Reagan shooter John Hinckley to receive unconditional release

John Hinckley Jr., the man who shot President Reagan in 1981 in an attempt to assassinate him, will receive unconditional release in June 2022 if he complies with current restrictions, according to a ruling by a District of Columbia federal judge Monday.

Hinckley, who was 25 years old when he shot Mr. Reagan, was suffering from acute psychosis and believed killing the president would attract the attention of actress Jodie Foster, with whom he was obsessed. Jurors found Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity. The verdict committed him to live at St. Elizabeths, a Washington, D.C., hospital for the mentally ill.

His lawyers argued that he no longer poses a threat to anyone, and District Court Judge Paul Friedman noted few patients at St Elizabeth’s Hospital have been studied more thoroughly than Hinckley, who was granted weeks-long stays with his family beginning in 2007 and was released conditionally in 2016.  Since then, he has been continued to be monitored, and Friedman said that “there has been no indication of any problems.” 

Friedman went on to say that some of the conditions imposed on Hinckley “probably weren’t necessary” and “if he hadn’t tried to kill a president, he probably would have been granted unconditional release a long time ago.”

President Reagan was wounded outside the Hilton Hotel in Washington when a bullet shot by Hinckley ricocheted off the presidential limousine and into his chest, puncturing his lung and causing substantial blood loss. Hinckley also shot police officer Thomas Delahanty, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and press secretary James Brady who was confined to a wheelchair as a result of the shooting and died from related injuries 33 years later. The coroner ruled his death a homicide, though no further charges were sought against Hinckley.

Hinckley did not appear before the court. His attorney, Barry Levine, told the court that Hinckley “expresses his apologizes and profound regret for his actions.” He said Hinckley does not ask for forgiveness, but for understanding, and he cited Hinckley’s mental health issues as reason for his actions.

Levine told CBS News that Hinckley “he wishes he could undo that act.” Asked why Hinckley did not make an appearance in court, Levine said Hickley is not interested in the “onslaught of cameras.”   

He also maintained that there is currently “no evidence of danger” from Hinckley, and he added that Hinckley’s narcissism disorder “was largely substantially attenuated.”

The government opposed ending all the restrictions, according to a May court filing. Under his conditional release, Hinckley must give notice if he drives more than 75 miles outside of Williamsburg, Virginia, where he lives; he is required to attend monthly appointments with the Department of Behavioral Health; he must provide usernames and passwords for all devices, and he is not allowed to possess a firearm. Friedman’s order has not yet been released, so it is uncertain whether Hinckley will be allowed to obtain a gun when the other conditions of his release are lifted next June.

In 2020 a court ruled that Hinckley would be allowed to display his music and artwork under his name. His music can be found on his YouTube channel.