Judge: John Hinckley can move out of his mother’s Williamsburg home

John Hinckley Jr. (AP file photo)
John Hinckley Jr. (AP file photo)

The man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan can move out of his mother’s house in Williamsburg and live on his own, a federal judge ruled Friday.

U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman granted John Hinckley Jr. the largest measure of freedom he’s had since shooting and wounding Reagan and three others outside a Washington hotel in 1981.

Hinckley was confined for decades to St. Elizabeths Hospital in the nation’s capital. Starting in 2006, he began to make trips to visit his mother, who is now in her 90s and lives in a gated community in Williamsburg. He moved in with her in 2016.

The judge wrote Friday that the 63-year-old Hinckley can now live within 75 miles of Williamsburg as long as Hinckley’s doctors give their approval on the location.

Hinckley still must live under a long list of conditions. They include meeting at least twice a month with a social worker, a psychiatrist and a therapist. He can’t own a gun or consume alcohol or drugs.

He’s also barred from contacting his victims’ families or traveling anywhere where there are former or current U.S. presidents, vice presidents and members of Congress. He must carry a GPS-enabled cellphone when he’s away from home.

Friedman, who is a judge in the District of Columbia, wrote that a forensic psychologist and a forensic psychiatrist supported the changes to the conditions of Hinckley’s release.

Friedman also wrote that “this court finds that Mr. Hinckley will not pose a danger to himself or others if he is permitted to continue residing full-time in Williamsburg, Virginia, on convalescent leave under the proposed conditions.”

It’s possible that Hinckley could be granted even more independence in the future. His attorney, Barry Levine, said he’ll request unconditional release for Hinckley. The next court date is scheduled for June.

“It would be the complete restoration to life as you and I know it,” Levine said during an interview on Friday.

“Would he continue to see mental health professionals? Of course. He doesn’t mind that. Those people have been wonderful to him,” Levine added.

“If we wanted to go Paris, he could do it. He could do whatever you could do,” Levine added. “His compliance with the court over the many years has been unfailingly flawless. And if people knew him, they would like him.”

Hinckley was 25 when he shot Reagan in March 1981. The shooting also paralyzed press secretary James Brady and injured two others. Hinckley was suffering from acute psychosis and major depression and had become obsessed with the actress Jodie Foster.

When jurors found him not guilty by reason of insanity, they said he needed treatment, not a lifetime in confinement.

At court hearings in recent years, doctors have testified that Hinckley’s psychosis and major depression have been in remission for decades and that, while he still has a narcissistic personality disorder, its effects have diminished.

The home of Hinckley’s mother is on the 13th hole of a golf course. His room has a king-size bed and TV and is decorated with paintings he has done of houses and cats, according to court documents.

Hinckley’s attorney said he volunteers, which the court requires. He also interacts with people in the area, visiting record stores and taking guitar lessons.

In 2015, Cabot Wade, a musician who gave Hinckley guitar lessons, said he never felt Hinckley was violent or dangerous.

Nevertheless, he said then that “nobody will touch him with a 10-foot pole.”

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.