Ronald Reagan’s would-be assassin can leave psychiatric hospital

John Hinckley will be allowed to live full-time in Virginia.  Picture: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

John Hinckley will be allowed to live full-time in Virginia. Picture: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

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JOHN Hinckley, the man who tried to assassinate president Ronald Reagan in a bid to impress actress Jodie Foster more than 35 years ago, will be allowed to leave a mental hospital and live with his mother, a judge ruled yesterday.

Judge Paul Friedman wrote in a 14-page ruling that Hinckley – who for more than a decade has been spending increased time outside the hospital and now lives 17 days a month at his mother’s home – is ready to live full-time in the community. Judge Friedman granted Hinckley leave from the hospital starting no sooner than 5 August.

Hinckley tried to assassinate President Reagan in 1981. Picture: AP Photo

Hinckley tried to assassinate President Reagan in 1981. Picture: AP Photo

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Doctors have said for many years that Hinckley, 61, who was found not guilty of the shooting by reason of insanity, is no longer plagued by the mental illness that drove him to shoot Mr Reagan.

Three others were wounded in the March 1981 shooting outside a Washington, DC hotel, including Mr Reagan’s press secretary, James Brady, who suffered debilitating injuries and died in 2014.

The shooting endangered Mr Reagan’s life, but he recovered after undergoing emergency surgery. He died in 2004 at the age of 93.

Hinckley’s release from Washington’s St Elizabeth hospital has been more than a decade in the making. In late 2003, the judge allowed Hinckley to begin leaving the hospital for day visits with his parents in the Washington area.

In 2006, Hinckley began visiting his parents’ home in Williamsburg, Virginia, for three-night stretches. That time has increased over the years so that for more than the last year he has been allowed to spend 17 days a month at the home, which is in a gated community and overlooks a golf course.

While outside the hospital, Hinckley has had to comply with a series of restrictions, and a number of those will continue now that he will be living full-time in the community. He will have to attend individual and group therapy sessions and is barred from talking to the media. He can drive, but there are restrictions on how far he can travel. The Secret Service also periodically follows him.

Despite the restrictions, life in Williamsburg will be busy for Hinckley. The judge ordered him to volunteer or work at a paid job at least three days a week. He has sought out work and volunteer opportunities, but so far has been unable to secure employment.

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According to court records, he has said it was difficult for him to ask for jobs at Starbucks and Subway while being followed by the Secret Service: “It made me feel awkward.”

According to court records and testimony at a hearing about his release, he has spent time volunteering at a church as well as a mental hospital. He has attended meetings for people with mental illness, and been to talks at an art museum and concerts.

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