John Hinkley Jr. Faces Difficulty in Release Bid

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The psychiatric hospital treating John Hinckley Jr. must recalibrate its plans to expand privileges for the failed Reagan assassin, a federal judge ruled.
     Hinckley has been incarcerated at St. Elizabeth’s Psychiatric Hospital in Washington since 1983 after he was found not guilty by reason of insanity for trying to kill then-President Ronald Reagan two years earlier.
     In 2009, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman approved a conditional release plan that allowed Hinckley to spend up to nine nights at his mother’s home in Williamsburg, Va. He was also allowed to take on volunteer work and apply for a driver’s license.
     St. Elizabeth’s later petitioned to expand those privileges. The new plan would let Hinckley spend two periods of 17 days away from the hospital at his mother’s home. If successful, Hinckley would then get to spend six periods of 24 days away from the hospital in the area. If those extended trips worked, the hospital said Hinckley should be conditionally released to his mother.
     The plan hinges on Hinckley’s continued psychiatric and therapeutic treatment in the Williamsburg area at a facility called Colonial Behavioral Health, People’s Place.
     Last month, however, the court learned that Colonial no longer wants to treat Hinckley. Hinckley’s longtime counsel, Barry Levine with Dickstein Shapiro, also filed to end that relationship because he says Hinckley has stopped paying his legal bills. Noting that the proposal to expand Hinckley’s privileges is still pending, Friedman barred withdrawal by Levine and Dickstein Shapiro.
     “At this point, the ball is in the hospital’s court,” Friedman wrote. “It can either withdraw its pending proposal and submit an entirely new plan, in which case the court would consider a request from Dickstein to withdraw and begin to consider the entirely new plan with new counsel representing Mr. Hinckley. Alternatively, the hospital could proceed with its original petition but modify it to provide an alternative or alternatives to Colonial Behavioral Health, People’s Place, in which case supplemental filings, including supplemental expert reports, would be required. … In either case, the pending proceeding is still open, and it would prejudice Mr. Hinckley to permit counsel to withdraw until this proceeding is concluded.”
     The Department of Justice has consistently objected to Hinckley’s conditional release. During his 1983 trial, it was revealed that Hinckley’s assassination attempt was aimed at impressing actress Jodi Foster with whom he was obsessed.
     Friedman admitted in the 2009 ruling that Hinckley’s relationship with women remains “troubling.”
     St. Elizabeth’s has until Oct. 19, 2012 to inform the court how it intends to proceed.

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