Los Angeles -- Media heiress Patty Hearst is "profoundly grateful" to President Clinton for pardoning her role in a bank robbery in the 1970s during her association with the Symbionese Liberation Army, her lawyer said Saturday.
"This action by President Clinton has enormous significance for Ms. Hearst and her family," George Martinez of Tiburon, Calif., said. "The pardon represents an act of ultimate understanding for which she is thankful."
Hearst was among the 140 Americans pardoned by Clinton on his final day in office.
Hearst's phone number is unpublished, and she could not be reached for comment Saturday. She lives in Wilton, Conn., with her husband and former San Francisco police bodyguard, Bernard Shaw, and their two daughters.
On Feb. 4, 1974, when she was a 19-year-old college student, Hearst was kidnapped by the radical SLA. She eventually joined the group and helped them rob a bank, but was captured, convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison.
She had served 21 months when President Carter commuted her sentence in January 1979. Her conviction remained on record until Clinton's pardon. Martinez said his client is "profoundly grateful to Presidents Clinton and Carter for their faith in her, and relieved that this process has finally concluded."
Since her release from prison, Hearst has become a celebrity, appearing in several movies directed by John Waters and several television sitcoms, writing novels and doing charitable work. Hearst's father, Randolph Apperson Hearst, died Dec. 18 after suffering a stroke. He was the son of legendary newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.
"Both her mother and father are now at rest, and I think this would be very meaningful to them had they been alive to hear it," said William Coblentz, a friend and attorney who represented Hearst's father during her kidnapping. Others, however, looked harshly on Clinton's pardon of Hearst.
Stuart Hanlon, a member of the defense team for former SLA fugitive Sara Jane Olson, said he was shocked at news of the pardon. "I think it's outrageous that the rich white people should get pardoned and the nonwhite people who don't have power do not get pardoned," Hanlon said. He said that he was particularly dismayed at the decision being made only months before Hearst is scheduled to testify in the attempted murder case of Olson, who was arrested 25 years after being charged with placing pipe bombs under police cars.
She says she is innocent.
"At a time like this, when Patty Hearst's credibility is at issue in this trial, this is just not fair," Hanlon said. "She has admitted being involved in a bank robbery. She pleaded guilty to a shooting at a sporting goods store and her family paid off victims of a murder. And she gets a pardon. It's a really sad comment on justice."
The Hearst family paid a settlement to the survivors of a woman shot and killed during a SLA bank robbery. The figure of the settlement has not been revealed. In her book, Hearst said she drove the getaway car. Olson issued a statement in which she said she did not begrudge Hearst's pardon. But she added, "money, access to power and friends in high places have once again, as with her earlier commutation, influenced presidential prerogatives in favor of Patricia Hearst."
Olson said she feels the pardon should be a signal to the Los Angeles County District Attorney to abandon her upcoming prosecution.