ABC7 exclusive with Sara Jane Moore

April 27, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
It has been more than three decades since Sara Jane Moore tried to kill President Gerald Ford in San Francisco. She has not been seen or heard from since she was paroled just a little over one year ago. Moore has now given an exclusive interview to ABC7's Vic Lee, on the condition ABC7 does not reveal her face or where she lives.

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"You don't realize how nice it is just to be an ordinary everyday person, kind of a nobody," Sara Jane Moore said.

Neighbors know her as a spry, friendly 80-year-old who enjoys taking walks in the small East Coast town where she lives. There, she goes by another name, not Sara Jane Moore, the woman who once tried to assassinate the president of the United States.

At the time, Moore had immersed herself in revolutionary leftwing politics.

"It was chaotic, it was intense, I was involved in things and I had put blinders on, I really had, and I was listening to only what was feeding in, you know what I thought I believed," Moore said.

On September 22, 1975, Moore went to the St. Francis hotel in San Francisco where President Ford was giving a speech. Moore says she felt like she was in a trance.

Moore: I think I was almost at automatic control, almost like someone had written the script and I am now following it.

Lee: You were intent on assassinating the president?

Moore: Oh yes.

Lee: No questions, no hesitation?

Moore: No hesitation.

Lee: Why?

Moore: We thought that doing that would actually trigger a new revolution.

Moore says she planned to shoot from the back of the large crowd and then escape.

"Because of the crowd I was pushed right onto the barrier and I had to decide whether I was going to go ahead," Moore said.

When she fired the nickel plated gun, Moore was only 40 feet away from the president. The bullet missed his head by several feet. A bystander subdued her.

Police arrested Moore and took her to a room at the hotel. She remembers how careless, even comical police were with the evidence, including her gun.

"Everyone in the room handled the gun until it got laid down, now in comes a couple of FBI agents and they ask where the gun is and they carefully put on white cotton gloves and they go over and we're all just staring at them," Moore said.

Moore says she felt remorse as she sat in her jail cell. A few days later, she wrote Ford, expressing her regrets. She never got a reply.

"I was almost from the beginning happy I had not succeeded, I don't know what I would have been like, had I succeeded," Moore said.

Moore spent more than three decades in federal prison in Alameda County. She spent the first six years in solitary confinement, then with the general prison population.

Lee: Did people then treat you like a celebrity?

Moore: Yeah, that's a two edge sword cause some of them are like, 'oh, she thinks she's somebody, I'm going to take her down.' After a while, I was like another prisoner.

Moore still loved politics. She used the money she made through prison jobs to try and make a difference.

"I kept saying to people, 'I can't vote but I vote with my pocketbook,' and I made contributions to people that I had supported before, to causes that I had supported before," Moore said.

Moore continued to support causes like the farm workers and candidates like Senator Diane Feinstein.

Moore was paroled a year after President Ford died. She got her freedom on New Year's Day 2008. Moore will never forget that day when she heard she would be paroled.

"I didn't know if I was going to pass out or cheer or what, just an incredible feeling and the first week that I walked, it was like I was walking in a dream and suddenly, I was going to pinch myself and it wasn't going to be real," Moore said.

The transition from prison to freedom took some adjusting. The world was 34 years older when Moore was released.

"It was the silly little things that were hard," Moore said. "We had TV in prison, but I didn't know how to use the remote on the TV."

Nor did she know what a cell phone was.

"I didn't have the foggiest, didn't know how to answer the phone, didn't know how to dial the phone," Moore said.

Moore says she loves her life of anonymity in the small town where she now lives.

"I have a lovely view out my window and I just sit there and I just think, 'isn't this marvelous,' I just sit there and I am so happy and so content," Moore said.

Not only is Moore happy with her new life, she is happy with the changes in a society she fought three decades ago.

"The people I have met, particularly the younger people and their families and the way they're living their lives, I'm saying, 'hey, we're going to make it,'" Moore said.

Moore even supported a candidate in the last election.

"Oh, I hope this doesn't hurt her, but I'm a Hillary woman; I really, I thought she would be a great president," Moore said.

And what about that day, September 22, 1975 when she almost killed the president?

Lee: What goes through your mind? How do you view that today?

Moore: I view that as a really terrible mistake. If I could go back and undo it, would I? Of course.

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