Who knew kidnapping could be so much fun?! If you get a chance to to hear Jeffrey Toobin speak about his latest book, American Heiress, definitely do so! His oratory skills are as exceptional as his writings, but for very different reasons. He’s blunt and funny as well as intelligent and articulate. Toobin, lawyer/journalist known for being a commentator on CNN as well as penning such high profile books as The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson and The Nine, is touting his latest book about the Patricia Hearst kidnapping. Lucky me got to hear him recently at Book Passage in California. After recently reading American Heiress, I can attest to the fact that like his other books, this is a captivating read. It serves as a bit of history lesson on two levels - the kidnapping and the subsequent trial, and what it was like in the Bay Area in the 70s.
At the heart of this thoroughly investigative journalistic story is the uncovering of a pathological liar that is Patricia Hearst. She epitomizes the rich, white and privileged beating the system. Instead of being clothed at some point in guilt and remorse, she only ever claimed to be a victim and felt a sense of entitlement, worthy of complete clemency (of which Presidents Carter and Clinton granted). Towards the conclusion of the book, Toobin aptly sums up Hearst's unfair legal fortune.
"Patricia Hearst was woman who, through no fault of her own, fell in with bad people but then did bad things; she committed crimes, lots of them, including one of three bank robberies in which a woman was killed. Following her arrest in 1975 (and prior to her kidnapping), she was unlikely to commit these kinds of crimes. If the U.S. were a country that forgave the trespasses of such people, there would be little remarkable about the mercy she received following her conviction. But the U.S. is not such a country; the prisons teem with convicts who were also let astray and who committed lesser crimes than Patricia. These unfortunate souls have no chance at even a single act of clemency, much less an unprecedented two."