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Judge orders release of John Hinckley Jr., who shot Ronald Reagan in 1981

By Ed Adamczyk
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Judge orders release of John Hinckley Jr., who shot Ronald Reagan in 1981
John W. Hinckley Jr., (C), who has been under psychiatric care since he was declared not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, will be freed after 35 years, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. Hinckley was 25 at the time of the shooting; he is now 61. UPI File Photo | License Photo

WASHINGTON, July 27 (UPI) -- John W. Hinckley Jr., who shot President Ronald Reagan in a 1981 assassination attempt, will be freed from a psychiatric hospital, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

Hinckley, 61, will be freed to live with his mother, 90, in Williamsburg, Va., subject to a number of travel, monitoring and treatment conditions, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman ruled. He found Hinckley no longer poses a danger to himself or to others.

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Hinckley resided full-time at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, a public mental health hospital in Washington, D.C., until the 1990s, when he was permitted to have supervised visits with family members. He currently lives at his mother's home 17 days a month.

"After 34 years as an in-patient at St. Elizabeth's Hospital ... the court finds that Mr. Hinckley has received the maximum benefits possible in the in-patient setting. The court finds by the preponderance of the evidence that Mr. Hinckley will not be a danger to himself or to others if released on full-time convalescent leave to Williamsburg under the conditions proposed," Friedman wrote in a 103-page opinion.

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Hinckley was 25 when he shot Reagan, Press Secretary James Brady, Washington police Officer Thomas Delahanty and U.S. Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy with a .22-caliber pistol outside the Washington Hilton on March 30, 1981. Each survived, but Brady was confined to a wheelchair until his 2014 death; the incident prompted his start as a gun control advocate.

Reagan died in 2004.

A jury declared Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity in 1982, after an eight-week trial in which he said he shot Reagan to impress actress Jodie Foster, on whom he obsessed after repeated viewings of her film Taxi Driver.

The assassination attempt prompted 38 states and the federal government to rewrite laws raising the standard of proof in employing the insanity defense in court; it is now rarely used.

Hinckley's release could come as early as next week. The judge ordered him not to contact those he injured, their relatives or Foster.

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