The man who tried to shoot and kill President Ronald Reagan in 1981 is set to be released from a Washington, D.C., mental hospital. A federal judge has granted John Hinckley, Jr. a “full time convalescent leave” to live in Virginia.
Hinkley was found not guilty by reason of insanity for the attempted assassination of President Reagan and the wounding of police officer Thomas Delahanty, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and Reagan’s press secretary, James Brady. Brady’s wound left him with a permanent brain injury.
Judge Paul Friedman ruled on Wednesday morning that Hinkley was fit to leave the hospital on a full time basis beginning next week, according to an Associated Press report. He has been spending as much as half a month at a time living with his parents in Williamsburg, Virginia.
On March 30, 1981, President Reagan was leaving the Washington Hilton after making a speech to the AFL-CIO conference. Just before making it to his presidential limousine, Hinkley opened fire striking the President in the chest. Press Secretary Brady was struck in the right side of his head. The two law enforcement officers were also struck by his bullets.
Both Brady and Officer Delahanty received permanent disabilities from their wounds. When Brady eventually died in 2014, his death was ruled as being connected to the shooting and was classified as a homicide. Delahanty was forced to retire from the police department. He still lives in the Washington, D.C. area. Agent McCarthy, the fourth Secret Service agent to actually “take a bullet for the president,” was shot in the abdomen and fully recovered from his wound. He retired from the Secret Service in 1993.
Beginning in 2003, Judge Friedman began allowing Hinkley to leave the mental hospital for short daytime visits to his parents’ home. Three years later, the judge extended those visits to three-day excursions. the AP reported.
In 2015, the judge expanded the visits further to allow the would-be assassin to spend 17 days per month at this parents’ home, Breitbart News reported. The reason for the “convalescent leave,” was so that Hinkley could spent time with his aging mother and to “show the world he’s no longer a threat,” Hinkley’s attorney, Barry Levine, said. He continues to meet with psychiatrists and therapists while outside of the hospital. It was also reported that the Secret Service “keeps an eye on him” while he is out of St. Elizabeth Hospital.
Prosecutors have argued against his release but the judge disregarded their arguments and continued with the expanded release program. Judge Friedman, now classified as a “Senior Judge,” was appointed to the bench in 1994 by President Bill Clinton.
Hinkley will continue to live under close scrutiny while he is “on leave.” Some of those restrictions include not speaking to the media, attending individual and group therapy sessions. He is also ordered to have no contact with actress Jodie Foster, the actress he was obsessed with and wrote a letter to shortly before the assassination attempt.
His attorney said he is doing volunteer work as a church and a local mental hospital. He has also been speaking at local art museums and concerts. He reportedly is seeking full time employment. He says he wants to “fit in” and be a “good citizen.” He was quoted in a court document as saying “I don’t like flipping round the TV, I want to do things,” the AP reported.
Hinkley’s full time convalescent leave is scheduled to begin on or after Friday, August 5.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with additional information.