Attacking racism, imperialism, the CIA and the FBI, Cathlyn Platt Wilkerson, one of the most famous fugitives of the radical Weathermen movement, emerged today after 10 years in hiding.
Wilkerson, who was last seen fleeing half-naked from her father's bombed-out townhouse in Greenwich Village, surrendered to the Manhattan district attorney this morning and was arraigned tonight on charges of criminally negligent homicide and possession of dangerous instruments -- dynamite.
Now 35, she refused to tell reporters where she has been for the last decade. Instead, her hands trembling, she read a statement to reporters reminiscent of the Weathermen tracts of the 1960s and early 1970s.
Asserting that her reasons for surrendering were "personal," Wilkerson added, "However, it should not be taken to mean that my beliefs have changed or that social or political conditions are the same, and I have the same commitment to struggle against them."
Dressed in black slacks, a white blouse and printed scarf, she pleaded "not guilty" at the arraignment.
The charges stem from the March 6, 1970, explosion which wrecked the fashionable townhouse of her father, broadcasting executive James Scott Wilkerson. Three Weathermen were killed in the blast, and two women survived, fleeing with their clothes in shreds.
Police said later that the Weathermen, a radical faction of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), were operating a bomb factory in the basement. The two women, Wilkerson and Kathy Boudin, daughter of attorney Leonard Boudin, were taken in and clothed by a neighbor. They disappeared within an hour, while the neighbor went to the explosion scene.
Wilkerson was released on $10,000 bail and personal recognizance today after a 10-minute hearing before Judge Rose McBrien. Her attorneys, Elizabeth Fink and Margaret Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a civil rights firm, had negotiated the terms of the surrender over the past month with District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
Her once-long brown hair now cropped short, Wilkerson was calm throughout the hearing as she clutched two paperbacks, one of them "Obscure Destinies," by Willa Cather. She agreed to report to her defense counsel once a week and not to leave New York City without permission of the district attorney or the court.
If convicted, Wilkerson could face up to seven years in jail. Since the charges were filed against her in March 1970, a statute of limitations does not apply.
In the rubble of the Wilkerson townhouse, police found more than 60 sticks of dynamite, 100 blasting caps and several pipes packed with dynamite and wired. So baldly damaged was the house next door, owned by actor Dustin Hoffman, that it had to be condemned.
The Weather Underground Organization -- as it later called itself when female members protested the word "weathermen" -- took its name from a line in a Bob Dylan song, "You don't need to a be a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows."
The group, whose numbers may once have been in the hundreds, advocated bombing police stations and other government targets to bring about revolution. More than a dozen members are still known to be at large and have claimed responsibility for about 25 bombings in the last decade.
Among those at large are Boudin, Bernadine Dohrn, and two sought by the FBI, Silas Bissell and Jeffrey Jones. Mark Rudd, a former Columbia University Weatherman who formed the basis of the Doonesbury character "Megaphone Mark," surrendered in 1977.
Rudd was fined $2,000 and placed on two years' probation for his part in the "Days of Rage," a Weatherman riot in Chicago in 1969. Rudd is now working and going to school in a southwestern state, according to his attorney Gerald Lefcourt, and has not altered his political beliefs.
Like many of the Weathermen Wilkerson came from a privileged background. Her father owned a chain of Midwest radio stations. Her mother was remarried to Harlan D. Logan, former majority leader of the New Hampshire House.
Raised as a Quaker, Wilkerson attended New Canaan Country Day School in Connecticut and Abbot Academy in Andover, Mass., and was a 1966 graduate of Swarthmore College, outside Philadelphia.
Friends described her as totally alienated from her upbringing. At the time of her disappearance, she was free on $40,000 bail on charges of assaulting a police officer during the four "Days of Rage" in Chicago. She had also been arrested for occupying a building at George Washington University in April 1969.
Wilkerson was listed as one of three SDS members on a delegation visiting Hanoi in 1967.
After the New York explosion, the FBI mounted a massive effort to find the Weathermen. They found few of them, but their efforts were so zealous that today two former FBI officials, W. Mark Felt and Edward S. Miller, are being prosecuted by the Justice Department on charges that they approved illegal break-ins to search for the Weathermen. The trial is scheduled for next month in District Court here.
At the time of the explosion, James Wilkerson and his second wife were on vacation at St. Kitts in the Caribbean. He told reporters he opposed his daughter's radical activities and has no idea what was going on in his house.
In today's statement, Wilkerson said the Vietnam war, the killing of Black Panthers by police and the brutalization of women in U.S. prisons caused her to "re-examine her privileged status in the world."
"It is now 1980," she said. "The U.S. has made no reparations to Vietnam. Instead, it wages a war of economic sabotage . . .CIA assassination . . . is a continuing threat . . . in the Caribbean. Despite a United Nations prohibition, U.S. corporations continue to trade and sell arms to South Africa . . .
"The FBI, police and the courts are still waging bitter battles against Third World peoples," she added citing "white cops who murder and brutilize black people (and) walk free . . ."
Although it has been reported that Wilkerson and other Weathermen went to Canada, Cuba and possibly Russia, a source close to the group said yesterday she "pretty much stayed in this country and was "very close" to Rudd until a feminist dispute split the group in 1974.