The Patty Hearst Case

Stockholm Syndrome or Willing Participant?

Patty Hearst
Patty Hearst. L - Getty Image, R- Mug Shot

Decades after wealthy media heiress Patricia Hearst was dragged from her home by the Symbionese Liberation Army and later seen by the world participating in the radical group's armed bank robberies, the debate still continues: was she, Patty Hearst- a brainwashed victim, or Tania- a willing participant in the militant group's violent activities? The reality is only she knows the truth.

Patty Hearst, Her Childhood Years

Patricia Campbell Hearst was born February 20, 1954, in San Francisco, California.

According to her 1982 autobiography, "Every Secret Thing," Hearst was the third of five daughters of Randolph Apperson Hearst and Catherine Wood Campbell.

Randolph Hearst was chairman of the board of the Hearst Corp., which major interests included magazine, newspaper, radio and TV stations. The family resided in an affluent suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area. Patty Hearst describes her childhood as being an "affluent and sheltered environment sublimely self-confident."

High School and College

Hearst attended private Catholic schools. She was a good student and graduated from high school a year early. Afterward she attended Menlo College her freshman year, then transferred to Berkeley. She moved in with her high school math tutor, Steven Weed, and the two became engaged and planned to marry during the summer of 1974.

The Hearst Kidnapping

On February 4, 1974, Hearst, 19 at the time, was kidnapped from her apartment by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA).

During the kidnapping, Weed was beaten up along with two others who tried to help as Hearst was dragged from her apartment and thrown into the trunk of the kidnappers' car. She was taken to a hideaway where she said she was put into a closet for up to 57 days.

The Kidnappers' Demands

The SLA, which was a left-wing guerrilla group, first attempted to swap Hearst with a SLA member who was in jail, but that failed.

They then demanded that Randolph Hearst donate food to the poor which would have cost around $400 million. Unable to meet that demand, Hearst donated $6 million for food which was given to the poor residents in the Bay area. But the SLA refused to release Hearst because they felt the food given out was of poor quality.

Audio Recordings

During the time that Hearst was held captive, audio tapes were released periodically which shed light on her state of mind. As time went on, the tapes revealed that she was relating less to the world she had been taken from and more to the philosophy of her captives.

Some observers believed that she was suffering from Stockholm syndrome. The FBI's definition of Stockholm syndrome is, "a paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein a positive bond between hostage and captor occurs that appears irrational in light of the frightening ordeal endured by the victims."

The first audio recording which was released nine days after Hearst was kidnapped, she reassured her parents that she was alright, but stressed that the SLA was well armed and should be taken seriously.

The second recording, released 13 days into her captivity, Hearst tried to dispel rumors that she was being mistreated.

She said she was "being treated in accordance with international codes of war."

The third recording was released 34 days into her captivity. Hearst's tone of voice had changed. Sounding aggressive and hostile she criticized her father for messing up the food program and of giving food of low quality.

In the fourth recording, released 59 days into her captivity Hearst announced that she had joined the SLA and had taken the name "Tania" after a "comrade" who fought alongside Che in Bolivia.

The Bank Robbery

On April 15, 1974, a Hibernia Bank in San Francisco was robbed. The bank security cameras caught the image of Patty Hearst, armed with an M1 carbine alongside SLA members. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Hearst; although federal agents stressed that they just wanted to talk to her about the robbery.

A month later Hearst was seen sitting alone in a van while two SLA members went into a store. When the two were caught shoplifting, Hearst fired warning shots and demanded that they be released. In September 1975, Hearst, along with two SLA members was arrested in a San Francisco apartment. During her booking, Hearst listed "Urban Guerilla" as her occupation.

The Trial

Her trial began on January 15, 1976. Hearst's attorney, F. Lee Bailey, claimed that she had been blindfolded, kept in a small closet, physically and sexually abused and systematically brainwashed. Margaret Singer who was an expert on prisoner of war victims as well as court appointed doctors; Louis Jolyon' Robert Jay Lifton and Martin Theodore Orne all agreed that Hearst suffered from Stockholm syndrome.

The prosecution used their own experts to argue that Hearst was a rebel, not a victim. The fact that she refused to provide evidence for the prosecution of the other SLA members was used to help prove that she was not the victim, but a willing participant in the robbery.

Hearst was convicted of bank robbery and sentenced to 35 years, which was later commuted to seven years.

Hearst is Released

President Jimmy Carter later commuted her sentence and Hearst, 22 months into her sentence, was released from prison February 1, 1979, nearly five years from the date that she was kidnapped.

On January 20, 2001, Bill Clinton granted Hearst a full pardon.

Life Goes On

Soon after she left prison she married a former bodyguard, Bernard Shaw.

They had two children and currently reside in Garrison, New York. Hearst is an author and actress.