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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Visitation Privileges Grow for Reagan Plotter

(CN) - John Hinckley Jr., the man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981 as an attempt to win the affections of actress Jodie Foster, can now visit his elderly mother's home in Virginia more frequently, a federal judge ruled.

Hinckley, who became obsessed with Foster and shot at the former president six times on March 30, 1981, at the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., also shot then-White House press secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and officer Thomas Delahanty. Everyone survived.

St. Elizabeth's Psychiatric Hospital in Washington has treated Hinckley since he was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1983.

The patient's have expanded over the years, however, from unsupervised day visits with his parents outside the hospital to spending the night with them within 50 miles of D.C., under watch by Secret Service.

Starting in 2006, Hinckley was allowed to leave the Washington metropolitan area to stay at his mother's home in Williamsburg, Va. His visits went from three nights to four nights to six nights. He was then allowed to spend up to 10 days and nine nights in Williamsburg to be integrated into his mother's community.

The court next allowed Hinckley to volunteer at a charity, and use up to three hours, twice a week, for "specific social, recreational, religious, or shopping related activities."

At a recent hearing, Hinckley's lawyers argued that their client is neither a danger to himself or others, and that his psychotic disorder is in remission.

"Based on the evidence presented at the hearing, the court is confident that under appropriate conditions, Mr. Hinckley will not likely be a danger to himself or others if his visits to Williamsburg are expanded from 10 days to seventeen days [a month]," U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman wrote on Dec. 20. "Mr. Hinckley has been making 10-day visits to Williamsburg for nearly four years, without in any way decompensating or doing anything that might suggest a risk of danger."

Hinckley has made 33, 10-day visits to Williamsburg for nearly four years.

"Mr. Hinckley's mental status has remained stable throughout this long period, with no reemergence of psychosis or clinical depression, both of which have been in full remission for over two decades," the judge wrote. "His track record of stability supports the first recommendation of his treatment providers - who uniformly believe that he is ready for an expansion of time outside the hospital - that his visits to Williamsburg be expanded to seventeen days per month."

The judge says Hinckley's mental disorders are unlikely to reemerge during his visits, and that he should be permitted to drive to ease the burden his elderly mother faces in driving him around.

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