Patty Hearst Kidnapping


A photograph released by the FBI shows Patty Hearst in front of a symbol of the Symbionese Liberation Army. It was a S.L.A. publicity photo.

Patricia Hearst, granddaughter of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst was herself the central character of one of the biggest news stories of 1970s. At 9 p.m. on Feb. 4, 1974,  the 19-year-old heiress was kidnapped by a ratty band of Bay Area anarchistic urban revolutionaries, the Symbionese National Liberation Army, from her Berkeley apartment. Her 26 year old fiancé Steven Weed was badly beaten by the group.

Patty was to spend most of the next 56 days in a closet while being both physically and sexually abused. The S.L.A. demanded as ransom that her father feed all the hungry in California. Although $6 million worth of food was distributed–resulting in near riots in some locations–Patty was not released, the group citing poor quality of the food. The S.L.A also hoped to “exchange prisoners” as two of their own were being held for the assassination of Marcus Foster.

Later, audio tapes from the group featuring a militant-sounding Patty Hearst began appearing; she soon informed the world that she was joining the group and had taken on the name ‘Tania.’ Criminal psychologists who studied the Stockholm bank robbery a year earlier knew what had happened to her. Public opinion towards Ms. Hearst turned when she was seen participating in the Hibernia Bank robbery on April 15, 1974. She was photographed wielding an M1 Carbine while robbing the Sunset District branch of the Hibernia Bank at 1450 Noriega Street in San Francisco. A warrant was issued and on 18th September 1975, she was arrested in a San Francisco apartment with other SLA members. While being booked into prison, she listed her occupation as “Urban Guerilla.”

In her trial, which commenced on January 15, 1976, her attorney F. Lee Bailey claimed that Hearst had been brainwashed, and coerced into taking part in the bank robbery. However, her refusal to give evidence against the other captured SLA members. weakened her case, and she was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment. Her prison term was also eventually commuted by President Jimmy Carter after 22 months, and was granted a full pardon by Bill Clinton on his last day in office on January 20, 2001. Nowadays, Hearst is a socialite, not a guerrilla, though she appears in a number of director John Waters’ subversive, sly and crude comedies.


Patty Hearst caught on a CCTV camera during the robbery. See the reel here.


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0 thoughts on “Patty Hearst Kidnapping

  1. The SLA was not, as stated, “anarchistic urban revolutionaries.” They were in fact a Marxist revolutionary group, patterned after other communist revolutionaries, especially Che Guavara. The name Tania was taken as tribute to one of Che’s comrades. Patty also did not refuse to give testimony against other captured SLA members.

  2. odd copy of this pic. the gun has obviously been retouched unlike other versions I’ve seen of this. I doubt that either the FBI or the SLA retouched it so it’s been somewhere else as well. the cover of Newsweek has a much better version but they redid the background. Getty archive has a copy for sale but it’s lower quality than the Newsweek cover and terribly cropped as well. it seems very strange to pay a publishing powerhouse like Getty for the rights to a photo taken (by one of the kidnapers) of the kidnaped daughter of a publishing magnate. strange times indeed.

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