A federal judge Monday approved the release of videotaped testimony by President Ford, later used in the trial of Lynette Alice "Squeaky" Fromme, who tried to assassinate him in Sacramento 37 years ago.
Portions of the 20 minutes of testimony taken in Washington in 1975 were played for jurors during Fromme's trial. The Sacramento Bee obtained a copy of the tape Monday.
In his testimony, Ford calmly described seeing a woman in a bright red dress at Capitol Park in Sacramento and thinking she was drawing near to shake his hand.
"My first impression was that she wanted to come closer and extend -- I thought at the time -- a hand to shake, or to say something to me," Ford says on the tape.
Then, he said, he noticed the gun, a .45-caliber Colt semiautomatic pistol, adding that "the weapon was large."
Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson, was 26 when she pointed a pistol at Ford in September 1975 in Sacramento. Secret Service agents grabbed her and Ford was unharmed.
The tape was later sealed and largely forgotten.Its release was the result of a motion filed last month by the Eastern District Historical Society, a 12-year-old nonprofit dedicated to preserving the history of the federal court based in Sacramento.
The society petitioned U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller for the tape's release "to preserve the historically significant deposition." The Sacramento Bee also intervened in the case.Fromme was arrested Sept. 5, 1975, after approaching Ford in the park and pulling a pistol out from her clothing.
The gun didn't go off, and Fromme was wrestled to the ground by a Secret Service agent, a Sacramento police officer and bystanders.
She was convicted Nov. 26, 1975, of attempting to assassinate the president. She was released from prison in 2009 after 34 years.
Ford died in 2006 at 93.