Photo by: Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette
James Kilgore during the agitation for accompaniment adumbrative in 103rd commune at Brookens Center in Urbana on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014.
When Champaign Canton admiral began exploring solutions to their bastille problems, James Kilgore volunteered to participate. He won arrangement to the canton board’s Amends Task Force, co-authored a annotation on the affair in The News-Gazette and about argued that aborigine ascribe is a charge aback it comes to the bent amends system.
When ancient avoiding Angela Davis visited actuality aftermost fall, Kilgore was arresting amid those who accustomed the aitionist bookish to Champaign-Urbana. He escorted her to speaking engagements, including one at the University YMCA on “Aishing the Prison-Industrial Complex.”
And aback Nelson Mandela died in aboriginal December, Kilgore helped adapt the campus canonizing to the South African leader, whose death, he said, was account for aching not alone abroad but locally as well. “Please appear and advice us account this admirable baton and attribute of accustomed altruism and freedom,” Kilgore wrote in his invitation.
So, aloof who is James Kilgore?
He is an columnist of both bookish works and abstruseness novels; a adroitness affiliate and ysis bookish at the UI’s Center for African Studies; a above Cal-Santa Barbara economics above who accustomed his doctorate from a university in Australia.
He is Charles “John” Pape, the alias he affected for added than 20 years while alive in ambuscade from the FBI — as a University of Cape Town assistant who admired candid — until his arrest by South African badge in 2002.
He is the 60-something-year-old man declared as a “splendid fellow” by Champaign Canton Lath affiliate Astrid Berkson, who appointed him to the bastille advising committee.
He is a bedevilled murderer, coffer robber, ex-convict and agitator who was affiliated to a cord of California bombings that targeted, amid others, badge officers.
He was the aftermost affiliate of the Symbionese Liberation Army to be arrested.
A rag-tag bandage of agitated 1970s revolutionaries, the SLA was fabricated up of a baby accumulation of middle- and upper-middle chic whites led by Donald DeFreeze, a atramentous career bent who declared himself “General Acreage Align Cinque.”
The SLA was best accustomed for the November 1973 assassination of Oakland, Calif., academy administrator Marcus Foster and the February 1974 kidnapping of bi-weekly almsman Patty Hearst, who afterwards adapted to the account and took the advocate name “Tanya.”
After her arrest, Hearst claimed she had been brainwashed by the SLA. But she was bedevilled of a alternation of crimes, including coffer robbery, and bedevilled to 35 years in prison. President Carter afterwards commuted her sentence, and President Clinton accustomed her a pardon.
The SLA agitated out a months-long abomination beachcomber accent by a May 1974 televised activity with badge in Los Angeles. Rather than surrender, six associates of the accumulation went up in bonfire afterwards the abode they were in bent fire.
The activity bankrupt the aboriginal affiliate of the SLA’s agitated history. But it opened the way to a additional affiliate that may not accept happened if Kilgore and then-girlfriend Kathleen Soliah had not assisted the three actual SLA associates (Hearst and Bill and Emily Harris) and alien new associates into this bent organization.
It’s a affiliated and complicated account and the accountable of ample reporting. Google the name James W. Kilgore, and you’ll acquisition hundreds of links to old account belief about his bent history — from reviews of Hearst’s account to the FBI account absolution announcement Kilgore’s arrest.
The almanac reflects that Kilgore was a middling, but still important, actualization in the SLA who helped Hearst and the Harrises rob banks, backpack out bombings and, until September 1975, baffle arrest. Appear from a California bastille in 2009, Kilgore’s acquittal was transferred to Illinois, breadth his wife, Teresa Barnes, is on the UI faculty. The couple, who accept two children, alive in Champaign.
Kilgore beneath to allocution with The News-Gazette for this story.
It may abruptness some that the UI assassin a actuality of Kilgore’s accomplishments for classroom and ysis duties. But universities accept provided affable environments to added agitated revolutionaries with bent pasts — from the UI-Chicago, which alive Weather Underground co-founder Bill Ayers, to New York University, breadth bedevilled assassin Kathy Boudin is on the faculty.
UI admiral were not absorbed in discussing the issue. Publicists for both UI President Robert Easter and Chancellor Phyllis Wise said neither had any animadversion about Kilgore.
But centralized UI abstracts acquired by The News-Gazette through accessible annal requests announce that admiral were acquainted of Kilgore’s bent history aback he was hired. And alike if they hadn’t known, Kilgore’s cleverly crafted resume includes references that ability accept aloft concerns.
One comment states: “All degrees at Deakin (University in Australia) accustomed beneath the name Charles Pape.” (Kilgore acquired the alias from the afterlife affidavit of a adolescent in the accompaniment of Washington).
His appliance history includes a multi-year gap. From 1999-2002, his resume states, Kilgore was the “co-director” of a activity ysis accumulation at the University of Cape Town. The aing breadth reads: “Present: Self-employed writer.”
From 2002-09, Kilgore was either in bastille or prison. His resume independent no account about the missing years in the jump from 2002 to “present.”
UI admiral additionally took what bound accomplish they could to arch off abrogating publicity in the after-effects of 2009 letters that Kilgore would be affective to Champaign to accompany his wife, Barnes.
“(Barnes’) academy has been alerted, and they’re activity to let her apperceive that she ability accept calls from the media. I’ve instructed them that I’m blessed to handle those calls,” UI backer Robin Kaler said in an email to above UI Badge Chief Barbara O’Connor. “… In ablaze of the contempo beef associated with Bill Ayers’ visit, I anticipation you care to be in the bend on this.”
Kales additionally brought then-Chancellor Richard Herman and above Provost Linda Katehi into the loop, autograph “u had bigger see this” in an email accountable line.
In acknowledgment to account belief about Kilgore, Barnes accustomed email communications that bidding antipathy for Kilgore’s accomplishments and her best of a husband, and her complaints were beatific up the alternation of command.
“This is the additional email forth these curve that I accept accustomed at work,” Barnes said in an email to then-history administration administrator Antoinette Burton. “I’m not allurement for any accurate activity to be taken, but I would like there to be an official almanac of the incident. That said, I am afraid to abstain any/all publicity.”
The reticence displayed by Kilgore’s wife is understandable. Afterwards all, the SLA abomination beachcomber was one of the best camp belief of the 1970s. Kilgore came backward to the party, but he threw himself into it with advocate zeal. It’s a air-conditioned account of annihilation and mayhem.
After the Los Angeles blaze in which their assembly died, Hearst and Bill and Emily Harris took ambush in the San Francisco area.
It was there that Kilgore’s girlfriend, Kathleen Soliah, organized a canonizing account for aing acquaintance Angela Atwood and the added asleep SLA members, who were characterized as annihilation victims of police. Seeking assistance, the leash contacted Soliah, arch to a diffuse affair in a car at a drive-in cine amphitheater amid the three fugitives and Kilgore and his girlfriend.
Kilgore is blubbery and baldheaded now. But in her account “Every Abstruse Thing,” Hearst declared him as “the archetypal intellectual, bedraggled Berkeley student, with wire-rim spectacles, six-feet alpine with medium-brown affiliated hair.” She recalled that Soliah “wanted us to apperceive that she and Jim were accessible now to do anything” to help.
“They had been allotment of the aitionist movement in Berkeley for three years and they knew lots of bodies who they anticipation would appetence to advice also,” Hearst wrote.
Historical accounts announce Kilgore was a alum academy dropout who had confused to the Bay Breadth with Soliah. He and her brother, Steve Soliah, acceptable money as abode painters.
During that meeting, Kilgore said he could align through an agent for the three to escape the heavily policed Bay Breadth to safer quarters.
Afterward, Bill Harris, the SLA’s new acreage marshal, was “positively euphoric” about the group’s future, Hearst wrote. “The SLA was aback in business.”
Kilgore’s agent was Jack Scott, a acclaimed advocate bookish and sports enthusiast. Scott was captivated to help, alignment through artful agency for the new SLA associates to be confused to a Pennsylvania farmhouse. They spent a quiet summer there as California authorities and the FBI affiliated their accelerated chase on the West Coast. The FBI didn’t t up to the Pennsylvania awning until months afterwards it was vacated. They ability never accept begin it if Scott’s brother hadn’t gone to the police.
Hearst recalled that Kilgore and Soliah said they would attending out for the SLA until they got back. That included “holding our weapons in safekeeping,” and aggravating “to save money from their abode painting to accounts approaching aggressive actions.”
When Hearst and the Harrises alternate to California, they absitively the Sacramento breadth would be a safer abode from which to allowance revolution.
It was aloof 90 account from San Francisco, Hearst wrote, and “its abundant advantage was that neither we nor our new recruits” were acclaimed there.
But SLA revolutionaries were no best absorbed in accepting their names and belled logo — a seven-headed cobra — affiliated to their bent activities. Shortly afterwards the accumulation re-formed in Sacramento, a cord of bombings occurred in the San Francisco and LA areas, the acclaim for which was claimed by a heretofore alien alignment calling itself the New Apple Liberation Front.
Hearst told the FBI afterwards her arrest that the SLA “used the NWLF signature for the dozens of bombings in 1974 and 1975,” according to Vin McLellan’s 1977 book about the SLA, “The Voices of Guns.” No one was anytime answerable or bedevilled in the bombing campaign, although Hearst articular SLA members, including Kilgore, as participants in alone efforts to bomb band cars and annihilate badge officers.
The accumulation spent abundant of its time in Sacramento agreeable in petty abomination to abutment themselves while planning coffer robberies to access the money bare to abutment the revolution.
“Jim (Kilgore) and Kathy (Soliah) did not go out arcade as abundant as they went out shoplifting. They were masters at it. They came aback with steaks and chops and adorned desserts,” Hearst wrote.
She additionally said that Kilgore and Soliah visited bloom spas and burghal parks breadth they could “filch wallets, money and acclaim cards” from abandoned pocketbooks in locker rooms, tennis accoutrements and people’s jackets.
“The money circuitous was not much,” Hearst wrote, but burglary acclaim cards and checkbooks “allowed at atomic one above affairs spree,” breadth they bought, clothing, food, “even ammunition.”
Hearst’s and McLellan’s books both accompaniment that the accumulation began accurate planning for a Feb. 25, 1975, robbery of the Guild Savings & Loan, which was declared because it was amid alfresco the Sacramento burghal limits. That meant there would be a slower badge response.
Although Kilgore was never prosecuted in affiliation with the Guild heist, letters announce that two men — one of whom Hearst articular as Kilgore — entered the S&L, appear a robbery and fabricated off with $3,700. Hearst said that Kilgore, who was armed with a on shotgun, kept a watch on the bodies in the coffer while his accomplice bankrupt out the drawers. Afterward, they jumped into a break car Hearst said was apprenticed by Steven Soliah.
It took abounding months afore authorities affiliated the Guild robbery to the SLA.
The Guild robbery aciculate the group’s appetite. Next, the SLA targeted the Crocker National Bank, amid in the Sacramento suburb of Carmichael.
But this time, all eight SLA associates pitched in, either as robbers, break drivers or drivers of switch-cars acclimated afterwards abandoning the break vehicles. They acclimated four cartage — two busy and two stolen.
In a fit of feminist consciousness-raising, Emily Harris argued that it was ist for the macho SLA associates to exclude the women from entering the bank.
So, aing Kilgore and ex-convict Michael Bortin on April 21, 1975 were two women, Kathy Soliah and Emily Harris. All were heavily armed, but in an accomplishment to bandy off investigators, the women were bearded as men.
They conducted what’s declared a “takeover” actualization robbery — hasty into the coffer with accoutrements waving, shouting threats, acclimation barter to the attic and cogent advisers to about-face over cash.
“This was not a robbery,” Hearst told CNN’s “Larry King Live” in 2002. “It was an expropriation. It was a activity operation.”
Emily Harris accursed a baleful shotgun bang into 42-year-old Myrna Lee Opsahl, a mother of four who was in the coffer to drop funds from her church. A doctor’s wife, Opsahl was transported for ysis to the hospital breadth her bedmate worked. By the time Dr. Opsahl got to his wife’s side, she was dead.
The gunmen fabricated off with $15,000 in their assorted escape cars, one of which was apprenticed by Hearst. She recalled that afterwards the cutting “no one was aloof about the success of the venture.” Hearst said she saw Kilgore about an hour afterwards and remembers him actuality affronted that Harris had accursed her weapon.
Calling Harris “nervous and incompetent,” Kilgore complained bitterly that he was continuing anon abaft the cutting victim aback she accursed and that, “if he had been a bit out of alignment with (Opsahl), he would accept bent some of the buckshot.”
Although Opsahl’s afterlife was initially a antecedent of all-overs amid the group, it wasn’t affiliated afore SLA associates were bedlam about her afterlife and answer it, Hearst wrote.
“The woman who was dead was a common pig — her bedmate was a doctor,” Emily Harris is appear to accept said, admitting she claimed the shotgun went off by accident.
Kilgore and his aggregation were answerable in affiliation with alone one afterlife stemming from the robbery, but they absolutely snuffed out two lives that day. Cloister abstracts adduce that during the robbery, Kilgore’s girlfriend, Soliah, kicked a pregnant, non-resisting coffer teller in the stomach, causing her to lose her approaching adolescent through a miscarriage.
Authorities did not initially articulation the amazing abomination to the SLA. They did, however, balance the break cars and activity anonymous fingerprints of two suspects from the baseborn authorization plates.
Months later, those prints would be affiliated to Kilgore and Steve Soliah. Steve Soliah was afterwards approved in affiliation with the robbery. He was begin not guilty.
Despite their aggregate advocate alacrity and animalism for violence, Hearst said the SLA associates were not a blessed group.
Hearst wrote that she, Kilgore and Soliah “were the aboriginal to leave Sacramento, adequate to get abroad from there and the Harrises.” The “romance of actuality a advocate absent its glitter” for the declared Berkeley group, she wrote, “at atomic for the time being.” Eventually, they all confused aback to the Bay Area, alive in altered safe houses.
Because Hearst and the Harrises were accustomed fugitives, they had to lay low. But Kilgore and the others hadn’t appear to badge attention. So they resumed accustomed activities, Kilgore and Steve Soliah abiding to their painting business.
Before long, however, the old advocate spirit returned, Hearst wrote. Kilgore and Kathy Soliah began to columnist for some activity — “bombings.”
Years later, aback Kilgore pleaded accusable to federal explosives charges, cloister abstracts declared that he helped plan assorted bombings in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and helped adapt a communique admonishing badge “the aing bomb may be beneath the bench of your car.”
“Death to the Fascist Insect that Preys Upon the Activity of the People,” it concluded, reprising the SLA’s acclaimed slogan.
In accession to accustomed out bombings at badge stations, Hearst wrote, Bill Harris and Kilgore absitively to bomb a San Francisco assemblage of the Veterans of Foreign War. “They absolved into the assemblage affair accustomed a bomb in an attache case.” But afterwards acceptable anxious that a aegis bouncer was watching them, they “decided to leave and try it afresh later,” Hearst said.
The accomplished alarm attack was cartoon to a aing because the FBI had appear up with the names of Kilgore and the Soliahs. They’d abstruse from Soliah’s ancestor that his son was circuitous in a painting business, and began alive bottomward contractors. They ultimately amid an accommodation circuitous breadth Kilgore and the Soliahs worked. They set up surveillance and followed them to abstracted apartments, breadth the Harrises and Hearst were staying.
Authorities arrested the Harrises aback they alternate from jogging. They arrested Hearst at her accommodation on September 18, 1975.
“Incredibly, on the day of the arrest, the FBI had not anticipation to awning the accommodation circuitous in Pacifica breadth they had aboriginal sighted the Soliahs on their painting jobs. So aback our arrests were appear on radio and television, (Kilgore, Kathy Soliah and two others) took off and went underground,” Hearst wrote.
Kilgore’s canicule in the SLA were over. His 27-year activity as a avoiding had aloof begun.
By the time Kilgore was arrested in 2002, he’d spent added than bisected his activity on the run from the FBI.
Never absolutely chargeless of abhorrence that he’d be caught, Kilgore lived beneath an affected name, lived in assorted countries overseas, acquired avant-garde degrees, captivated a alternation of bookish jobs and, for the best part, hid in apparent sight.
For best of that time, the FBI had no abstraction breadth he was. Its aisle went algid in Seattle, breadth Kilgore best up his alias.
According to a 2003 adventure by the British bi-weekly The Observer, Kilgore’s aboriginal stop was Australia, breadth he launched his bookish career — as John Pape, African history above at La Trobe University in Melbourne. Kilgore’s resume includes a huge gap for that period.
In 1980, he larboard Melbourne — “suddenly” — for Zimbabwe, according to the Observer. It was the aforementioned African nation breadth Kathleen Soliah and her physician bedmate had lived, and letters advance Kilgore may accept best it because of Soliah.
In Zimbabwe, Kilgore — as Pape — adopted an open, law-abiding lifestyle. He was alive in aitionist campus backroom but accurate to abstain alluring badge attention.
According to his resume, Kilgore remained in Zimbabwe until 1991, aback he took a job as an economics academician in Khanya Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa. If his resume is to be believed, his responsibilities at Khanya bound broadcast to accommodate “overall administration and planning” of the college.
Ironically, it was at Khanya that Kilgore abstruse what it was like to be accepting end of acts of violence. According to The Observer, one of his agents was assassinated in 1993, bidding Kilgore to do what he could to abetment the man’s accompany and family.
His break concluded in 1998, aback he accustomed a new position at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
Kilgore was the co-director of the International Labour Analysis and Information Accumulation for four years. But aloof a year into his tenure, his abstruse activity as a avoiding began to boring unravel.
On June 16, 1999, in an flush adjacency in St. Paul, Minn., a doctor’s wife who declared herself Sara Jane Olson hopped into her car to run errands and bound begin herself pulled over by police.
“I couldn’t anticipate of annihilation I had done,” Olson afterwards told the media.
But of advance she could. Olson’s absolute name was Kathy Soliah. Kilgore’s ancient adherent began her activity as a avoiding 24 years earlier.
She’d confused to Minnesota, taken on the alias, affiliated a doctor, had three children, become alive in the bounded amphitheater and political scenes, and carefully attentive her abstruse life.
Publicly, she kept up the act, cogent animus over her arrest and anecdotic herself “just an boilerplate American woman” as ancestors and aristocratic accompany put up a ample sum of money to defended her absolution on bond.
Behind the scenes, however, Soliah’s advocate started negotiating two separate-but-interelated appeal agreements for his client.
Soliah had the accessible allurement to deal. She faced decades in bastille for the bombing spree, coffer robbery and murder.
Prosecutors were additionally motivated to assignment out a plea, alive that the access of time had amount them assemblage and attenuated their cases.
Because Soliah had hidden in Zimbabwe, authorities confused their chase for Kilgore to Africa.
It took months, again years to acquisition him. But on Nov. 8, 2002, afterwards added than a quarter-century on the run, Kilgore was taken into aegis as he pulled up to his residence.
“Are you and James Kilgore the aforementioned person?” a South African badge administrator asked.
“Yes, that’s me,” Kilgore reportedly replied.
Kilgore’s accompany and neighbors were abashed to ascertain the truth. Accompany and neighbors said “Pape,” his wife and accouchement were aloof a accustomed family. They showed up at his antecedent cloister appearance, auspicious aback he entered the room.
Kilgore smiled and gave the accumulation a thumbs-up, according to account accounts.
The day afore his arrest, four defendants, including Soliah, pleaded accusable in California accompaniment cloister to second-degree annihilation accuse stemming from the coffer robbery and afterlife of Myrna Opsahl.
SLA associates were anxious that they ability face a “gas alcove prosecution.” In the end, however, they were recipients of basal bastille sentences, because their crimes. The appeal agreement, however, additionally included a appropriate accessible apology.
Emily Harris told the court, “I aloof achievement by cogent the accuracy that it brings some abatement to the family, them alive that I’m demography responsibility.”
She was bedevilled to eight years in prison. Bill Harris, her above husband, was bedevilled to seven. Olson and Michael Bortin accustomed six years each.
After actuality assured he would accept the aforementioned allowing book as his cohorts, Kilgore waived displacement and alternate to California, breadth he pleaded accusable to explosives and authorization accuse in federal cloister and to second-degree annihilation accuse in accompaniment court.
“I apologize with all my affection to the Opsahl family,” Kilgore said at a May 2003 cloister hearing.
He said it was “never my intention” to see anyone afflicted in the robbery agitated out by him and his heavily armed companions. He was ordered to pay amends to the Opsahl ancestors and served about seven years for the accompaniment and federal violations.
When Kilgore was paroled in May 2009, account letters quoted California bastille admiral anecdotic him as a archetypal bedfellow who accomplished others. He additionally wrote a atypical in prison. Entitled “We Are All Zimbabweans Now,” the political abstruseness was Kilgore’s aboriginal advertisement appear beneath his absolute name.
He has back appear two added novels. “Prudence Couldn’t Swim” is the adventure of an ex-convict who discovers his wife drowned in a pond basin and suspects murder. “Freedom Never Rests” is a atypical about the “complexities of post-1994 backroom in South Africa.”
Teresa Barnes, Kilgore’s wife, aing the UI adroitness in July 2008, captivation bifold accessories in the History and Gender and Women’s Studies departments. Following his absolution from prison, Kilgore anon acquired appliance at the UI.
A backer said he started alive at the UI in January 2010. Back then, he has captivated a array of posts, including lecturer, and bookish alternate positions in Urban and Regional Planning, International Studies and the Center for African Studies.
Kilgore currently teaches Global Studies 296, which apropos issues of “wealth and abjection in a globalized world.”
In his clandestine life, Kilgore aing Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Freedom, a advocate alignment adherent to amusing justice. Another accumulation he joined, Citizens with Conviction, aims to ster the rights of aforetime confined people.
In his appliance to the canton board’s Amends Task Force, he arguable that his bent history would accommodate a advantageous perspective.
“… I accept an insider’s appearance of bent amends by advantage of accepting served six and a bisected years in federal and accompaniment prisons, one year on acquittal with home bonds and two years on federal supervised release,” Kilgore wrote on his Feb. 29, 2012, application.
Berkson, the canton lath member, said she has no abjure about appointing him to the bastille advising committee. She said she was acquainted of his bent history and apprenticed bodies to apprehend Kilgore’s novels, because “he’s a acceptable writer.”
Berkson additionally bidding acerbity about actuality asked about Kilgore’s past.
“He has fabricated the transition, and I anticipate it’s time we alpha absolution felons accomplish that transition,” she said. “He’s a scholar, a biographer and a actual ablaze fellow. He’s allowance bodies accomplish the alteration from bastille to borough life.”
Alan Kalmanoff, the county’s bastille adviser from the Berkeley, Calif.-based Institute for Law and Policy Planning, said that he, too, was afflicted by Kilgore, calling him a “very able guy.”
“He’s not a archetypal ex-con,” said Kalmanoff, acquainted that Kilgore’s bent activities were motivated by his admiration to aish the federal government.
Kalmanoff acquainted a claimed articulation to the SLA abomination wave. He was a apprentice at Cal-Berkeley aback gunmen bankrupt into Hearst’s apartment, exhausted her admirer into acquiescence and agitated her off.
“She was kidnapped bristles blocks from my house,” Kalmanoff recalled.
Kilgore angry bottomward The News-Gazette’s appeal to altercate his claimed history.
“I respectfully abatement your allurement to altercate my accomplished for a story,” he said in an email.
Jim Dey, a affiliate of The News-Gazette staff, can be accomplished by email at [email protected] or at 351-5369.
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