SAN FRANCISCO, Jan 1: Sara Jane Moore, who took a shot at President Gerald Ford in a bizarre assassination attempt just 17 days after a disciple of Charles Manson tried to kill Ford, was paroled after 32 years behind bars.

Moore, 77, was released on Monday from the federal prison in Dublin, east of San Francisco, where she had been serving a life sentence, the Bureau of Prisons said.

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

Moore was 12 meters 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.

Moore had been picked up earlier in the 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 follower of Manson’s, 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.

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 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 said a year ago in an interview with KGO-TV.

During what was expected to be a routine pre-trial hearing before a federal judge, Moore blurted out that she wanted to plead guilty, and her lawyer could not stop her. The judge immediately accepted the plea.

Moore’s background – which included five failed marriages, name changes and involvement with political groups like the Symbionese Liberation Army – baffled the public and 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. “There was just bizarre stuff.”

Moore was born Sara Jane Kahn in Charleston, West Virginia. 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 programme 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.

Moore has said she fired at Ford because she thought she would be killed once it was disclosed that she was an FBI informant.—AP

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