Friday, September 30, 2016

the last book I ever read (American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst, excerpt twelve)

from American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin:

The political zeitgeist, as reflected by the Ford administration’s Justice Department, also compelled the government to bring Patricia to trial. By that fall, the legacy of the 1960s had grown even more toxic; San Francisco was crazier than ever. When Patricia was arrested, there had already been fifty bombings in California alone in 1975. After-hours explosions at power plants, government offices, and corporate headquarters became so routine that they scarcely received any news coverage. And it wasn’t just bombings. On September 5, 1975, two weeks before Patricia was arrested, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme pointed .45-caliber handgun at President Ford as he walked through a park to the state capitol in Sacramento. A member of Charles Manson’s crime “family,” Fromme was wrestled to the ground by a Secret Service agent before she could get off a shot.

Then, on September 22, just four days after Patricia was arrested, Sara Jane Moore came a great deal closer to killing the president. The matronly bookkeeper volunteered to become an FBI informant while working with Randy Hearst’s food giveaway the previous year. Still obsessed with the Hearst case, she circulated among the activists she had met in the China Basin warehouse and then provided leads to the FBI. Moore purchased a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver and waited for President Ford outside the St. Francis hotel, in the heart of downtown San Francisco. As Ford walked from the hotel to his limousine, Moore fired a shot that just missed the president’s head. She tried to get off a second round, but a Vietnam veteran named Olver Sipple knocked her down, potentially saving the president’s life. (In the ensuing publicity, Sipple was outed as a homosexual. He came to feel that this disclosure ruined his life, an illustration that San Francisco, in the mid-1970s, had yet to become a fully welcoming haven for gay people.)

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