Doctors Request Increase in Freedom, Driver's License for Hinckley

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 7, 2008

Doctors treating John W. Hinckley Jr. are asking a federal judge to allow the presidential assailant to obtain a driver's license, spend more unsupervised time in the community and extend visits to his mother's home in Virginia, according to court records filed this week.

The request by doctors at St. Elizabeths Hospital was revealed in court papers filed by prosecutors and defense lawyers who are sparring over the issue.

Hinckley, 53, who shot President Ronald Reagan and three other men in 1981, has gained more freedom in recent years from St. Elizabeths Hospital, the Southeast Washington psychiatric facility where he has been held since he was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Hinckley, whose father died in January, is allowed to visit his mother in the Williamsburg area for six-day stretches, and a federal judge last year made it easier for him to leave St. Elizabeths with groups of patients, court records show.

Hinckley's doctors would like to expand those privileges, and their request is to be heard before U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman on July 21. The doctors' request was filed under seal May 28.

According to court filings, doctors would like to extend Hinckley's visits to his mother's home to 10 days.

Doctors are also seeking to double the time Hinckley is allowed to spend unaccompanied in the Virginia community each day, according to prosecutors.

Officials have said that Hinckley is allowed to spend two hours daily without supervision in the Williamsburg area.

The doctors have asked Friedman to allow Hinckley to have more time to do volunteer work in Virginia and take driving lessons in that area, prosecutors wrote.

Meanwhile, prosecutors wrote, doctors requested that Hinckley be allowed to get a D.C. driver's license and be unaccompanied by hospital staff members for four-hour stretches twice a week in the District so he can participate in a volunteer program.

Hinckley must be accompanied by a St. Elizabeths staff member in the District.

Prosecutors, citing Hinckley's "continued inappropriate and unrealistic relationships with several women as well as a reluctance to accept responsibility for his own behavior," argued that Hinckley is not ready for broader privileges. Hinckley has said he shot Reagan to impress actress Jodie Foster.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Zeno and Sarah Chasson wrote that doctors provided no reason to extend Hinckley's visits to Virginia because he already has enough time to do volunteer work and take driving lessons there.

They argued that Hinckley should not be granted unsupervised time in the District, the chance to get a D.C. driver's license or be allowed to have more daily free time in Virginia because Hinckley "continues to maintain inappropriate thoughts of violence."

He recently recorded a song that he wrote before shooting Reagan that was about "suicide and lawlessness," they wrote.

Hinckley's lawyers, Barry W. Levine and Adam Proujansky, wrote that Friedman should grant the doctors' request because prosecutors have offered "no evidence that Mr. Hinckley will be a danger to himself or others under the conditions proposed."

"In every prior instance, the Government's prediction of doom has proved to be utterly baseless," they wrote, citing Hinckley's "perfect record of successful conditional release."

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