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Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Patricia Hearst Kidnapping / My memories of the investigation (Part 2) / First Impressions



I’ve 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.

When 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.

Most 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.**

Patty was 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.

Patty 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.’

I 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.

That 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… and young.’

To be continued…

True Nelson


** 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)