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Ford tells of 1975 attempt on his life

Newly released taped testimony, ordered before the trial of 'Squeaky' Fromme, had been filed away.

August 27, 2013|Chris Megerian

SACRAMENTO — Almost four decades ago, President Ford sat down in a Washington office building to talk about the time someone tried to kill him.

In newly released testimony ordered before the trial of Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson, Ford recalled how she pointed a handgun at him outside California's Capitol on Sept. 5, 1975.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, August 29, 2013 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 2 inches; 86 words Type of Material: Correction
Gerald Ford testimony: In the Aug. 27 LATExtra section, an article about President Gerald Ford's videotaped testimony in the case against Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, who was convicted of trying to assassinate him, described the video as newly released. A judge recently ordered the release of the recording in response to a petition from a northern California historical society. But the video was already available to the public, beginning in 1987, at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum in Michigan, according to a director there.

Ford had crossed the street toward the Capitol from his hotel, headed for a meeting with Gov. Jerry Brown, who was serving his first term. As he shook hands with people lined up to see him, Ford said, a brightly dressed woman caught his eye.

She seemed eager to meet him, Ford said. Then he saw a gun.

"The weapon was large," he recalled, speaking carefully at a glossy table with two microphones and a glass of water before him. "Almost automatically, one of the Secret Service agents lunged, grabbed the hands and the weapon, and then I was pushed off."

He said he could not tell whether Fromme pulled the trigger or whether she cocked the gun.

Authorities said the loaded gun, a .45-caliber Colt semiautomatic pistol, misfired. Fromme, who was 26 at the time, said she did not intend to kill the president.

Ford's sworn testimony was videotaped, and parts of it were shown during the trial.

The recording was filed away and largely forgotten until Monday, when it was released by a federal judge in response to a petition by a local historical group.

"It fills in the last gap of the case and explains from the president's perspective what it was like to have someone attempt to assassinate you," said Michael Vinding, secretary of the Eastern District Historical Society, which chronicles stories from the federal courthouse in Sacramento.

For the 16 minutes of questioning about the incident, Ford wore a dark suit and tie and sat calmly with his hands folded.

After Ford's testimony, a judge can be heard saying the deposition would not be made public unless Fromme called Ford as a witness during the trial.

"I do not want any portion of this tape to be revealed to the public unless it is actually used in open court," the judge said.

Fromme was sentenced to life in prison. She was paroled in 2009 after 34 years behind bars. She later moved to upstate New York.

Ford had died of natural causes three years earlier.

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chris.megerian@latimes.com

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