Sara Jane Moore freed 32 years after firing shot at president outside SF hotel

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sara Jane Moore, who in 1975 fired a shot at President Gerald Ford in a bizarre assassination attempt just 17 days after a Charles Manson disciple tried to kill Ford, was paroled Monday after 32 years behind bars.

Moore, 77, was released at 5:20 a.m. from the federal prison in Dublin, the federal Bureau of Prisons said.

Bureau spokeswoman Felicia Ponce said she had no details on why Moore, who was sentenced to life, was let out. But she said that with good behavior, inmates sentenced to life can apply for parole after 10 years.

Moore was 40 feet away from Ford outside the St. Francis 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.

Earlier that day, Moore had been picked up twice by police and the Secret Service after she made a phoned threat.

They took her .45-caliber pistol and charged her with carrying a concealed weapon. But she later went to a gun dealer, bought another weapon and headed for Union Square where she joined the crowd waiting for Ford outside the hotel.

Two weeks earlier, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a follower of Manson's, had tried to kill Ford in Sacramento.

In recent interviews, Moore said she regretted her actions, saying she was blinded by her radical political views and was convinced that the government had declared war on the left.

"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 told KGO-TV a year ago.

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 attorney couldn't stop her. The judge immediately accepted the plea.

Moore's background, which included five failed marriages, name changes and involvement with such political groups as the Symbionese Liberation Army, baffled the public and even her attorney.

"I never got a satisfactory answer from her as to why she did it," said retired federal public defender James Hewitt. "There was just bizarre stuff."

The two assassination attempts on Ford in the same month shocked the nation and set in motion a Capitol Hill investigation into Secret Service protection of the president. In congressional hearings, it was revealed that the agency kept a list of nearly 50,000 names of persons considered potentially dangerous to the president. Neither Moore nor Fromme was on it.

There was no immediate comment from the Ford family on Moore's release. Ford died Dec. 26, 2006, at age 93 of natural causes.

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 for the FBI.

She has said she fired at Ford because she thought she would be killed once it was disclosed she was an FBI informant. The FBI 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."

Moore was sent to a West Virginia women's prison in 1977. Two years later, she escaped but was captured several hours later.

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