On This Date in History: Gerald R. Ford was a long standing and well respected Congressman from Michigan’s 5th Congressional District for nearly 25 years. For eight years, he served as the Republican House Minority Leader and was well thought of by both sides of the aisle. In 1973, he was appointed to be the 40th Vice President of the United States following the resignation of Spiro T. Agnew. When President Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, Gerald R. Ford became the 38th President of the United States and the first to hold the highest office in the land without ever being elected as either President or Vice-President. Ford is generally regarded as a good man who did the best that he could holding the country together following the end of the Vietnam War and also following the fisaco that was Watergate. He was an Eagle Scout, an All-American football player at Michigan, graduated from Yale Law School. Gerald R. Ford was even was a magazine model. He also served his country in the United States Navy in World War II and was appointed by President Johnson to be a part of the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of President Kennedy. In spite of this good-guy image, not one, but two people tried to assassinate President Ford in 1975. I mean, what did he do to get shot?
Nothing I suppose except perhaps, for some, his pardon of Richard Nixon just a month following Nixon’s resignation may have been an issue. But, by 1975, the ink on that pardon had long since dried. Where Ford may have gone wrong was to get that attention of Charles Manson’s followers. On this date in 1975, the woman shown above, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme raised a loaded .45 Colt automatic pistol toward Ford. Secret Service agents intervened before any shots were fired. But, she plead not guilty, saying that since the gun wasn’t cocked…well that proved he had no intent to shoot the President. No one bought that story and off to a life sentence she went…until she escaped in 1987. She was quickly recaptured and, get this, our criminal justice system added five years to her life sentence. I guess her corpse will remain behind bars for 5 years, unless its released for good behaviour.
Lynette Fromme was from California and began drinking and drugging while she was still in high school. She managed to graduate in 1966, tried college but dropped out after a few months. She then came upon Charles Manson and became one of his followers. She took up with Manson and a bunch of other hippies at the Spahn Ranch in Death Valley. She got the name “Squeaky” because she would squeak whenever the proprietor of the ranch, George Spahn tried to grope her, which supposedly was often. She was never implicated in the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders in 1969 that sent Manson to prison for good, but she did do some time for trying to prevent Manson’s followers from testifying at his trial as well as for her own refusal to testify.
She moved to Stockton, California and ended up in another murder mystery. The couple with whom she was living wound up dead. She was taken into custody but escaped the justice system for a lack of evidence. Now, supposedly she had a history of mental illness so perhaps she was looking to get caught or something because she certainly made sure there was no lack of evidence with her next brush with the law. When Ford was scheduled to visit Sacramento, California, she decided to go see the president to plead with him about the plight of California’s Redwoods. What better way to plead with the president and get his attention than by showing up in the crowd in a nun’s outfit packing a forty five? Not only were there a bunch of witnesses, but she also managed to get herself on TV and even say a few words into the cameras as she was hauled away in handcuffs.
Preparing for her trial was a nightmare for her attorney as she refused to cooperate in her own defense. Thus, she ended up with the old “the gun wasn’t cocked” defense. During her trial, when the prosector was explaining why he urged the court to sentence Fromme to the maximum sentence, she threw an apple at the prosecutor, who was hit in the face by the flying forbidden fruit. A few years after being sent up for life, she was transferred out of the women’s unit in Dublin, California after she attacked another inmate with the claw end of a hammer. For some reason, in 1987, she found herself not in a tough prison, but instead to the same minimum security, Alderson Federal Prison Camp in Alderson, West Virginia that later housed none other than Martha Stewart. It was from that facility that she fled thinking that she would be able to see Charles Manson, whom she heard was suffering from testicular cancer. It only took two days to recapture her and she was later transferred to a Federal Medical Center in Carswell, Texas. Each time she came up for parole, she waived her rights.
To sum it all up, Lynette Fromme had a history of drug abuse, alchohol abuse, violence and mental illness and had been associated with events that surrounded two murder cases. So, she was released from prison from her “life sentence” (plus 5 years) in August 2009.
The second assassination attempt on President Ford came 17 days after Fromme’s botched attempt by another woman, Sara Jane Moore. This time the alleged Manson follower assailent squeezed a shot off but missed because a former Marine was nearby who grabbed her arm. I’m not sure if the bullet hit anything but I know she went to jail too for life to the same prison as Fromme. It has been argued that Moore was, in fact, not a member of the Manson Family. However, Moore and Manson actually grew up in the same town in West Virginia. That doesn’t make her a Manson follower but it would be a strange coincidence. Further, a former inmate at a prison that held Moore refers to her, Sandra Good and “other Manson girls” as she recounts conversations the inmate had with Sara Jane Moore. In any event, in 1989, Moore also escaped and was later captured. Like Fromme, the then 77-year-old Moore was released from prison in 2008.
For some reason, I don’t believe that Moore got an extra five years for her escape attempt. I think they need a new prison and maybe they shouldn’t refer to sentences as life since its obvious that all will be forgiven 30 years after one tries to kill the president.