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Defending Patty Hearst

In the 1970s, fewer political radicals and more drug-law violators were seeking legal help. Kayo Hallinan moved from 345 Franklin St. —where father Vince and brother Butch had their offices— to another family-owned building, 819 Eddy St., where his friends Michael Stepanian, Brian Rohan and a younger, hipper crew were located. They were known as dope lawyers, not lefty lawyers. But Kayo's best known client from this dismal decade would be, image-wise, an infamous political radical: Patricia Hearst, daughter of Randolph Hearst, the publisher of the San Francisco Examiner.

Patty, a 19-year-old art major, had been kidnapped from the Berkeley apartment she shared with her fiance by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a small band of self-styled revolutionaries in thrall to a charismatic escaped prisoner named Donald DeFreeze who called himself Cinque. The SLA's first action had been the assassination of Marcus Foster, Oakland's African-American superintendent of schools. Leaders of the mainstream left denounced the SLA, but their lumpen-loving rhetoric had given rise to it. Tom Hayden and William Kunstler had toured college campuses saying (to paraphrase what I heard one night at NYU), “Because prisoners are the most oppressed people in American society, you must look to them for revolutionary leadership. Visit the prisons. Support the ‘prisoners movement.’” And so forth. It's a miracle that the combination of guilt-ridden, middle-class whites and desperate black men didn’t combust into lethal insanity more often.

Patty was kidnapped on February 4, 1974. In response to an SLA ransom demand, the Hearst family donated $2 million in food to poor people in the Bay Area. But Patty was not released. On April 3 she announced on an audiotape that she had joined the SLA and would go by the name Tania, in honor of Che Guevara's companion. On behalf of the group she demanded that the Hearst family reveal all its assets in the Examiner. The result was a list of about 40 column inches in small type — 20,000 shares of this company, 80,000 acres in that state, and on and on.

On April 15 Patty carried an M1 carbine during the robbery of a San Francisco bank — the first of many criminal actions in which she seemed to be a willing participant. In May the SLA made their way to LA. They were discovered and six members were killed in a gunfight with LAPD. Patty and two others were not in the house at the time. Eventually friends drove them to an isolated farm in Pennsylvania.

Patty was still on the lam in September 1975 when she was arrested in San Francisco. She and a comrade, Wendy Yoshimura, had been jogging in Precita Park. She listed her occupation as “urban guerilla.”

As David Talbot tells it in Season of the Witch, “Randy Hearst, now comfortable with San Francisco's leftwing milieu, hired Vincent Hallinan and his two-fisted son Terry 'Kayo' Hallinan to represent his daughter. Reunited with her elated parents and sisters in jail, Patty felt oddly removed from them, as if she were a different person. She was exhausted and just wanted to sleep all the time.

“But Patty bonded with the curly-haired, roguishly handsome Terry Hallinan. And after Yoshimura told Terry about the ordeal that Patty had undergone in the SLA closet [she had been held for a week and raped by Cinque and others] he began to peel away the Tania layers. Terry and his father thought that Cinque had subjected Patty to some kind of drug-induced mind control program that he had learned in Vacaville. The Hallinans wanted to build their case on an 'involuntary intoxication' defense of Patty. But her parents didn't want drugs to be brought up in the trial. And Catherine in particular developed a strong repugnance to the left-wing Hallinans. 'She thought of me as some kind of Russian agent,' Terry said later with a smile. The Hearsts decided to replace the Hallinans with one of the biggest brand names in the legal profession, Boston criminal attorney F. Lee Bailey.

"Ironically, Bailey wound up presenting a defense similar to the one proposed by the Hallinans, arguing that Patty had been 'brainwashed' by the SLA. But he gave the argument a different twist, ignoring the drug and sensory deprivation methods that Cinque might have learned at Vacaville, and contending instead that the SLA leader's mind control program was modeled on insidious techniques developed in Mao's China. The author of this line of defense was none other than Dr. Louis Jolyon 'Jolly' West, a CIA-sponsored psychiatrist.”

A prominent reporter named Shana Alexander did a 60 Minutes segment about the Hearst case, and then wrote a best seller about it called "Anybody's Daughter." She was scathingly critical of the Hallinans, writing, "Five days after her arrest the Hallinans had filed the damndest bail affidavit anyone around San Francisco had ever seen. It said that after she was kidnapped, Patricia Hearst was held for weeks in a tiny closet, bound, blindfolded and in the dark. During her first ten days 'She was unable to dispose of her bodily wastes.' Nobody spoke to her except Cinque, and he told he 'she would be executed unless the ransom demands were compiled with.' During this period she was given liquids to drink. Then, 'when the blindfold was removed, she felt as if she were on some LSD trip; everything was out of proportion... She heard constant threats against her life... She was told by her captors her parents had abandoned her. That the FBI would bust into the house with drawn guns and she would undoubtedly be killed in the general massacre... When the FBI agents finally appeared and this did not happen, her mind began to clear up again... The first full realization that she had been living in a fantasy world whose terror could be resolved by merely returning to her family or even consulting the law officers occurred when her mother, her father and her sisters hugged and kissed her."

"The trouble to flow from this lurid affidavit were terrible and manifold," according to Alexander. "The document conflicted with previously disclosed information on Patty's actions after her kidnapping, and it made no reference to numerous documents in the government's possession in which Patty in her own handwriting described how she had willingly, enthusiastically joined the SLA, forsworn her parents and even denied her own identity as Patricia Hearst; how she hard stuck up one bank and, at the very least, made detailed plans to rob others; and how she had joyfully joined the revolution."

Vince explained to Alexander, "If you are going to give a client a defense, give her a believable one. In this case, jurors were predisposed to acquit. A client's drug-induced psychosis could last as long as I want it to last. It could be total or selective. That's all the jury wanted to hear. They needed a rationalization to do what they wanted to do. Even though that sweet child called me 'a senile old fuck,' I would have saved her."

Bailey's version of an impairment defense was unsuccessful. Patty Hearst was convicted of bank robbery and given a 35-year sentence. It would be reduced to seven years, and then commuted by President Jimmy Carter. She was pardoned by Bill Clinton.

Vince accused Bailey of blowing the case. "It was like watching another doctor operate. As soon as he started I knew he was going to kill her. He kept at it and he did."


  1. Jonah Raskin May 27, 2020

    To call Patty Hearst “a political radical” does a disservice to genuine radicals, like Kayo, and to describe the 1970s as a “dismal decade” is unfair to that time period. Readers who want to understand that decade might consult Peter Carroll’s “It Seemed Like Nothing Happened: The Tragedy and Promise of America in the 1970s” (1982) which shows that many things connected to the 1960s happened in the 1970s. Patty Hearst was an heiress not a radical. The 1970s had two faces, One that lasted from 1970 to 1975, when the “Long Sixties” ended, and 1975 to 1980 which was the era of the Restoration of America.

    • Fred Gardner May 31, 2020

      I was describing Patty Hearst “image-wise….” I’m not sure how you can be “unfair” to a “time period.” 1970 is when Nixon had George Meany and the AFL-CIO leaders to a Labor Day party at the White House and they called off the parade in DC. And it’s when Werner Erhard hit the scene…

  2. Mitch Clogg May 27, 2020

    I was at Cal at that time. Patty was a typically naive rich girl. The descriptions of her kidnapping and imprisonment have little to do with the actual. The Establishment calls it “brainwashed.” She was wised up to the facts of life as told by Donald DeFreeze, a charismatic and doomed young man, the product of a nurse and a mean drunk of a father, who broke both of Donald’s arms at different times. His life was spotty, to say the least. For sheltered little Patty, it was the time of her life. She was intellectually and sexually seduced, and for the first time, she was not a dutiful little heiress. She paid heavily for her foray into the culture wars of the Sixties and Seventies. Donald “Cinque” DeFreeze reportedly shot himself in the head while burning to death under a blazing house in L.A., the end of a battle with the LAPD. She returned, dazed and confused, I daresay,to an altered version of a rich-heiress life. The “brainwashing,” a professional de-programming, occurred in the interest of “rehabbing” her and reducing her criminal penalties.

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