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Would-be Reagan Assassin John Hinckley to Go Free

Judge says Hinckley no danger to himself or others following 35 years in a mental hospital

John Hinckley Jr. is escorted by police in Washington in March 1981 after his arrest for seriously wounding President Ronald Reagan. (AFP/Getty Images file photo)
John Hinckley Jr. is escorted by police in Washington in March 1981 after his arrest for seriously wounding President Ronald Reagan. (AFP/Getty Images file photo)

A federal judge has ordered that would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley Jr., who shot and wounded Ronald Reagan and three others to impress actress Jodi Foster, be released from the mental hospital where he’s been held for the past 35 years.  

[Read Judge’s Order ]  

 U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said in his ruling on Wednesday in Washington that Hinckley can live with his mother in Williamsburg, Virginia, under certain conditions.  

Friedman cited evidence from years of court hearings, psychiatric evaluations and temporary visits to his mother’s home that Hinckley did not pose a danger to himself or others.  

Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, said in a statement on her website that she “will forever be haunted” by the assassination attempt in March 1981. “If John Hinckley is haunted by anything, I think it’s that he didn’t succeed in his mission to assassinate the president.”  

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute said in a statement that it “strongly” opposed Hinckley’s release.   

“We believe John Hinckley is still a threat to others,” the statement said.  

Hinckley shot and nearly killed Reagan outside the Washington Hilton hotel just two months after the president took the oath of office. Reagan underwent emergency surgery and recovered.  

His press secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy and police officers Thomas Delahanty also were hit. Brady was the most seriously hurt, suffering brain damage and confined to a wheelchair. medical examiner ruled his death in 2014 was the result of his injuries, but no charges were filed against Hinckley.  

Hinckley, who was obsessed with Foster, shot Reagan to gain attention and fame. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity of trying to assassinate Reagan and confined to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington.  


Friedman noted in his ruling that all of the experts who testified before the court on Hinckley’s condition agreed that his diagnosis of major depression and psychosis were in “full and sustained remission” and have been for more than 20 years.  

During that period, Friedman continued, Hinckley has shown no signs of delusional thinking or violent tendencies, and has successfully completed  80 unsupervised visits to his family home over the past decade.  

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