Siblings Support Greater Freedom for Hinckley

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The siblings of presidential assailant John W. Hinckley Jr. told a federal judge in Washington yesterday that they do not view him as a danger to the community and believe he would benefit from obtaining a driver's license and spending more unsupervised time at their mother's home.

The testimony came as U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman weighs a request by doctors at St. Elizabeths Hospital to grant Hinckley more privileges. The judge seemed particularly interested in how Hinckley reacted to the death of his father this year and how he handled himself during recent unsupervised visits to his mother's home in the Williamsburg area.

"There was nothing I saw as a red flag," Hinckley's sister, Diane Hinckley Sims, said at a hearing. "John did everything he was supposed to do. . . . He did it well."

Hinckley, 53, has been confined to the psychiatric hospital since he was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the March 1981 shootings of President Ronald Reagan; Reagan's press secretary, James Brady; a Secret Service agent; and a D.C. police officer. In recent years, he has gradually gained more freedoms, often despite protests from prosecutors.

The doctors' request has not been made public, but some details were revealed in court filings. The doctors would like to expand the number of unsupervised visits by Hinckley to his mother's home from about nine a year to 12.

The doctors also are seeking to boost the number of days for each visit from seven to 10. And they would like Hinckley to be able to get a driver's license.

Prosecutors are fighting most of the proposals, saying Hinckley is not ready to handle more freedom.

They have argued that Hinckley has not tried very hard to get volunteer work in Williamsburg, a key component of his treatment plan, and expressed concern about his relationships with women. Prosecutors revealed yesterday that Hinckley has started a romantic relationship with a woman, described in court as "Ms. G."

Hinckley has said that he shot Reagan to impress actress Jodie Foster.

The hearing is expected to last a week and include testimony from doctors treating Hinckley. In court yesterday, Hinckley wore a dark blazer and gray slacks and sat quietly, often with his chin propped on one of his hands.

Much of the testimony from Hinckley's siblings focused on how he handled the Jan. 29 death of his father, John W. "Jack" Hinckley, the relationship with "Ms. G" and his lackluster effort to find a volunteer job.

Hinckley was granted a visit just before his father died of an illness, and Hinckley appeared somber and supportive, his sister said. At his father's funeral, Hinckley displayed no problems standing in a condolence line and was sociable in a room of about 200 people, the siblings testified.

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