Ex-Fugitive Gets Prison Term in Deadly Robbery


After emotional pleas from the family of a police officer who was slain during a Vietnam War-era bank robbery, a judge Wednesday sentenced former fugitive Katherine Ann Power to eight-to-12 years in prison and prohibited her from selling her story.

"I reject any suggestion that you are less culpable than your accomplices," Suffolk County Superior Judge Robert Banks told the 1960s radical, who surrendered last month after 23 years in hiding. ". . . I will not permit profit on the lifeblood of a Boston police officer."

At times fighting back tears, Power said she was sorry for the death of Officer Walter Schroeder, an apology the officer's family forcefully rejected.

"Twenty-three years ago, I undertook a course of action that resulted in the death of another human being," the 44-year-old defendant told the court. "I cannot possibly say in words how sorry I am."

In addition to the prison sentence, Banks ordered 20 years of probation and said any attempt to profit from the crime through movies, books, magazine articles, television programs or other means would bring a life prison sentence.

Some legal scholars and First Amendment lawyers charged that the judge violated the Constitution in limiting Power's freedom of expression, and Power's lawyer said the conditions of the probation might be appealed.

Off-duty police officers packed the courtroom and overflowed into the corridor outside as Claire Schroeder, daughter of the slain officer, addressed the court.

"Millions of people in this country protested the Vietnam War, but only a handful committed acts of terrorism," she said.

Her father "never had the chance to say goodby." His family of nine children "never got a last hug or a kiss or a pat on the head or a squeeze of the hand," the Waltham, Mass., police officer said.

Schroeder's brother, Paul, another police officer, said all the media attention that Power received after her surrender was "salt in the wounds" for his family.

Their father was killed in 1970 in a $26,000 robbery designed by a band of campus radicals, including Power, to aid anti-war causes.

"I can think of no greater crime than the one committed by you and your accomplices," the judge lectured as he imposed concurrent sentences for manslaughter and armed robbery.

Power's lawyers had hoped for a five-year sentence on both charges. She must serve at least five years and four months before becoming eligible for parole.

Power was taken from the courtroom to begin serving her sentence at the state prison for women in Framingham, Mass.

Power has also pleaded guilty in federal court to taking part in a raid on a government armory three days before the bank robbery. She faces sentencing in that case on Nov. 24.

Power was a senior at Brandeis University when she and four other campus radicals robbed the bank in Boston's Brighton section. Schroeder, who responded to the bank's alarm, was killed by a single shot. Power, who was not in the bank, drove one of the getaway cars.

She remained on the FBI's most wanted list for 14 years after her companions were caught, eventually changing her name and settling as Alice Louise Metzinger in Oregon's Willamette Valley, where she worked as a gourmet chef and taught cooking classes at a community college.

She kept her previous life a secret, even from her son and close friends.

Her attorneys said Power surrendered because she was haunted by the crime and her secret life.

Some lawyers said the conditions of probation may violate Power's constitutional rights.

"The judge had the power to sentence her to considerable time in prison. He did not have the power to limit what she can write, to limit what she can say about her acts, her feelings or anything else," said Floyd Abrams, a constitutional lawyer in New York.

"It is an attempted end-run around the Constitution," charged Harvard University law professor Alan M. Dershowitz. "Clearly everyone has a constitutional right to write books and to write them for profit."

"I have sympathy for the family of anybody who was hurt by her actions," said Michael Rudell, a New York attorney specializing in entertainment and literary law. "But as a legal matter, it sounds like what the judge is doing is something that the Supreme Court has held to be unconstitutional."

By imposing the ban, the lawyers noted, the judge may have inadvertently hurt Schroeder's family, who could be in a position to sue to recover profits from literary or other endeavors Power might pursue.

Rikki J. Klieman, Power's lawyer, said she was "very surprised" when she got a copy of the conditions of probation.

"I think it may, and I do not know the answer, raise grave constitutional questions," she said.

Mehren reported from Boston, Goldman from New York.

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