John Hinckley Jr., 35-years after he tried to kill a president, has won his freedom.
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has granted a request for Hinckley to leave the mental hospital where he’s resided for decades, to go live full-time with his elderly mother in Williamsburg, Va.
The release could happen as early as next week, the judge ruled. Under the terms of the order, Hinckley is not allowed to contact his victims, their relatives or actress Jodie Foster, with whom he was obsessed. Hinckley also will not be permitted to “knowingly travel” to areas where the current president or members of Congress are present. The judge said Hinckley could be allowed to live on his own or in a group home after one year.
“Mr. Hinckley shall abide by all laws, shall not consume alcohol, illegal drugs… shall not possess any firearm, weapon, or ammunition and shall not be arrested for cause,” Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman ordered.
On March 30, 1981, outside the Washington Hilton Hotel, a shaggy-haired Hinckley aimed his gun at President Ronald Reagan and fired six times.
Reagan spent nearly two weeks in the hospital recovering from wounds and blood loss. His press secretary, James Brady, was shot in the head. Brady survived but spent the next 28 years in a wheelchair. A year after the attack, a court found the perpetrator, Hinckley, not guilty by reason of insanity.
“The verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity was a bad verdict,” President Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis told NPR last year.
Davis said Hinckley knew right from wrong at the time of the attack. And she said attempting to kill the president is a special kind of crime.
“You can’t say well if he shot the butcher it would be different,” Davis said. “He did try to shoot a president. We hold that crime in a different category than we do other attempted murders.”
For the past decade, Hinckley has marched steadily toward freedom. Saint Elizabeths Hospital says he no longer presents a danger to himself or others. Doctors report his depression and psychosis are in full remission. In court, his lawyer described a man who plays guitar, goes to movies and browses in bookstores.
Hinckley already spends 17 days each month with his mother in the Kingsmill resort community in Williamsburg, something that bothers his neighbor Joe Mann.
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