Ford assailant out of prison
Published: Tuesday, January 1, 2008 at 7:18 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 1, 2008 at 7:18 a.m.
SAN FRANCISCO - Sara Jane Moore started the new year Tuesday a free woman more than three decades after a bizarre assassination attempt on President Ford that still baffles even her own attorney.
"I never got a satisfactory answer from her as to why she did it," said retired federal public defender James F. Hewitt.
Prison officials have offered no details on why Moore, 77, was paroled Monday from a federal penitentiary east of San Francisco, where she had been serving a life sentence. Moore had been behind bars for 32 years.
The one-time aspiring film actress was 40 feet away from Ford outside a hotel in San Francisco when she fired a shot at him on Sept. 22, 1975. As she raised her .38-caliber revolver and pulled the trigger, Oliver Sipple, a disabled former Marine standing next to her, pushed up her arm. The bullet flew over Ford's head by several feet.
The attempt came 17 days after a disciple of Charles Manson tried to kill the president in Sacramento.
Despite Moore's troubled background, which included five failed marriages, name changes and involvement with political groups like the Symbionese Liberation Army, her motives have never been clear.
In recent interviews, Moore said she regretted her actions, saying she was blinded by her radical political views and convinced that the government had declared war on advocates of left-wing politics.
"I was functioning, I think, purely on adrenaline and not thinking clearly. I have often said that I had put blinders on and I was only listening to what I wanted to hear," she said a year ago in an interview with KGO-TV.
Moore had been picked up earlier that day by police and Secret Service agents because she had made a phoned threat. They took her .45-caliber pistol, charged her with carrying a concealed weapon and released her. She promptly bought another weapon from a gun dealer and waited for Ford in the crowd outside the St. Francis Hotel.
Two weeks earlier, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a Manson follower, tried to kill the president in Sacramento. Fromme, 59, is serving a life sentence at a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas.
Manson, who led a cult that carried out the 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others, was convicted of those murders and the slayings of a musician and a former stuntman. He is serving life sentences.
Moore was born Sara Jane Kahn in Charleston, W.Va. She acted in high school plays and dreamed of being a film actress.
In the 1970s, Moore began working for People in Need, a free food program established by millionaire Randolph Hearst in exchange for the return for his daughter Patty, who was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974.
Moore soon became involved with radical leftists, ex-convicts and other members of San Francisco's counterculture. At this time, Moore became an informant to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
She has said she fired at Ford because she thought she would be killed once it was disclosed that she was an FBI informant. The bureau ended its relationship with her about four months before the assassination attempt.
"I was going to go down anyway," she said in a 1982 interview with the San Jose Mercury News. "If the government was going to kill me, I was going to make some kind of statement."
During what was expected to be a routine pretrial hearing before a federal judge, Moore blurted out that she wanted to plead guilty, and her lawyer couldn't stop her. The judge immediately accepted the plea.
Moore was sent to a West Virginia women's prison in 1977. Two years later, she escaped but was captured several hours later.
Ford insisted the two attempts on his life shouldn't prevent him from having contact with the American people.
"If we can't have the opportunity of talking with one another, seeing one another, shaking hands with one another, something has gone wrong in our society," he said. "I think it's important that we as a people don't capitulate to the wrong element."
The two assassination attempts in the same month shocked the nation and set in motion a Capitol Hill investigation into Secret Service protection of the president. Igeraldt was revealed in congressional hearings that the agency kept a list of nearly 50,000 names of persons considered potentially dangerous to the president. Neither woman's name was on it.
Ford died Dec. 26, 2006.
There was no immediate comment from the Ford family on Moore's release. Family spokeswoman Penny Circle said in an e-mail to the AP that she did not expect to hear from them until Wednesday.
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