A federal judge Friday eased release terms for would-be presidential assassin John W. Hinckley Jr., saying he has suffered no relapses since leaving a government psychiatric hospital in 2016, 35 years after he shot President Ronald Reagan and three others outside a D.C. hotel.
“There have been no problems suggested in any of these reports,” U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman of the District at a brief hearing Friday in Washington for routine updates about Hinckley’s progress. Friedman said a group of experts agreed Hinckley’s mental illness remains “in remission,” that he has met dozens of conditions without incident, and continues not to pose a danger to himself or others.
“We might wish he’d gone to the gym more often or reached out to socialize more, but his volunteer efforts and his selling books are all very good,” signs Friedman, referring to Hinckley’s work at a bookstore.
Friedman signed a 14-page order keeping Hinckley on full-time “convalescent leave” with reduced conditions after prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office of the District and Hinckley’s defense attorney agreed on terms following a lengthy evaluation by three medical experts including St. Elizabeths Hospital, the government facility where he had been institutionalized.
Hinckley attorney Barry Wm. Levine said he hoped his client’s unconditional release would be a next step at some future date. Another status hearing is set for June.
“Mr. Hinckley is now in his 60s. His mother is 93 or 94 years old. He’s trying to live a good life, trying to salvage what’s left, and to live a regular life like the rest of us. That’s the objective,” Levine said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kacie Weston said it was premature to schedule another risk evaluation but agreed that there had been no incidents.
Under Friday’s new order, Hinckley may now drive in up to a 75-mile radius from Williamsburg — extended from 50 miles — and explore moving in with a roommate, his brother or living independently with approval, among other changes, Friedman said.
Hinckley was 25 when he wounded Reagan, White House press secretary James Brady, U.S. Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy and D.C. police officer Thomas Delahanty with six exploding “Devastator” bullets from a .22-caliber pistol.
A federal jury found Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity in 1982.
Starting with supervised trips with family in the 1990s, Hinckley has slowly returned to society under the close supervision of D.C. mental health authorities, prosecutors and the federal court. He was released under conditions in September 2016 to his mother’s home in a gated golf-course development.
Under the new order, Hinckley must continue to work or volunteer three days a week, carry a traceable phone and provide information about vehicles he will be driving. His access to social media and the Internet remain restricted and subject to inspection, and he is not allowed to perform music in public — but may, with approval, display creative works anonymously without financial benefit or comment from reviewers.
Hinckley remains banned from having weapons and consuming alcohol or illegal drugs. He must remain out of contact with the news media, his victims and their families, the U.S. president, and members of Congress.
In evaluations leading to his full-time release from the hospital — rather than excursions off site — court filings showed Hinckley spent time volunteering at a local psychiatric hospital, was offered a job at a church, and had taken his mother to dine out and for scenic drives.