Los Angeles prosecutors have given lawyers for suspected SLA member Sara Jane Olson thousands of documents connected to the 1975 bomb plot charges she faces.
But there's one key document that defense lawyers say is suspiciously missing, one they maintain could help provide an alibi.
It is a diary of 1970s radical and ex-SLA associate Wendy Yoshimura, last used by Oakland prosecutors in Yoshimura's 1976 trial.
In that journal, Yoshimura--confused, on the run and pining for an imprisoned former comrade--records intriguing details about the brief and violent history of the Symbionese Liberation Army.
More important to Olson are passages that defense lawyers say place her in Northern California on Aug. 22, 1975, the day that prosecutors say she was in Los Angeles trying to kill police officers with nail-packed pipe bombs.
Olson's lawyers contend the diary is so important that the charges against their client should be dismissed because of its unavailability. At a hearing scheduled for this morning, they will ask Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler to either dismiss the charges against her or to order prosecutors to find the diary and turn it over immediately.
"There is little question that Wendy Yoshimura's diary is exculpatory evidence," defense counsel Shawn Snider Chapman said in court papers.
Even if the diary turns up, Chapman says Fidler should dismiss the charges because prosecutors have waited so long to provide it.
Jury selection in Olson's conspiracy trial is due to begin next week, more than two years after the longtime fugitive was arrested.
Chapman's motion, one of about 10 that Fidler is scheduled to hear beginning today, says police officers seized the diary on Sept. 18, 1975, when they raided two SLA safe houses in San Francisco. In those sweeps, FBI agents arrested Yoshimura and three other SLA fugitives, including Patty Hearst, the kidnap victim-turned-urban guerrilla.
Not all would agree with the defense contention about Olson's whereabouts.
Hearst, in her book "Every Secret Thing," says that Olson, along with former boyfriend Jim Kilgore and SLA leader Bill Harris, were in Los Angeles planting bombs under the two police cars on that August night.
After the SLA arrests, Olson, then in her late 20s and using her given name Kathleen Soliah, went into hiding for 24 years, settling in St. Paul, Minn., where she married a physician. Police arrested her in 1999.
Yoshimura went on trial in Alameda County in 1976 and was convicted of non-SLA-related charges of possessing explosives and a machine gun. She served a year in prison. Now 58, Yoshimura lives in Berkeley, where she shows and sells her artwork and is part owner of the Juice Collective on Berkeley's Vine Street. She could not be reached for comment.
Portions of her diary, which covered the last four weeks of the SLA's turbulent existence, were introduced during her trial. But those portions were not related to the Los Angeles bomb attempts. At this point, nobody seems to know where the diary is.
FBI Had Record of Diary Excerpts
The FBI, at the time of Yoshimura's trial, wrote down detailed excerpts from Yoshimura's diary in some investigative reports, according to Chapman. She said those reports were key sources for investigative reporters Paul Avery of the San Francisco Examiner and Vin McLellan of Boston during their research for their 1977 history of the SLA, "The Voices of Guns."
An Olson defense investigator says that shortly before Avery died last year, he said those diary excerpts mentioned that Olson, Kilgore and Olson's sister, Josephine Soliah, were in Mendocino County during the week of Aug. 22, 1975. McLellan could not be reached for comment.
The reporters mentioned Olson's whereabouts in several paragraphs of their book that had nothing to do with the Los Angeles bombing attempt. The Mendocino County trip was part of a section on the shifting alliances among the SLA members.
It described the "flip-flop pattern of sexual triangles and rectangles," and how Yoshimura was yearning for Kilgore and wondering whether he and Olson would resume their relationship while they were away in Northern California.
Here's how the authors reported the trip: "A couple of days after the Emeryville bombing [which was on Aug. 13, 1975], Kilgore, Kathy and [Olson's sister] Josephine Soliah. . . . took off into Northern California on a scouting trip, apparently seeking a mountain stronghold in Mendocino County. They were gone for a little more than a week, bringing back [to San Francisco] maps of the Mendocino outback, lists of old abandoned mines--trail notes for future Ches [revolutionaries] of California. And while Wendy waited for her man to return, Jim and Kathy, up in the hills, were apparently rediscovering each other."
Authorities later found Mendocino maps at one of the SLA's San Francisco apartments.
Josephine Soliah mentioned the Mendocino trip in a letter that her parents received from her on Aug. 23, the day after the Los Angeles bomb attempt.