G. True Nelson: Former Deputy Sheriff, Military Officer, FBI Special Agent, and Security Consultant / Private Investigator. He currently resides in the Portland, Oregon Metro area. He is a writer on crime and judicial process; as well as discussing his personal observations on American culture and social mores.
When I think back on the Patty Hearst investigation, I don’t
remember any unusually dramatic experiences – that pertained to me directly.
Oh, I suppose I could bore you with endless stories about
what it was like to be a FBI Agent working in Berkeley – in the early
70’s. It was ‘surreal.’ And, yes, I understand that word is often
overused, but that’s the way it was. It
was a crazy time. Such as? Well, like following Bill Walton around
Berkeley. You know Bill, the basketball
player. He was a shirt-tail radical at
the time, and wanted to get involved some way in the Hearst matter. I remember he was on crutches and was about seven feet tall – so he was pretty easy to follow.
But I don't want to go among mad people.
The Cat: Oh, you
can't help that. We're all mad here.
You gradually become acclimated. The abnormal and bizarre begin to become normal
and routine. For the most part, the
Agents were hard-working and professional; but there were, of course, many
exceptions. There was some danger
involved; and it went without saying the potential danger could extend to
your family. On many occasions, I got
down on my knees to examine the undercarriage of my BuCar and even my personal
automobile – looking for bombs. There
was a joke circulated about having your wife go out in the morning to start
your car. Not funny for most, I suppose;
but Agents initially found it rather hilarious.
The days were long and exhausting, nerves got frayed. Ultimately the Agents’ feelings toward Patty
Hearst deteriorated – going from ‘I will risk my life to save her’ to something
along the lines of ‘f--- her, I couldn’t care less.’ Most of us just wanted it to be over.
A couple other comments about the principal Agents mentioned
in Jeffrey Toobin’s book, American
Charles W. Bates, FBI Special Agent in Charge, San
Francisco Division, during the Hearst investigation: The Agents referred to him as Charlie. I don’t know if he liked that name or
not. My experience, and I had a few contacts
with him while in SF, was that he was formal, remote, often humorless and not
particularly interested in the working Agents.
During the Hearst case, he spent a lot of time, much of it reportedly was
social time, with the Hearst family. Too
much time, in my opinion – but they were, after all, the Hearsts. Much of this time he should have spent with
his Agents addressing leadership issues and morale. There often seemed to be a leadership vacuum
in the division. Just my opinion. Perhaps I am wrong. I understand he had a long and distinguished
career in the Bureau. He passed-away at
Picture above is
several of us receiving an ‘incentive award’ for the capture of Cecil Robert
Moody Jr., age 29, a former associate of SLA member, Donald DeFreeze. Moody was wanted for armed robbery and
murder. Charlie Bates is in the center,
dark suit, and terrific smile. I am the
tall dude, second from right. I
participated in the investigation leading up to the arrest; and was given the
‘honor’ of smashing down the apartment door with a 16 pound sledge hammer. Moody was nude when captured, sleeping with
two semi-naked women. A loaded .357
magnum was under the bed, where he could quickly get to it. Wisely, he made no move to do that.
Tom Padden, FBI Special Agent, San Francisco
Division, directly involved in the capture of Patty Hearst: I knew Tom casually. He was an older Agent and assigned to the
Bank Robbery, Fugitive Squad. As I
recall he was, at one time, with the Portland Police Bureau – and we discussed that
we were both from Oregon. Tom was one of
the older Agents who chose to remain a ‘Street Agent,’ not interested in
advancement. He was highly regarded. The fact that he was assigned or given the
opportunity to arrest Patty was not circumstantial. The arrest was, as I remember, a gift
assignment largely based on information developed by other Agents. However, I don’t begrudge him that
assignment. He was a good Agent.
Monte Hall, FBI Special Agent, San Francisco
Division: An older Agent, I knew him,
but had very little contact with him. He
was on the same squad as Tom, and I believe Tom and Monte were close
friends. Monte might have been the squad
supervisor – not sure about that. Tom
and Monte were major characters in Jeffrey Toobin’s book. From what I read, it sounded like Monte may
have been a little too cozy with the Hearst defense team – maybe not the most
professional conduct, in my opinion.
As I’ve said before, on the inside, the whole Hearst / SLA
investigation seemed often disorganized. I suppose it’s easy to criticize, but that was
the way it seemed to me.
For example: To my
knowledge, the FBI never set-up a professionally structured ‘hotline’ to
receive tips from the public, as well as to offer a substantial reward. The public did occasionally call in tips to
various FBI offices, but those tips were sometimes ignored or haphazardly
recorded. I know of one instance where a
caller telephoned the Resident Agency in the South San Francisco area; gave
good information on the SLA’s possible location (which was later confirmed to
be accurate), but the Resident Agent failed to write a memo reporting the
caller’s information. I guess he thought
the tip didn’t sound credible. Many of
us thought the Agent should be fired, but he wasn’t. I believe he received a letter of censure.
The ‘water – gas leads,’ when Agents were sent to every
residence in the Bay area where new hook-ups for water, gas, electricity were
ordered. The operation became very
public – ridiculously so – but might have caused the SLA to move south to Los
Angeles. Was that a good thing? Doubtful.
I could go on, but what’s the point. Anyway, I enjoyed reading American Heiress. It brought
back many memories.
Oh yes, in a previous post, I referred to ‘towers’ and that
I would subsequently explain what they were. This is what the Bureau called them and
perhaps now calls fixed surveillance locations.
A tower could be an apartment, hotel room, or vacant building
overlooking a location believed to be frequented by a suspect, person of
interest or associate of same. Towers
could be operational for several hours or for many months – even years for
those working foreign embassies. It was
boring, tedious work. Towers were often
used in organized crime cases and counter-espionage. During the Hearst case, I spent one night in
a teenage girl’s bedroom which overlooked the apartment of a possible associate
of the SLA. The girl, of course, slept
downstairs on the living room sofa; but she made it clear that she was more
than a little irritated by the FBI invading her private space. I spent the night sitting on the floor and braced
against her bed – drifting in and out of some sort of dream-like state. It was miserable – and uneventful. When I came down in the morning, the girl’s
parents offered me coffee. They were
gracious. The girl – eyed me
suspiciously. I apologized for the
inconvenience. Another Agent, later in
the day, followed-up with a nice gift for the family. This ‘tower’ turned out to be a one night
deal – and was discontinued. Patricia Hearst Kidnapping: Part 1 Patricia Hearst Kidnapping: Part 2 Patricia Hearst Kidnapping: Part 3 Patricia Hearst Kidnapping: Part 4
Breaking news… FBI Director, James B. Comey, is once again
in the 'hot seat.'
First, it is my opinion that Director Comey is doing the
right thing by notifying Congressional members of the recent developments in
the Hillary Clinton ‘email investigation.’
Moreover, I don’t think he had any other viable choice in the matter. But, I also believe that he put himself in
the box by not following normal and customary FBI procedures initially. Meaning…?
The FBI is now, and always has been, an investigative
agency. Usual procedure in FBI investigations
is to conduct same in a thorough manner; and then present the results to the
regional United States Attorney; or in this instance it would have been the United States Attorney General (Loretta Lynch). Comey
put himself in the spotlight for questionable reasons, or at the direction of
Lynch, when he gave his famous, or infamous depending upon your point-of-view,
analysis of the original Clinton email investigation – and that said case had
no prosecutive merit.
Why did he do that? I’m
not sure. Perhaps, it was a matter of self-assertion
(I’m a player too), or perhaps self-promotion (political ambitions.) Or, maybe,
it was at the direction of someone in the Obama administration (like the
President himself) to take the focus off Lynch and her very inappropriate
meeting on the tarmac with Bill Clinton.
If Lynch would have allowed Hillary to ‘walk,’ the public would have
screamed ‘cover-up,’ and with some justification. So, it probably appeared like a good move to
everyone, including Comey, that he give the prosecutorial opinion.
But, don’t tell me that Comey made
the decision on his own. I just can’t
buy it. Obama was in. Lynch was in.
It all seemed so simple and clean at the time – to the ‘players’ at
Comey is in a bind. I
wonder how this will all work-out – his career that is. Now, certain members of Congress are throwing
their weight around – saying Comey has violated the Hatch Act. That is just ‘eye wash’ folks. Politics talking. It’s not going to happen. Comey, as of now, is doing the right thing. Let's see how it plays out.
The Clinton Foundation is still on the FBI's table. More to come I predict.
I never met Camilla Hall or her cat; both had tragic,
As I think back, the Patricia Hearst investigation often seemed
unfocused and disorganized in the FBI’s San Francisco Division.
There were approximately 100 Agents brought
in from other divisions to assist, most of them young and, relatively speaking,
unfamiliar with the surrounding, radical environment swirling around San
Francisco and particularly Berkeley. We,
the twenty Agents, assigned to Berkeley were considered to be the most familiar
with the area; and were generally utilized accordingly. Agents from other field offices were mostly
used for stationary or moving surveillances, or in some instances assigned to
‘towers.’ (I will describe ‘towers,’
One evening, I returned to the Berkeley Resident Agency
after covering some leads. I was
approached by an older Agent who was responsible for coordinating
assignments. This was rather early in
the investigation, and the whereabouts of the SLA members, still at large, was
The Agent told me that Camilla
Hall’s residence had been identified and checked-out. It appeared that she had left her apartment a
week or so previously; but apparently took little or nothing with her except
her pet cat. It was believed that she
would try to return for clothing or other abandoned items and we needed to set
up a twenty-four hour surveillance on her apartment. Unfortunately, the older Agent advised, we
need someone to start as soon as possible; and he asked if I’d be willing to
take the overnight shift – even though he knew that I had been working all
day. I said I would. He said to get to the apartment as soon as
possible, establish a discreet location; and that he’d try and get me some
relief about eight in the morning.
I went home to get what I would need – knowing it would be a
long night. At home, I gathered some
warm clothes, a pillow and my poncho liner from the military. I also took some snacks and a thermos of
coffee; and an empty plastic bottle to pee in if there was no other
option. More importantly, I had binoculars,
camera, a strong flashlight, my .357 and a speed-loader with six additional
I positioned myself shortly after dark. I did find a discreet location. I could see her apartment, but was not
sitting directly in front of someone’s residence. It was a long, mostly uneventful, night. Cars would pass, even a pedestrian or two,
but no one seemed to notice me. It was hard to stay awake. This is the nature
of real police work – not like in the movies that’s for sure. I knew, of course, that if I was spotted by a
member of the SLA, before I saw them, I would be in serious trouble. Nonetheless, sometimes, the need to sleep is
hard to resist – no matter the circumstances.
Fresh troops, two-man teams, were assigned the following
days and nights. I’m not sure how long
they maintained that surveillance, but Camilla never returned. She had what was dearest to her – her pet
cat. And, in her judgement, there was no
reason to risk returning. As previously
noted, the cat died with Camilla in the Los Angeles shootout and inferno.
This old San Francisco Examiner, dated Monday, May 20, 1974,
is kind of interesting. It does bring
old memories back. This particular issue
is largely about the Hearst case which may explain why I kept it. On the other hand, maybe not; the Hearst
kidnapping was covered extensively for months – realize that the Examiner was
controlled by the Hearst family. Prior
to May 20th, most of the SLA had been killed in a shootout in Los Angeles. There were three remaining fugitives – Bill and
Emily Harris, and Patricia Hearst.
For perspective, it’s kind of interesting to look over this
old issue of the Examiner. As I’ve said
previously, I hadn’t looked at it in decades.
Some of the day to day stuff was kind of interesting.
For example, the Examiner’s daily issue, at the time, cost
15 cents. Now, Portland’s daily is $1.50
and the Sunday issue is $3.00. Much of this issue had to do with ‘Watergate,’ which some of you might recall. President Nixon was still in the Whitehouse, but was under a lot of fire – which ultimately led to his resignation.
There is a full page advertisement for “Marlboro Green, Now
in the Flip-top Box.” Don’t see that
sort of thing much anymore. Maybe the ‘Marlboro
Man’ dying of cancer took the wind out of their sales - moreover the public
awakening I suppose. Regarding
cigarettes, its current reputation as a killer isn’t exactly new. Sixty to seventy years back, they referred to
cigarettes as ‘coffin nails.’ But, I
There was one small quote in the paper which reminded
me of a particular investigative assignment given to me:
“Los Angeles Coroner
Thomas Noguchi identified the sixth corpse (in the LA shootout) as Camilla
Christine Hall, 29.”
As a personal impression, and I got to know much about all
of the SLA members, Camilla Hall seemed to have the most redeemable qualities. It appeared that she joined this group more
out of love than any sort of radical, psychotic motivation. Camilla was a lesbian devoted to Patricia
Mizmoon Soltysik who, in my opinion, had few if any redeemable qualities.
But to continue the Examiner quote: “Near
Miss Hall’s body, officials found the incinerated body of her pet cat. When Miss Hall disappeared from her Berkeley
cottage more than three months ago, she left everything except her pet.”
been giving some thought as to what I might add to Jeffrey Toobin’s book, ‘American
Heiress.’ He did a very thorough job;
and although I participated in the Hearst investigation, I found his book
interesting and informative. What more
is there to say? Well, all I might add
are my personal experiences – what it was like in the trenches – so to speak.
Patty was first kidnapped, I felt, and my feeling was not unique, that we, the
Agents, would do anything possible to save her – to include, with no
reservation, risking our own lives. Many
investigations in the FBI, then and now, are routine, boring, and with little
or no motivational spark. Patty’s
kidnapping, that February night in 1974, set a fire among the Agents to work
long hours, take risks, and bring her home.
We in the FBI’s Berkeley Resident Agency felt, somehow, especially responsible
– that was our turf.
of us imagined her to be like a younger sister or other close relative – maybe some
of the older Agents imagined her like a daughter. We were later to be disappointed. She was not, never was, like most FBI Agents
imagined; had little or nothing in common with the vast majority of
Agents. Most Agents were from middle
class families, many were prior military, mostly decent people.**
none of that and proved to be a spoiled rich girl with little or no inherent
moral compass. I know many will say she
was ‘brain-washed.’ I later heard that
numerous times – in her defense. My
response, as she became more known to us, was then and is now, ‘nonsense.’ I think Mr. Toobin made this point very well. She was an unrepentant, participating
criminal; who committed countless felonies; including driving a getaway car at
a bank robbery where a woman (a mother of four) was killed (murdered),
shot-gunned to death. Patty later
testified in court, coldly in my opinion and basically to save her own skin,
against Emily Harris who actually shot the woman.
Hearst was convicted and sentenced to prison for a few of her many crimes. President Carter subsequently ‘commuted’ her
sentence and had her released from prison after she served a little more than a
year. I voted for Carter prior to him
taking that action. I’ve never voted for
a Democrat for President since then. President
Bill Clinton later gave Patty a full pardon.
The Hearst family was very rich – you understand. Just one more example of
how ‘when money talks, justice walks.’
kept an old newspaper (San Francisco Examiner dated Monday, May 20, 1974). A souvenir so to speak. It is now wrinkled and yellowed. Time moves on - more than four decades. I suppose there is little point in keeping it
much longer – not even worth recycling.
I might burn it in the fireplace.
Perhaps, I will talk a little more about this old publication, give you
a little glimpse of the 70s for those who might have forgotten, or for those
who were not even born.
said, regarding my ‘first impressions’ of the Hearst investigation, there was a
book, an exceptional book, written by General Harold G. Moore and Joseph L.
Galloway titled ‘We Were Soldiers Once… and Young,’ about Vietnam. And, if I might use that splendid phrase in a
little different way (regarding the Patty Hearst case), ‘we were Agents once…
As I’ve said before, some of the best
people I’ve ever met (war heroes, scholars, athletes, and all manner of professionals)
were FBI Agents. However, as I’ve also
said, some of the biggest knuckleheads I’ve ever met were FBI Agents. Patricia Hearst Kidnapping (Part 1)
Recently, I finished a good book – ‘American Heiress’ by
Jeffrey Toobin. I recommend it.
“The wild saga of the
kidnapping, crimes and trial of Patty Hearst.”
Of course, as Toobin points out, Patty Hearst preferred to
be called Patricia by anyone other than her immediate family. We, in the FBI’s San Francisco Division,
called her ‘Patty.’ We got to know her
I actually lived part of this story, but wasn’t mentioned –
nor did I expect to be. I was just one
of the many FBI Agents who worked 12 to 14 hour days, six or seven days a week
for quite a few months on this case. It
was demanding, tedious and often disorganized.
Actually, Mr. Toobin gave me new insights on the investigation that I
was not previously aware of – some of which seemed to explain why, at times,
the investigation was disorganized.
However, other things he said in his book (petty perhaps) were kind of
silly. Such as…
Toobin: “At this point, the Bureau was populated
almost entirely by white** male agents who wore white shirts and black shoes
and had crew cuts…”
February 4, 1974: I
was assigned to the Berkeley Resident Agency when Patty was kidnapped and don’t
recall any Agents dressing as he described.
Oh, some of the older guys headquartered in San Francisco, desk jockeys
mostly, might have occasionally worn white shirts and black shoes – but a “crew
cut,” not hardly, unless they were attempting to conceal the fact that they were
prematurely going bald. This was San
Francisco and Berkeley during the early 70s.
Agents working the streets dressed in accord with the venue so as not be
too conspicuous. Maybe, Toobin is talking
about old photos of Charles Bates, Tom Padden or Monte Hall – prominent players
in his story. I will discuss them
further in subsequent posts.
Toobin: “They (referring to the FBI) knew little
about the radical underground and had no chance of infiltrating those
circles. Who were the SLA? Where were they? Who were their friends and allies?”
Well, yes, that’s true in part. However, we actually knew quite a bit,
generally speaking, about the ‘radical underground,’ the Weather Underground
and the Black Panthers. However, the SLA,
the Symbionese Liberation Army, was an instance of ‘spontaneous
combustion.’ They were suddenly on the
scene. The SLA was closely knit and had
no formal structure. Infiltrating them
would be like infiltrating a socially dysfunctional, psychotic family. What was there, initially at least, to
infiltrate? The first question needing
resolution was: ‘Who are they?’
We knew, of course, that the SLA had already murdered the Oakland
City Superintendent, Marcus Foster – a particularly cold blooded murder; shooting
Foster with cyanide-laced bullets as he exited a school board meeting. It was, at the time, a local crime being
investigated by the Oakland PD.
Soon, there was a break in the case when a Concord
Police Officer, conducting a routine FI or field interrogation, got in a
shootout with Russ Little and Joe Remiro – who were members (later determined)
of the SLA. At that point, the nature of
the SLA and who its members were began to come into focus.
The night Patty was kidnapped, I was one of the first Agents
to respond to the scene. I still remember
how chaotic it was. The confusion factor
was almost overwhelming.
FBI Agents, including myself, began interviewing anyone in the area
they could find. Often times individuals
contacted had already been interviewed by the Berkeley Police Department – and said
individuals were understandably irritated by the FBI’s duplication of efforts. One couple slammed the door in my face. I made a note to return the next day when,
perhaps, they would be in a better mood.
The FBI was not popular in those neighborhoods. Ultimately, we spread out doing neighbor
inquiries, noting license plates, taking photographs, mapping the neighborhood,
and coordinating pertinent information that might lead to a quick locate of
Patty Hearst. As the violence involved
became better known and the prominence of the victim became increasingly clear,
we began preparing for the big push the following morning.
Berkeley PD was initially in charge of the investigation for
the first 24 hours. After that, the FBI
was the lead agency. Federal statute
states that the victim, if not recovered within the first 24 hours, will create
the presumption that the victim had been transported interstate or foreign
commerce. After 24 hours, with certain
exceptions, kidnapping becomes a Federal crime (The Lindbergh Law).
February 4th turned into a long night; and the
beginning of many long nights and days to come.
**A point needing a little clarification is concerning J.
Edgar Hoover. It is often stated and
inferred that he had a bias against Blacks and did not allow Blacks to become
Agents. I entered the Bureau under
Hoover’s watch. There were two Black
Agents in my New Agents’ Class. Both
As a FBI Special Agent, working Organized Crime, one of the
first things you learn is that the biggest problem facing Organized Crime is
how they ‘launder their money’. This is
their weakness. They aren’t particularly
worried about being arrested for their various criminal activities, because
they insulate themselves. They indirectly
deal in the sale of illegal drugs, prostitution, extortion, protection, bank
fraud, loan sharking and skimming union funds.
But, when arrests are made, it’s usually the underlings that get busted;
underlings who know it’s in their best interest to keep their mouths shut. Most of these types of arrests are made by
local law enforcement.
The FBI, however, attempts to take down the organizational
structure, the ‘big dogs’ at the top.
And, how do they do that? They
follow the money.
‘Money laundering’ is taking illegally obtained or ‘dirty’
money and converting that money, or ‘laundering’ the money, so crime bosses can
use it to buy everything their hearts’ desire:
women, cars, mansions, and even a form of public legitimacy. But, ‘laundering’ money isn’t as easy as you
might first think. Large deposits to banks
are continually monitored by the government.
You could deal in cash, of course; but if you have millions of dollars
sitting in your home safe – well, the continual utilization of cash in big
number transactions becomes a tip-off too.
So, what has this got to do with Hillary Clinton? Maybe nothing. I’m just curious about the Clinton
Foundation; and what a cleverly constructed, potential way that said Foundation
could be used to ‘launder’ money. Mind
you, I don’t think Bill and Hillary are involved in illegal drugs, extortion,
or ‘loan sharking’, etcetera; but they are in a great position to sell access
and influence. It’s clear that hundreds
of millions of dollars have flowed into the Clinton Foundation, much of which
originated from big corporate or foreign, sometimes dubious, sources for no
apparent reason other than it ingratiates them to the Clintons - which equates
to access and influence.
Example Tax Avoidance 101:
Let’s just say you were very rich or powerful and some big corporation
or foreign government offered to pay you $500,000 for a one hour speech –
attended by a few of their chosen colleagues.
What will the speech be about?
Oh, that doesn’t really matter.
It’s just a ruse to pass you money, to have your ear, to be your friend
– someone who when they call you, you will pick up the phone. You give the speech, transcripts of which
will never be disclosed; and they pay you the $500,000. At that point, you are looking at a fairly
big tax bill. So, you donate the
$500,000 to your foundation – and it’s all tax deductible – just as if you gave
the money to the Salvation Army (who incidentally would have done something
meaningful with the money).
Is influence pedaling illegal? Well, it could be; but it would be extremely
hard to prove. Moreover, the Clintons
are in a position to quash any FBI investigations along those lines; unless a
‘source’ within the Foundation came forth.
However, it’s doubtful that would ever happen. The Clintons are too smart for that. And if any such thing was contemplated by a
source within, the Clintons would unleash a public firestorm that would destroy
almost anyone’s reputation and credibility.
OK, I understand that most, if not all, ultra-rich people
start foundations. It is there
opportunity to do good works in their area of choice; and, keep in mind, it is
a great tax dodge. You can write off any
expense that is even remotely associated with the foundation: luxurious offices and apartments for ‘work’
or ‘entertaining’; private airplanes and associated travel; fantastic, vastly
overpaid jobs for yourself, your children or anyone else who you happen to favor; and the
list goes on.
As an aside, isn’t it interesting that Colin Powell, former
Secretary of State, was quoted in one of the recently (unauthorized of course)
releases of his personal emails in which he commented regarding Hillary’s
illegal email server and her irresponsible handling of classified
material: “Hillary’s Mafia keeps trying
to suck me into it.” I realize Secretary
Powell never expected his comment to see the light of day; but an interesting
turn of a phrase nonetheless. Probably
just joking, I suppose...
Regarding a few other issues of concern for me personally:
+ Democratic Party nominating system was rigged against
Bernie Sanders and in favor of Hillary.
+ FBI altering their interview and interrogation rules in
the Hillary inquiry to give her a free pass.
+ Bill Clinton will be back in the White House (as Colin
Powell phrased it) “dickin” around.
+ National Debt is out of control.
+ Illegal Immigration is out of control.
+ Failure to acknowledge that there is actually “Radical
Islamic Terrorism” And that we need to fight it with every available resource.
I won’t be voting for Hillary for a number of reasons. Many will vote for her. Many feel they should vote for someone; and
the options to Hillary are not compelling.
I understand that completely. I
actually think that she will win the election.
Unless, and this is a longshot, the so-called ‘silent majority’ decides
otherwise and gets out and votes – an American backlash, an American Brexit vote. If Trump should win, I will be somewhat shocked;
but I will not necessarily be dismayed.
Maybe, its time this country had a shakeup.