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John Hinckley Jr. to be released 35 years after Reagan assassination attempt, will live in Williamsburg

WASHINGTON - A federal judge granted John Hinckley Jr., the man who shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981, "full-time convalescent leave" from St. Elizabeth's Hospital on July 27.

John Hinckley Jr

John Hinckley Jr

Hinckley fired a gun at President Reagan's entourage as he left the Washington Hilton on March 30, 1981. Reagan was shot along with three others, including Press Secretary James Brady, who died from his injuries in 2014. Since a jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity, Hinckley has lived at a mental hospital.

For the past two years, he's been allowed to spend 17 days a month with his mother in her home at Kingsmill in Williamsburg.

The new order allows Hinckley to conditionally live full-time in Williamsburg, starting no earlier than August 5.

As of August 17, a release date had yet to be determined. Hinckley's attorney, Barry Wm. Levine, released the following statement:

“Mr. Hinckley is currently on his scheduled 17-day release for the month August, as planned. As previously stated, the court order requires that a number of administrative tasks be completed by a variety of teams and individuals prior to Mr. Hinckley’s full conditional leave from St. Elizabeths Hospital. As a result of preplanned summer vacations, this process is still underway, and therefore an official date for Mr. Hinckley’s departure has not yet been set, but will be very soon.”

There are 34 conditions outlined in the federal order of his release that Hinckley must abide by to remain free.

Full court order of Hinckley's release | Full opinion of U.S. vs. John Hinckley Jr.

Some of the more notable conditions include:

  • Hinckley will not be able to publicly display, physically or on the internet, any memorabilia, writings, paintings, photographs, artwork, or music created by him without approval from his doctors.
  • Participation in “individual music therapy sessions” at least once a month and in “structured activities in the Williamsburg area," including volunteer work is required.
  • Hinckley or his family members will not be allowed to have any contact with the media and he cannot communicate with anyone about his offense via mail, phone or any electronic communication.
  • He can only reside with his mother in Williamsburg for at least the first year of his release. After one year, he may reside on his own or with roommates within 30 miles of Williamsburg.
  • He must carry a GPS enabled phone and can only drive within 30 miles of Williamsburg in a pre-approved vehicle.
  • There will be no contact allowed with Jodie Foster, Reagan family members, James Brady family members, Thomas Delahanty and family members, Timothy McCarthy and family members, Jeanette Wick and family members.
  • No travel is allowed in any areas where current or former Presidents, VP’s, Congress members, Executive Branch senior members, or Secret Service protectees reside.
  • Hinckley cannot have any drugs, alcohol, illegal substances, or weapons and must keep a daily log of his activities.

Dr. Felicia Flores has studied the Hinckley case closely and even wrote her dissertation about it. She wasn't surprised by the court's decision, saying it was more a matter of when, not if, he would be released.

"For many years now he's had visitation privileges to Hampton Roads and the hospital, along with the courts, have been developing a plan to gradually give him more freedoms to acclimate to life on the outside," Flores told News 3.

After Hinkley has been free for a year to 18 months, an updated risk assessment will be performed to determine whether his progress has continued. If there are no new areas of concern, some of his conditions may be reduced.

John Hinckley Jr.’s lawyer, Barry Wm. Levine, provided this statement on July 27:

We are gratified by the opinion and order of the Court. We think it is correct based on the law and the facts. We have long argued for the enlargement of Mr. Hinckley’s liberties citing medical evaluations by St. Elizabeth Hospital doctors as well as government expert witnesses. They establish that he no longer poses a threat or danger to himself or others – the standard for release. Over the past decade, Mr. Hinckley has been given increasing liberties outside of the hospital, each one more expansive than the one prior. Informed by these successful experiences and after years of testimony, the Court decisively found that Mr. Hinckley is not dangerous under the terms of convalescent leave. This should give great comfort to a concerned citizenry that the mental health system and the judicial system worked and worked well.

Mr. Hinckley recognizes that what he did was horrific. But it’s crucial to understand that what he did was not an act of evil. It was an act caused by mental illness, an illness from which he no longer suffers. He is profoundly sorry for what he did 35 years ago and he wishes he could take back that day, but he can’t. And he has lived for decades recognizing the pain he caused his victims, their families, and the nation.

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