Best Crime Of The Century:11 of 25

December 2, 2008

patty_hearstTHE PATTY HEARST KIDNAPPING, 1974

Her family is a storied one, albeit the kind of stories that involved yellow journalism, character assassination, political manipulation and gossip mongering. Who knew that Patricia Hearst, granddaughter of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, the inspiration for Orson Well’s biting film Citizen Kane, would herself become the central character of one of the biggest news stories of the turbulent 1970s? It was shocking enough on Feb. 4, 1974 when the 19-year-old heiress was kidnapped by a ratty band of Bay Area urban revolutionaries, the Symbionese National Liberation Army, who demanded as ransom that her father feed all the hungry in California. But then, just over two months later, she was seen on camera assisting them in a bank robbery. Soon enough, the kidnap victim had an arrest warrant of her own. It would be nearly a year and a half before she was captured. Despite the defense’s strategy of brainwashing, her two-month trial in 1976 led to a seven-year sentence. It was later commuted by then-President Jimmy Carter and she served only 22 months. Bill Clinton granted her a full pardon on the day he left office. Nowadays, Hearst is a socialite, not a guerrilla, though she appears in a number of director John Waters’ subversive, sly and crude comedies.

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