By JESSICA GRESKO
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge is set to preside over an important hearing for John Hinckley, the man who shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and is on the verge of being released from all remaining restrictive conditions.
U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman said in September that he would free Hinckley from restrictions on June 15 as long as Hinckley continued to do well. Officials say Hinckley has, and Wednesday’s hearing, which Hinckley will not attend, is not expected to alter those plans.
Hinckley was confined to a mental hospital in Washington for more than two decades after a jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity in shooting Reagan. But starting in 2003 Friedman began allowing Hinckley to live for longer stretches in the community with requirements like attending therapy and restrictions on where he can travel. He’s been living full-time in Virginia since 2016, though still under restrictions.
Those include: allowing officials access to his electronic devices, email and online accounts; being barred from traveling to places where he knows there will be someone protected by the Secret Service, and giving three days’ notice if he wants to travel more than 75 miles (120 kilometers) from his home in Virginia.
In July, Hinckley — who plays guitar and sings and has shared his music on a YouTube channel — plans to give a concert in Brooklyn, New York. Appearances in Connecticut and Chicago for what he has called the “John Hinckley Redemption Tour” have been cancelled.
The judge has said that Hinckley, who turned 67 Sunday, has displayed no symptoms of active mental illness, no violent behavior and no interest in weapons since 1983.
In a status report filed ahead of Wednesday’s hearing, prosecutors wrote that health officials who have overseen Hinckley’s treatment for years believe he “has recovered his sanity such that he does not present a danger to himself or others because of mental illness if unconditionally released” as planned.
Prosecutors had previously opposed ending restrictions, but they changed their position last year, saying they would agree to Hinckley’s release from conditions if he continued to show mental stability and follow restrictions. Prosecutor Kacie Weston wrote in a court filing ahead of the hearing that “the Government has found no evidence to suggest that Mr. Hinckley’s unconditional release should not be granted” as the judge previously said he would.
Reagan recovered from the March 30, 1981, shooting, but his press secretary, James Brady, who died in 2014, was partially paralyzed as a result. Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty were also wounded. Reagan died in 2004.
In the 2000s, Hinckley began, with the judge’s approval, making visits to his parents’ home in Williamsburg, Virginia. His father died in 2008, but in 2016 he was given permission to live with his mother full time. Still, he was required to attend individual and group therapy sessions, was barred from talking to the media and could only travel within a limited area. Secret Service would also periodically follow him.
Hinckley has said on his YouTube channel that he has started a record label, Emporia Records, and that his first release will be a 14-song CD of his music. He also promotes his music on Twitter.