Would-be Reagan assassin seeks expanded freedom in Virginia

By Ian Simpson WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Would-be U.S. presidential assassin John Hinckley Jr. should be allowed to reside full time away from the mental hospital where he has lived since shooting Ronald Reagan in 1981, his lawyer argued in federal court on Wednesday. Hinckley, 59, has been allowed since December 2013 to leave Washington's St. Elizabeths Hospital for 17 days a month to stay with his mother in Williamsburg, Virginia. In his opening statement, Hinckley's lawyer Barry Levine requested he be granted convalescent leave, the equivalent of outpatient status, so he could live full time with his 89-year-old mother. "There is no dispute that Mr. Hinckley is clinically ready for the next step in treatment, which is convalescent leave," Levine told U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman. Hinckley shot Reagan and three others, including White House press secretary James Brady, in a bid to impress actress Jodie Foster, with whom he was obsessed. A jury found him not guilty of attempted assassination by reason of insanity. Testimony is expected to wrap up next week, but it could be months before Friedman renders a decision. The government opposed Levine's request, with prosecutor Colleen Kennedy saying the provisions suggested for expanded release were inadequate for a would-be presidential assassin. Hinckley also has written to killers Ted Bundy and Charles Manson, and in January he deceived doctors about where he was going when he was away from St. Elizabeths, she said. "Now is not the time to loosen the reins of the hospital," she said. The gray-haired Hinckley, who wore a sport coat and white shirt, was silent during the hearing, sipping water and speaking only in response to Friedman's greeting. Initial testimony centered on whether Hinckley's family could bear the financial cost of supporting him and his care. Prosecutors put the cost at $5,000 to $10,000 a month, and said the family would run out of money in one or two years. But his siblings, Diane Sims and Scott Hinckley, both of Dallas, said the value of the mother's retirement fund and home totaled about $500,000, and vowed to support him financially. Levine said the $500,000 figure would be enough to support Hinckley for about five years, when he could become eligible for government medical benefits and other assistance. Friedman issued a 29-point order in February 2014 that encompassed Hinckley's Internet use, travel, volunteer work, walks within his mother's subdivision, therapy and medication. At Wednesday's hearing, Levine said Hinckley was in full remission from his mental illness and was fully compliant with his medication regime. During a 2011 hearing, prosecutors argued Hinckley repeatedly engaged in deception when away from the hospital. Secret Service agents saw him browsing books on Reagan and on other presidential assassins in 2011 instead of going to a movie, as he had told doctors he would. Brady died in August at age 73, and a coroner determined the death was attributable to the shooting. Prosecutors declined to press charges. (Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Eric Walsh, Bill Trott and Susan Heavey)

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