her argument: that after the kidnapping she became effectively brainwashed after spending 57 days locked and blindfolded in a musty
closet, while her captors subjected her to a bewildering array of mental and physical abuse.
Every Secret Thing won some admiration for its frankness, including discussions of her sexual relations, forced and otherwise, with all three of the SLA’s male members. But, as was the case at the trial, it offered no really convincing explanation of why, despite numerous opportunities during a year and a half on the run, she never tried to escape. “I acted instinctively,” she wrote. “By the time they had finished with me, I was, in fact, a soldier in the Symbionese Liberation Army.”
But a jury did not believe that she had assumed the role involuntarily. Judge William H. Orrick of the U.S. district court in San Francisco sentenced Hearst on March 20, 1976, to seven years in prison for armed robbery, a sentence that President Jimmy Carter commuted in January, 1979. She left Pleasanton prison near Oakland, Calif., where she worked as the cook, on Feb. 1, 1979, after serving 22 months. William and Emily Harris, who were convicted on charges of kidnapping, narrowly escaped the Los Angeles shootout with police and the subsequent fire that killed the rest of the SLA.
Legal wrangling over the Hearst case continued until January, 1982, when Hearst lawyers withdrew an appeal to have her conviction overturned. They argued that her original defence lawyer, the flamboyant F. Lee Bailey, had had a conflict of interest at the time of the trial because of an undisclosed $225,000 contract he had signed with G.P. Putnam’s Sons to write a book about the case. And only last month California sports and health writer Jack Scott and his wife, Micki, won an out-of-court settlement of $30,000 from Hearst. The Scotts had sued for libel, charging that Every Secret Thing falsely portrayed them as supporters of terrorism when Hearst described help they had allegedly given her and the Harrises while they were on the run.
As difficult as it may be, Patty Hearst now seems determined to put all of her extraordinary experiences behind her. Two months after leaving prison she married Shaw in San Francisco. Shaw was a policeman that the Hearst family had hired to moonlight as one of her bodyguards while she was free on $1.5-million bail in 1977. Shaw, now 38, stayed on the job with the San Francisco police department until the couple moved east last fall. Westport has a minor reputation as a haven for celebrities—actor Paul Newman, for one, lives there—but virtually no one in town even seems to know they are there—which is doubtless exactly how Patty Hearst Shaw would like to keep it. SPENCER REISS;GT; in New York.
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