John Hinckley, who has been institutionalized since 1982 after attempting to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, is expected to spend Christmas at home with his 86-year-old mother after a federal court extended the number of days he's allowed out of the mental hospital.
Hinckley has been at the St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C., for 31 years after a jury ruled he was insane when he shot Reagan, press secretary James Brady, D.C. policeman Thomas Delahanty and Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy.
All four men lived through the attempt, after the bullets Hinckley used failed to explode on contact, as they were designed to do.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman in Washington ruled that Hinckley can spend 17 days a month visiting his mother's hometown in Williamsburg, Va., reports The Washington Post.
For the past four years, Hinckley has been allowed to visit his mother for 10 days a month, and Friedman said he is certain that he will "not be a danger to himself or to others" if he gets more time away from the hospital.
And if Hinckley can prove that he can integrate and "socialize" in Williamsburg, he may even get more days of freedom in the future, Friedman said.
Hinckley doesn't just hang out with his mother while he's in Williamsburg. He's allowed to drive alone to specific destinations, but must carry a GPS-enabled cellphone when he's out on one of his unsupervised trips. The man who shot Reagan has been reported to visit places such as Wendy's and PetSmart while he's out driving around.
But federal prosecutors said that Hinckley shouldn't be allowed more freedom, noting that he lied to mental health professionals about seeing two movies while he was out during his unguarded time.
They said the only reason anybody knew about his lies was because the Secret Service was following him, The Post reports.
But while the Justice Department is against letting Hinckley out of the hospital for longer periods, his family, attorneys, and psychiatrists all say he has responded successfully to treatment and he poses no further danger to anyone.
Hinckley still is not allowed to go anywhere in Washington because he'd be in proximity to whichever president is in office and he can't visit his sister in Dallas, who lives just a 10-minute walk away from President George W. Bush's home.
Reagan wasn't Hinckley's first presidential target, reports Politico.
First, he stalked then-President Jimmy Carter. In addition, shortly before the attempt on Reagan's life he was fined $62.50 and released after Nashville Metropolitan Airport security arrested him for concealing handguns and ammunition in his luggage.
Hinckley, who had been going through depression treatment, bought the gun and bullets he used to shoot Reagan and the others at a Dallas pawn shop four days after his arrest in Nashville.
The Brady law, enacted in 1993 and named for James Brady, who suffered severe head trauma in the shooting, requires background checks on some gun purchases, and may have prevented Hinckley's purchase, legal experts say.
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