Man who shot Reagan to be released after 34 years

Hinckley had carried out the assassination attempt in 1981 in a bid to impress actress Jodie Foster, with whom he was obsessed.
Hinckley had carried out the assassination attempt in 1981 in a bid to impress actress Jodie Foster, with whom he was obsessed.PHOTO: REUTERS

John Hinckley, who was found not guilty by reason of insanity, will be freed from mental institution

WASHINGTON • A judge has allowed a man who wounded former United States president Ronald Reagan and three other people in a 1981 assassination attempt to be freed from a Washington mental institution.

US District Judge Paul Friedman yesterday said John Hinckley, 61, no longer posed a danger to himself or others and could be released from St Elizabeth's, a government psychiatric hospital, where he has lived for 34 years. He will be going to live with his mother.

Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1982 for the attack on Mr Reagan - which also badly wounded the president's press secretary James Brady - outside a Washington hotel. Hinckley carried out the attack in a bid to impress actress Jodie Foster, with whom he was obsessed.

Hinckley's attack eventually became an important moment in the US debate over gun control. Mr Brady, who was left permanently disabled by his injuries, and his wife Sarah later became the country's leading gun control advocates.

Mr Brady's organisation helped the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act become law in 1993. The law imposed federal background checks on gun purchases and a five-day waiting period.

In his order, Mr Friedman said Hinckley "is permitted to reside full-time in Williamsburg, Virginia, on convalescent leave, which shall begin no sooner than Aug 5, 2016".

Hinckley's mother lives in Williamsburg, about 210km south of Washington. Since 2006, Hinckley has completed more than 80 unsupervised visits to Williamsburg, the judge said.

Mr Friedman's order imposes dozens of conditions, including a requirement that Hinckley meet his psychiatrist in Washington at least once a month and notify the US Secret Service when he travels for the appointment.

Hinckley has already been staying at his mother's home in a gated community with a golf course during monthly furlough visits. He was granted a Virginia driver's licence in 2014, the magazine Washingtonian reported in May.

Hinckley has worked as a volunteer at the library of a psychiatric facility in Williamsburg after failing to secure employment at places such as Starbucks and Subway, the magazine wrote.

Since 2003, Hinckley's lawyer has asked to lift his confinement, citing evaluations by St Elizabeth's officials that he no longer posed a threat.

Mr Reagan died in 2004 at the age of 90 after suffering from Alzheimer's for a decade. His children, Mr Ron Reagan Jr and Ms Patti Reagan Davis, have opposed Hinckley's release, saying they do not trust him because of his past deceptions.

"I hope the doctors are right when they say that John Hinckley isn't a danger to anyone, but something in me feels they are wrong," Ms Davis said in a post on her website in April last year.

REUTERS, THE WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2016, with the headline 'Man who shot Reagan to be released after 34 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe