WASHINGTON — The man who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan 35 years ago will leave a Washington psychiatric hospital to live full-time in Virginia on Sept. 10, his lawyer said Thursday.
A federal judge ruled in July that 61-year-old John Hinckley Jr. is not a danger to himself or to others and can leave St. Elizabeths Hospital to live full-time at his mother’s home in Williamsburg, Virginia. At the time, Judge Paul L. Friedman ruled Hinckley could leave the hospital as soon as Aug. 5.
Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1981 shooting of Reagan, who died in 2004, his press secretary James Brady, who died in 2014, and two law enforcement officers outside a Washington hotel. In his July 27 ruling, Friedman wrote that Hinckley was a “profoundly troubled 25-year-old young man” when he shot Reagan in an effort to impress actress Jodie Foster, but he has not exhibited symptoms of major depression or psychotic disorder for more than two decades.
Friedman has gradually given Hinckley more freedom over the past decade, allowing him to spend longer and longer stretches at his mother’s home. For the past two-plus years, he has spent the majority of his time there: 17 days each month.
Hinckley’s long-time lawyer Barry Levine on Thursday called Hinckley’s departure from the hospital “a milestone” that was the result of a commitment by Hinckley and his family to “responsibly deal with disease.”
“People of goodwill should celebrate his achievement and success,” Levine said.
Levine said of his client: “I think he will be a citizen about whom we can all be proud.”
Friedman’s ruling says Hinckley will have to live for at least a year with his mother, Jo Ann, in her house in the gated community of Kingsmill. After that, he could move out and live on his own, with a roommate or in a group house.
Hinckley, who has been occasionally trailed by the Secret Service while in Williamsburg, must also find at least part-time employment or volunteer work. He will also have to participate in individual and group therapy, and he’ll have to return to Washington at least once a month so doctors can evaluate his mental state. He is also limited in where he can travel. The conditions of his leave will be re-evaluated in 12 to 18 months and some requirements could be modified or dropped.
At the time of Friedman’s ruling, Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis wrote in an article in The Washington Post that she was “not at all comfortable with the decision” to let Hinckley live full-time in Virginia but she was resigned to it. Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and District of Columbia police officer Thomas Delahanty, who were injured in the shooting, expressed similar resignation to the decision in interviews with the AP in July.
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