A federal judge said Monday that John Hinckley Jr., who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan four decades ago, could be released from all remaining restrictions next year if he continues to follow those rules and stays mentally stable.
U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman in Washington said in a 90-minute hearing that he would render his decision on the plan this week.
Since Hinckley moved to Williamsburg, Va. From a Washington hospital in 2016, court restrictions have forced doctors and therapists to oversee his psychiatric medication and therapy. Hinckley was banned from having a gun. And he can’t contact Reagan’s children, other victims or their families, or actress Jodie Foster, whom he was obsessed with during the 1981 shooting.
Friedman said Hinckley, now 66, has shown no symptoms of active mental illness, violent behavior and no interest in guns since 1983.
“If he hadn’t tried to kill the president, he would have been released unconditionally a long, long, long time ago,” the judge said. “But everyone is comfortable now after all the studying, all the analysis and all the talking and all the experience with Mr. Hinckley.”
Friedman said the plan is to release Hinckley from judicial surveillance in June if all goes well.
A 2020 violence risk assessment conducted on behalf of the Washington Department of Behavioral Health concluded that Hinckley would not pose a danger if released unconditionally from court-ordered restrictions.
The US government had previously opposed the removal of restrictions. But he took a different stance on Monday, with lawyers saying they would agree to unconditional release if Hinckley followed the rules and demonstrated mental stability for the next nine months.
Kacie Weston, a US government attorney, has said he wants to make sure Hinckley can adjust to life on her own after his mother’s death in July. Another concern is the impending retirement of one of his therapists and the imminent end of a therapy group, which provided Hinckley with a lot of support and social interaction.
Hinckley was 25 when he shot and wounded the 40th US President outside a Washington hotel. The shooting paralyzed Reagan’s press secretary James Brady, who died in 2014. It also injured Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy and Washington Police Officer Thomas Delahanty.
Jurors ruled that Hinckley was suffering from an acute psychosis and found him not guilty by reason of insanity, saying he needed treatment and not a life sentence.