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John Hinckley Jr. — the man who shot President Ronald Reagan four decades ago but was found not guilty by reason of insanity — is set to be unconditionally released from court supervision next year under an agreement disclosed at a court hearing Monday.
"If he hadn’t tried to kill a president, he would have been in unconditional release long, long ago," U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman said of Hinckley. "I'm going to, after all of these years, grant unconditional release to Mr. Hinckley. ... I think it's probably overdue given the record in this case."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kacie Weston, the latest in a long line of federal prosecutors assigned to the case, told Friedman that prosecutors and Hinckley's attorneys had agreed to propose ending his supervision next June. Weston said there were no significant concerns at the moment about the behavior of Hinckley, who has resided in Williamsburg, Va., in recent years as the court gradually eased restrictions on his movement.
However, the prosecutor said the government had concerns about some current stresses in Hinckley's life — the death of his mother in July and the looming disbanding later this year of a therapy group Hinckley regularly attended. Weston also noted that the coronavirus pandemic had basically shut down Hinckley's work running a booth at an antique show. Those factors raise the possibility that Hinckley might become unstable due to a lack of social interaction, she said.
"Mr. Hinckley does have a history of turning inward in isolation," Weston said. As a result, the government urged a nine-month delay on the final closing of Hinckley's case — an arrangement she referred to as a "conditional unconditional release."
Weston said the agreement to release Hinckley unconditionally was approved last week by officials at Justice Department headquarters. She did not elaborate on who there was involved in the decision.
"Ultimately, your honor, at his point the ball is in Mr. Hinckley's hands," she said. "It's entirely up to him and the government expects and hopes that he can continue to comply as he has thus far."
At the end of the hearing Monday in federal court in Washington, Friedman did not immediately issue the proposed order for a delayed end to Hinckley's supervision. The Clinton-appointed judge said he wanted to make some small changes to it, but planned to approve the substance of the agreement.
In 1981, at age 25, Hinckley opened fire on Reagan as he left the Washington Hilton hotel near Dupont Circle following a speech. In addition to Reagan, Hinckley shot White House Press Secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy and D.C. police officer Thomas Delahanty. All survived the initial shooting, although Reagan was gravely wounded and Brady was left paralyzed.
Reagan recovered and completed two terms as president. He died in 2004.
Brady died in 2014, with his death being officially classified as a homicide due to his injuries more than three decades earlier.