A series of federal court hearing beginning today will determine whether presidential assailant John Hinckley will gain more freedom.
Hinckley, who wounded President Ronald Reagan and three others when he shot them in 1981, has been confined since then at St. Elizabeths Hospital after being found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1982.
In recent years, federal Judge Paul Friedman has granted Hinckley, now 56, a series of privileges, including 10-day visits to his mother’s home in Williamsburg, Va., and he has been allowed to get a driver’s license.
St. Elizabeths now is seeking permission to grant Hinckley two 17-day visits and six 24-day visits to Williamsburg, according to The Crime Scene blog in The Washington Post
St. Elizabeths doctors also are seeking the power to allow Hinckley to live with his mother under hospital control. Hinckley’s lawyer maintains his client is not a danger. However, prosecutors oppose granting more freedom to Hinckley and said in court papers that the “proposal for expanded conditions of release is premature and ill conceived,” the Post reported.
“Hinckley is a man capable of great violence,” the Post quoted prosecutors as arguing. He “still is not sufficiently well to alleviate the concern that this violence may be repeated.”
His lawyers argued that Hinckley deserved more time away from the hospital and eventual release, saying that the hospital and his doctors do not believe he is a danger to himself or others anymore.
Prosecutors countered that Hinckley has engaged in repeated deception when away from the hospital, telling doctors he went to see a movie, but Secret Service agents tailing him found him browsing books on Reagan and presidential assassins at a Barnes and Noble bookstore on July 24, 2011.
"Mr. Hinckley has a long history of deception and misconduct," Sarah Chasson, an assistant U.S. attorney told Judge Paul Friedman, who is weighing Hinckley's request for more time away from the hospital and eventual release.
"Is this deception new? Of course not," Chasson said. She also said that Hinckley lied to doctors when he said he went to another movie a few weeks later and about his shopping trips.
While he went to the movie theater box office on the two occasions mentioned, Chasson said, he never bought tickets and instead meandered around a nearby restaurant and bookstore.
Hinckley's lawyer said that his client's lack of candor about going to the movies was a "very foolish error" but that doctors at the hospital classify him as a low risk of danger to himself and to society.
"The doctors at the hospital say he is not dangerous," said Barry Levine. "Perfection is not the standard."
Hinckley, 56, sat quietly in a brown sports coat, his brown hair starting to thin and gray. He occasionally leaned over to whisper something to his lawyer.
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