• Sun. Sep 24th, 2023


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John Hinckley, Who Tried to Assassinate Reagan, Will Get Unconditional Release

WASHINGTON — A federal judge said on Wednesday that John W. Hinckley Jr., who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, would be unconditionally released on June 15, according to a lawyer for Mr. Hinckley.

Mr. Hinckley has been living in Virginia under various restrictions since 2016. The judge, Paul L. Friedman of Federal District Court in Washington, had set the June 15 release date in September with several conditions, including that Mr. Hinckley, 67, remain mentally stable.

At a hearing on Wednesday, Judge Friedman said Mr. Hinckley had met those conditions and reflected on the “long road” that Mr. Hinckley had faced, The Associated Press reported.

“He’s been scrutinized,” the judge said, according to The A.P. “He’s passed every test. He’s no longer a danger to himself or others.”

The District of Columbia’s Department of Behavioral Health reported this year that Mr. Hinckley’s psychiatric illness had been in remission for decades and that he did not present a danger to himself or others, federal prosecutors said last month, adding that the government had no reason to suggest Mr. Hinckley should not be granted unconditional release.

“This really is momentous,” Barry Levine, the lawyer for Mr. Hinckley, said in an interview on Wednesday. “It shows how one who is ravaged by mental disease, with good treatment and support from a loving family, which John had, and good mental health professionals, can actually salvage his life.”

After seeing the 1976 film “Taxi Driver,” Mr. Hinckley began to identify with the main character, who plots to assassinate a presidential candidate. Mr. Hinckley became fixated on Jodie Foster, an actress in the movie, and moved to New Haven, Conn., when she attended Yale University.

In 1981, Mr. Hinckley wrote a letter to Ms. Foster describing his plan to kill the president and then waited outside the Washington Hilton for Mr. Reagan when he gave a speech there.

When Mr. Reagan left the hotel, Mr. Hinckley fired six shots, hitting the president; James S. Brady, the White House press secretary; Timothy J. McCarthy, a Secret Service agent; and Thomas K. Delahanty, a police officer. Mr. Brady died of his injuries in 2014.

In 1982, a jury found Mr. Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity. He was sent to a psychiatric hospital in Washington and confined for more than two decades. In 2016, Judge Friedman ruled that Mr. Hinckley could live permanently with his mother in Virginia, though he remained under certain restrictions.

Mr. Hinckley still lives in Virginia, though his mother died last year, and the terms of his release have been relaxed over the years. In a 2020 ruling, Judge Friedman allowed Mr. Hinckley to begin displaying his memorabilia, writings, paintings, artwork and music under his own name after his treatment team told the court that he was frustrated with having to post his music online anonymously. According to an interview submitted to the court, Mr. Hinckley said he wanted to “make money” from his music and art.

Mr. Hinckley uploads videos of covers and original songs to his YouTube channel, which has more than 27,000 subscribers. In his latest video, posted on Dec. 31, he announced that he was starting a record label.

“He’s a songwriter; he’s a performer,” Mr. Levine said. “And he’s going to be pursuing a career in that.”

In a statement on Wednesday, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute said it was “both saddened and concerned that John Hinckley Jr. will soon be unconditionally released and intends to pursue a music career for profit.”

The statement added, “We strongly oppose his release into society where he apparently seeks to make a profit from his infamy.”