Federal prosecutors yesterday opposed a request by presidential assailant John W. Hinckley Jr. to have overnight visits at his parents' home, saying they fear that he has been deceptive about his relationship with a former girlfriend.
A federal judge is scheduled to hold several days of hearings next week to consider Hinckley's request for broad new freedoms to leave St. Elizabeths Hospital. Hinckley wants to stay with his elderly parents in their Williamsburg home without staff supervision for four days at a stretch every two weeks.
Prosecutors said in court papers yesterday that Hinckley apparently still harbors feelings for a former mental patient, despite assertions by his attorney last year that Hinckley had admirably handled their breakup. For years, prosecutors have contended that Hinckley has a history of deception and cannot be trusted.
Hinckley, 49, has been confined to St. Elizabeths in Southeast Washington since being found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1981 shootings of President Ronald Reagan and three others. But he has had more freedom since 1999, when he was first allowed to go on area outings with hospital chaperons.
Last December, after extensive hearings, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman found that Hinckley would not pose a danger to the public or himself if given more liberty, and he permitted Hinckley to have unescorted visits in the Washington area with his parents, John and Jo Ann, who are in their late seventies. After six daytime visits proceeded without incident or difficulty, St. Elizabeths Hospital staff agreed in September to let Hinckley have two overnight unescorted visits with his parents in Washington area hotels.
Hinckley's attorneys said they want to build on that progress.
But in newly filed court papers, the U.S. attorney's office said that two of the government's psychiatric experts recently examined Hinckley and determined that he continues to have a "disturbingly unclear" relationship with a former girlfriend, Leslie deVeau. DeVeau, whom he met when she was also a patient at St. Elizabeths, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the killing of her 10-year-old daughter in 1982. She was released in 1990.
"He calls her twice daily when not on supervised release; he feels that they still love each other; and he is hopeful about a relationship with her in the future," the prosecutors wrote. They said this seems to contradict statements made by Hinckley's attorney last year that Hinckley accepted that the romantic relationship was over.
The governments' experts, they said, "believe it is too dangerous to expand Hinckley's conditions of release until his relationship with Ms. deVeau is understood."
Hinckley's attorney, Barry Wm. Levine, was out of the office yesterday and was not available for comment. Attempts to reach deVeau were unsuccessful.
Friedman last year prohibited Hinckley from making contact with deVeau while on his unescorted trips, and prosecutors make no claim that he violated that order. The judge said he set that condition because Hinckley had in the past developed delusional feelings toward women, notably when he believed that shooting Reagan would impress actress Jodie Foster.
Hinckley's contact with deVeau is not new, nor is the government's concern about it. During the hearings last year, Hinckley's attorneys acknowledged that their client spoke daily by telephone with deVeau and that she sometimes brought cat food to the hospital and helped Hinckley feed stray cats there.
The government's psychiatric experts, Raymond F. Patterson and Robert Phillips, contend that the relationship is important to understand Hinckley's mental state, prosecutors wrote.
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.