WASHINGTON — The man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan is interested in getting a job in the music industry, possibly in California, his lawyer said at a court hearing in Washington on Tuesday.
John Hinckley Jr., 64, lives in Virginia and was not present at the hearing. A prosecutor said allowing Hinckley to relocate to California for a music industry job would give the government "great pause."
Hinckley spent decades living at a psychiatric hospital in Washington after being found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1981 shooting that injured Reagan and three others. But health professionals have said that the mental illness that the 25-year-old Hinckley was suffering from when he shot Reagan has been in full and stable remission for decades. U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman has said he is no longer a danger to himself or others and has gradually allowed him more time away from the hospital and more freedom.
Since 2016, Hinckley has lived at his mother's home in Williamsburg, Virginia. Hinckley lives under a set of 30 conditions Friedman imposed including regular visits with mental health professionals. Friedman gets reports on how he's doing and, on Tuesday, said he believes some conditions can be loosened.
"Some conditions that are now in place don't need to be in place," the judge said, though he didn't specify which ones.
Hinckley's conditions include living within a 75-mile radius of Williamsburg, attending group and individual therapy sessions, volunteering or working at least three days a week and not speaking with the media.
Friedman's lawyer Barry Levine said during Tuesday's approximately 40-minute hearing that he would file a motion seeking reduced conditions, though he didn't say when or what precisely he'd ask for. He said he ultimately intends to ask that Hinckley be released without any conditions, and he said he would request that "in due course." He acknowledged after the hearing, however, that getting the judge to grant Hinckley unconditional release would be a lengthy process.
Hinckley lives with his older brother Scott as well as his mother, who is in her 90s. According to court records he anonymously sells books online as well as items at an antique mall. Music has long been an interest for Hinckley, who plays guitar, writes music and sings. He participates in music therapy once a month. Under the conditions Friedman has imposed, however, he can't perform publicly.
"He's got some talent," Levine said after the hearing, though he declined to elaborate on the kind of music industry job Hinckley might want.
Prosecutor Kacie Weston didn't go into detail about why the government would be concerned about a move to California for a music industry job. But that kind of move would put him far from a team of mental health professionals he has worked with for years, and Hinckley's underlying crime had a link to California's entertainment industry. Hinckley shot Reagan in an effort to impress actress Jodie Foster.
In addition to a music industry job, Hinckley is interested in traveling, Levine said, possibly to visit his sister in Texas.
The judge said that while he'd consider fewer restrictions, he wants answers about Hinckley's future. He asked about a plan for where Hinckley would live if his mother needs to move to an assisted living facility or dies. He also noted that Hinckley has benefited from the team of mental health professionals around him but said that some of them are considering retirement. He asked to know more about Hinckley's care going forward.
"It's been a long time since 1981," Friedman said near the end of the hearing, adding that he believes Hinckley is ready for the "next step."
"The question is what the next step is," he said.