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SACRAMENTO — Although the final gavel appeared to fall Friday on one of California’s most notorious cases, the saga of four former Symbionese Liberation Army members is far from over. Per a November plea agreement, defendants Sara Jane Olson, William Harris, Emily Montague and Michael Bortin were sentenced to between six and eight years in prison and remanded to state custody. But because their crime — the murder of Myrna Lee Opsahl during a bank robbery — was committed before 1977, each could face a “serious offender” hearing by the Board of Prison Terms, which could drastically increase their sentences. That’s what has already happened to Olson, who had believed she would only get five years after she pleaded out in a Los Angeles SLA case. The board gave her 14. In the Sacramento matter, defense attorneys believe the board will consider that Judge Thomas Cecil, the district attorney’s office and victim family members all agreed the sentences are fair. But board spokesman Bill Sessa said: “Whether or not the Board of Prison Terms conducts a hearing like this is not subject to the votes of other people.” The Sacramento DA’s office got no assurance from the prison board that it would abide by Cecil’s sentences before crafting the plea deals, said Deputy DA Lana Wyant. But unlike the Los Angeles case, Wyant pointed out that Sacramento prosecutors will not ask for the hearing as a way of increasing the sentences. After legislators abolished indeterminate sentences in 1977, the board began holding the serious offender hearings to figure out what sort of determinate terms prisoners should get. The hearings are rare nowadays because not many 25-year-old crimes are prosecuted. Sessa said the board has 90 days to decide whether to hold hearings for the SLA defendants. They can opt out of the plea deal if any one of them gets more time as a result of a hearing. The defendants pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for killing the 42-year-old Opsahl during a robbery at Crocker Bank in the Sacramento suburb of Carmichael on April 21, 1975. The radical SLA members served prison terms for other crimes, but the Sacramento case was in limbo for nearly three decades. The defendants lived relatively normal lives; among other ironies, Harris became a well-known Bay Area defense investigator. Olson, who was also wanted in Los Angeles, went into hiding. After she was arrested and prosecution began, Sacramento deputy DAs filed murder charges. The case appeared to be moving toward trial, but then the plea bargain was announced. At a court hearing, each of the defendants admitted their role in the robbery. On Friday, Harris again addressed the court, this time speaking directly to the Opsahls about whether, after so much time, justice is served by tearing him away from his family. He pointed out that he had offered to plead guilty to second-degree murder in 1978. Although he said his family would not be devastated as much as the Opsahls, Harris said he wished there was another process to “restore you and restore me.” Myrna Opsahl’s son Jon Opsahl also addressed the court and sat in the witness box next to a large photo of his mother as he responded to Harris. “The plea bargain . . . is a compromise, but it is acceptable. I hope someone explains to the children of the defendants that unlike the pain and loss that the Opsahl family is having to endure, their situation is temporary,” he said. Afterward, the defendants were remanded into custody. Olson already is serving her sentence in the Los Angeles case. Her attorney, San Rafael solo David Nickerson, said he expects to file an administrative appeal with the Board of Prison Terms in March. A fifth SLA member and defendant in the bank robbery, James Kilgore, is being prosecuted on federal explosives and forgery charges.

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