It came as a shocking surprise, but John Hinckley, the man responsible for shooting former President Ronald Reagan in 1981, is set to be released from prison after 35 years.
Hinckley, who is now 61 years old, will be released from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington on August 5. He is reportedly going to go live with his 90-year-old mother in her gated community in Williamsburg, Virginia.
US District Judge Paul Friedman wrote in his ruling Wednesday that Hinckley “no longer poses a threat to himself or others.”
Hinckley hadn’t been exclusively confined to the hospital. In fact, he had been allowed to leave the hospital for day visits numerous times since 2003 and would typically spend 17 days a month at his mother’s home.
On March 30, 1981, Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Reagan and shot him in the chest outside the Washington Hilton. He also shot three others, including Reagan’s press secretary James Brady, who became disabled after the attack.
Reagan spent 12 days in the hospital.
After the attack, Hinckley told investigators that he was trying to kill President Reagan to impress actress Jodie Foster, who he was apparently obsessed with.
His release is not without controversy, obviously. Patti Davis, one of Reagan’s daughters, wrote a must-read blog post on her blog, where she talks about how haunted she is by her father’s shooting and how she doesn’t believe Hinckley is truly rehabilitated. Below are some excerpts:
For purposes of review, here are a few other things Hinckley was doing at Saint Elizabeths: Writing to mass murderers Ted Bundy and Charles Manson. Federal prosecutors reported this to the hospital doctors who didn’t know because they hadn’t wanted to invade Hinckley’s privacy by searching his room. He’s had several girlfriends, most notably Leslie deVeau who killed her 10 year old daughter with a 12 gauge semiautomatic shotgun while the girl slept, then tried to kill herself but only managed to shoot off her left arm.
When my father was lying in a hospital bed recovering from the gunshots that nearly killed him, he said, “I know my ability to heal depends on my willingness to forgive John Hinckley.” I too believe in forgiveness. But forgiving someone in your heart doesn’t mean that you let them loose in Virginia to pursue whatever dark agendas they may still hold dear.
Also, according to the New York Times, the Justice Department is reviewing the ruling.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department, which has consistently opposed Mr. Hinckley’s appeals for greater freedom, said it was reviewing the ruling. A spokeswoman for the Secret Service, which sometimes secretly follows Mr. Hinckley while he is on supervised release, said the agency would not comment.
After Hinckey is released in August, he won’t be completely free, at least not at first. He will have to attend individual and group therapy sessions, cannot talk to the media, and is limited as to how far he can drive.
But how would you feel if he was living in your community?