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Would-be Reagan assassin John Hinckley Jr. set for June 15 release

U.S. judge confirms order after 67-year-old successfully completed nine-month observation period in Williamsburg, Va.

President Ronald Reagan, center, is shoved into a limousine by U.S. Secret Service agents after he was shot outside the Washington Hilton in Northwest Washington on March 30, 1981. (Ron Edmonds/AP)
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Would-be presidential assassin John W. Hinckley Jr. will be unconditionally released June 15, ending one of the nation’s most notorious criminal cases 41 years after he shot Ronald Reagan and three others outside a D.C. hotel.

At a final court hearing Wednesday in D.C., federal prosecutors and a defense lawyer for Hinckley agreed that he had successfully completed a nine-month observation period that U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman had required in September in issuing a written release order that takes effect this month.

“John Hinckley tried to kill the president of the United States. He came very close to doing so,” Friedman said Wednesday. But “without losing sight of what he did 40 years ago, he has been the most scrutinized person [in America’s mental health system] … living under a microscope as none of us have.”

“I am confident Mr. Hinckley will do well in the years remaining to him,” Friedman said, adding that Hinckley had proved after four decades of supervision that he “should be ready to get on with his life.”

The Justice Department earlier had agreed to end court and medical supervision of Hinckley, who was freed from a government psychiatric hospital to live with his mother in Williamsburg, Va., in 2016.

Would-be Reagan assassin John W. Hinckley Jr. wins unconditional release

Hinckley, who turned 67 on Sunday, remains mentally stable and in compliance with his release and treatment conditions, according to his D.C. Department of Behavioral Health and private treatment team, which began recommending his full release in August 2020.

“The Government has found no evidence to suggest that Mr. Hinckley’s unconditional release should not be granted,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kacie M. Weston wrote to the court.

During the hearing Wednesday, Weston said the government had no objections to Hinckley’s release taking effect on June 15.

Hinckley was 25 when he shot Reagan, White House press secretary James Brady and two others with six exploding “Devastator” bullets from a .22-caliber pistol on March 30, 1981. A federal jury found Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity in 1982, finding that he acted out of a deranged obsession to impress the actress Jodie Foster, setting off a historic debate that narrowed the insanity defense.

The Road to Assassination — The Washington Post

Over the years, Hinckley responded to treatment, winning court approval in 2000 for staff-supervised trips in Washington with family members. Under close supervision, his outings were gradually expanded to allow several nights and then two weeks a month, before Friedman allowed Hinckley to leave Washington’s St. Elizabeths Hospital in 2016 under a host of medical, travel and other conditions, the remaining requirements of which will be lifted.

While on “convalescent leave” in recent years, for example, Hinckley has been ordered to stay away from D.C., people protected by the U.S. Secret Service, his victims and the news media. His access to social media and the Internet were restricted and subject to inspection, although Hinckley, who plays the guitar and paints, was allowed in 2020 to release writings, artwork and music under his name.

Hinckley was not in court Wednesday, but his longtime attorney, Barry Wm. Levine, said his doctors confirmed that his client does not and will not pose “a danger to himself or to others.”

Hinckley’s return to society “shows the fairness with which the system of justice should be administered,” Levine said. “There’s been no spin involved here. … The court has proceeded at a very cautious pace.”

Levine restated Hinckley’s apologies to victims including the Reagan family; Jim and Sarah Brady; Secret Service Special Agent Tim McCarthy, D.C. police Officer Thomas Delahanty and to Foster.

Weston said the court had had “very good reason” for caution, given what Hinckley did. She noted that Hinckley had received for his mental illness “a level of treatment most people don’t have access to and would greatly benefit from.” However, she said there is an “upside” in Hinckley’s rehabilitation.

“The government believes this case has shown and demonstrates the success that can come from a wraparound mental health system that really embraced Mr. Hinckley at every step of the process,” Weston said.

Friedman recited the case’s long history Wednesday, recognizing the health and legal practitioners who worked on Hinckley’s case over the decades. The judge noted that he and Levine had stewarded the case into their late 70s and that the judge had served in the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C. with Hinckley’s trial prosecutor, Roger M. Adelman, who died in 2015.

“We’ve all traveled a long road,” Friedman said in closing his remarks. “I don’t come to this conclusion lightly. … I am hopeful the public will understand.”

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