A federal judge said Monday that John Hinckley Jr., who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan four decades ago, can be freed from all his remaining restrictions next year if he continues to follow those rules and remains mentally stable.
U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman in Washington said during a 90-minute court hearing that he’ll issue his ruling on the plan this week.
Friedman said the plan is to release Hinckley from all court supervision in June if he remains mentally stable and continues to follow the court-issued rules that were imposed on him after he left a Washington hospital in 2016 to live in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Friedman said that Hinckley, 66, has displayed no symptoms of active mental illness, no violent behavior and no interest in weapons since 1983.
“If he hadn't tried to kill the president, he would have been unconditionally released a long, long, long time ago," the judge said. “But everybody is comfortable now after all of the studies, all of the analysis and all of the interviews and all of the experience with Mr. Hinckley."
Since Hinckley moved to Williamsburg, Virginia, the court-imposed conditions have included doctors and therapists overseeing his psychiatric medication and deciding how often he attends individual and group therapy sessions. Hinckley also can’t have a gun. And he can’t contact Reagan’s children, other victims or their families, or actress Jodie Foster, who he was obsessed with at the time of the 1981 shooting.
Attorney Barry Levine asked for unconditional release, saying Hinckley no longer poses a threat. A 2020 violence risk assessment conducted on behalf of Washington’s Department of Behavioral Health concluded that Hinckley would not pose a danger.
The U.S. government opposed ending restrictions as of a May court filing, and retained an expert to determine whether or not Hinckley would pose a danger to himself or others if unconditionally released. Findings from such an examination have not been filed in court.
Hinckley was 25 when he shot and wounded the 40th U.S. president outside a Washington hotel. The shooting paralyzed Reagan press secretary James Brady, who died in 2014. It also injured Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty.
Jurors decided Hinckley was suffering from acute psychosis and found him not guilty by reason of insanity, saying he needed treatment and not life in prison.