Federal prosecutors, attorneys for John W. Hinckley Jr. and experts at the government psychiatric hospital where he has mostly been confined since 1981 agreed Wednesday on many conditions for the potential release of President Ronald Reagan’s would-be assassin but remained sharply split over a government demand that he have “no expectation of privacy” over his future movements, electronic communications or computer use.
In a 23-page proposed order filed in federal court, the three sides agreed to a detailed mental health regimen; that he be required to work or volunteer at least three times a week if he is allowed to live with his 89-year-old mother in Williamsburg; and that he could be returned to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast Washington if there are any “negative incidents in the community regarding the public or media.”
But Hinckley and prosecutors differed sharply over demands by the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia that authorities be permitted to determine his cellphone location “at any point in time” and to monitor his other activities by gaining access to information from any vehicles, electronic devices or online accounts he uses.
“No expectation of privacy exists in Mr. Hinckley’s cellphone information/data or cell-site information,” “online accounts or activity,” or “in any computers, electronic devices, or storage media,” prosecutors proposed.
U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman of the District asked the parties last month for a proposed order to narrow differences aired over two weeks of hearings regarding Hinckley’s potential freedom, now that doctors say he no longer exhibits the psychosis and major depression that made him dangerous.
A final decision is not expected for weeks or months.
Hinckley was 25 when he was found not guilty by reason of insanity and hospitalized after shooting and wounding Reagan, White House press secretary James S. Brady and two law enforcement officers on March 30, 1981, outside the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue NW.
In 2003, Friedman began permitting Hinckley supervised outings with family members. In 2013, the judge extended Hinckley’s trips to 17 days per month to southeast Virginia under close monitoring to facilitate his reintegration into society.
Hinckley spends those days with his mother, helping around the house, playing guitar, doing volunteer work and making brief predisclosed outings to see friends, including an art photographer. Further reentry to community life would be closely circumscribed.
Because fame-seeking is part of his narcissistic personality disorder, for example, Hinckley agreed that he would avoid the media and any request in writing or by phone to discuss his offense and neither perform music in public nor exhibit or sell any memorabilia, writings, artwork or music he creates.
The court filing states that he also agreed to continue to “have no contact whatsoever” with actress Jodie Foster, whom he said he sought to impress with the shooting; Nancy Reagan; and any of his victims and their families, including a former chief hospital pharmacist whom he briefly stalked.
Hinckley objected to other government requests, often joined to varying degrees by his medical team.
He opposed consenting to give the Secret Service or its designee access to the contents of any cellphone communications; to monitor and retrieve data from any electronic device and any online service provider; and to obtain all account user names and passwords.
He also balked at proposed mandates that he give his treatment team access to his only e-mail account, “shall not join or post to any social media site,” and not seek out information about himself, his victims, presidential assassinations, weapons or pornography.
The parties split over whether Hinckley could have houseguests and under what circumstances he might be sent back to the hospital when his mother is incapacitated or if his family stops paying for his treatment.
Hinckley’s medical counselors in the District and Williamsburg, who generally support his “convalescent leave,” separately opposed a requirement that they automatically notify the court and attorneys of any troubling Internet or e-mail activity, other violation or “concerning behavior” by Hinckley, seeking to do so at their discretion.