Aspiring presidential assassin John Hinckley wins unconditional release: NPR

In this November 18, 2003 file photo, John Hinckley Jr. arrives at the United States District Court in Washington.

Evan Vucci / AP


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Evan Vucci / AP


In this November 18, 2003 file photo, John Hinckley Jr. arrives at the United States District Court in Washington.

Evan Vucci / AP

A federal judge approved the unconditional release next year of John Hinckley Jr., who wounded the late President Ronald Reagan and three other people outside a hotel in Washington, DC, in a failed assassination attempt in 1981.

Hinckley is now 66 years old and has been living outside of a mental health facility for the past several years, as a result of gradual relief from supervision. His attorney said the “momentous event” of Hinckley’s full release in June 2022 is appropriate and required by law.

“There is no evidence of any danger,” said Barry Wm. Levine, adding that Hinckley has an “excellent” prognosis.

Prosecutor Kacie Weston said the Justice Department agreed to a settlement, but wanted to monitor Hinckley for the next nine months because of two big changes in his life: He is living alone for the first time in about 40 years, and because one of his main Doctors are preparing for retirement and disbanding Hinckley’s therapy group. The DOJ said it would file a motion with the court before June of next year if it had any new concerns about Hinckley.

“Ultimately, your honor, at this point, the ball is in Mr. Hinckley’s hands,” Weston said.

US Chief District Judge Paul Friedman noted that “very few patients at St. Elizabeths Hospital have been studied more thoroughly than John Hinckley.”

In 1982, a jury found Hinckley not guilty of insanity. He had been tried for the shooting a year prior to former President Reagan, White House press secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and Washington Metropolitan Police officer Thomas Delahanty.

Following the verdict, Hinckley was admitted to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC, where he resided for more than three decades. Beginning in 2003, the restrictions on Hinckley gradually eased.

Five years ago, the court granted him convalescence permission to live full-time in the community. Hinckley went to live with his mother in Williamsburg, Virginia. He died in his sleep earlier this summer at the age of 95.

Last year, the Department of Behavioral Health proposed an unconditional release for Hinckley, telling the court that he presented “low risk of future violence.” The department reiterated that proposal earlier this year.

Hinckley had previously been ordered to stay away from actress Jodie Foster, who he said helped inspire his assassination attempt, as well as the families of Reagan and others injured during their attack outside a hotel in Washington, D.C. .

The court has allowed him to publish works of art and music under his own name, and Hinckley created a YouTube channel where he sings and plays the guitar. He had been working in a Virginia antiques mall before the coronavirus pandemic.

His attorney said Hinckley wanted to express his apologies and “deep regret” to the families of his victims, Foster and the American people. He called the eventual release a “victory for mental health.”

Levine, a longtime Hinckley attorney, said his client has followed the rules and the law for years.

“His mental illness is in complete, stable and complete remission and has been that way for more than three decades,” Levine said.

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