Who Is Patty Hearst?
Born in 1954 in Los Angeles, California, Patty Hearst is the granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, founder of the Hearst media empire. On February 4, 1974, at age 19, Patty Hearst was kidnapped by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army. Not long after, she announced that she had joined the SLA and began participating in criminal activity with the group, including robbery and extortion. Hearst was captured by the FBI in September 1975, and the following year, she was convicted of bank robbery and sentenced to 35 years in prison. She was released early, in 1979, after President Jimmy Carter commuted her prison term.
Patty Hearst was born Patricia Campbell Hearst on February 20, 1954, in Los Angeles, California. She is the granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, the famous 19th century newspaper mogul and founder of the Hearst media empire, and the third of five daughters born to Randolph A. Hearst, William Hearst's fourth and youngest son. Following her high school graduation, Hearst attended Menlo College and the University of California at Berkeley.
Kidnapped by the SLA
On February 4, 1974, at the age of 19, Patty Hearst was taken hostage by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, who aimed to garner a hefty ransom from her wealthy father. In a strange turn of events, two months after she was taken captive, Hearst recorded an audiotape that would soon be heard around the world, announcing that she had become part of the SLA. In the months that followed, more tapes with Hearst speaking were released by the group, and the young woman had begun actively participating in SLA-led criminal activity in California, including robbery and extortion—including an estimated $2 million from Hearst's father during her months in captivity.
On September 18, 1975, after more than 19 months with the SLA, Hearst was captured by the FBI. In the spring of 1976, she was convicted of bank robbery and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Hearst would serve less than two years, however; she was released in 1979, after President Jimmy Carter commuted her prison term. In January 2001, shortly before he left the White House, President Bill Clinton granted her a full pardon.
Societal Impact and Stockholm Syndrome
Hearst's experience with the SLA, particularly the details of her transition from victim to supporter, has sparked interest for the past several years, including countless psychological studies both inspired and bolstered by her story. The shift in Hearst's behavior with the SLA has been widely attributed to a psychological phenomenon called Stockholm syndrome, in which hostages begin to develop positive feelings toward their captors, an effect thought to occur when victims' initially frightening experiences with their kidnappers are later countered with acts of compassion or camaraderie by those same individuals.
Hearst's story was revived for The Lost Tapes: Patty Hearst, which aired on the Smithsonian Channel in November 2017. The documentary explores the timeline of events from the kidnapping through Hearst's trial, conviction and pardon, with a focus on the evidence that reveals the full extent of her indoctrination into the SLA.
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