Reagan's Attempted Assassin Granted Full Release 40 Years Later as Court Says He's Now Symptom-Free

A judge ruled that John Hinckley Jr., who was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent decades being treated, will be released from all restrictions in June 2022

John Hinckley Jr.
Photo: Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock

Four decades after his attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan, John Hinckley Jr. is symptom-free and no longer poses a threat, paving the way for an unconditional release next summer, a federal judge ruled this week.

Hinckley, who was 25 at the time, shot Reagan as well as White House Press Secretary James Brady, a Secret Service agent and a police officer in front of a Washington, D.C., hotel on March 30, 1981, while television cameras rolled. (Brady died years later, in August 2014, in what the coroner's office said was a homicide because of his injuries in the shooting.)

Hinckley had hoped to impress Jodie Foster, the subject of an obsessive infatuation.

In 1982, he was found not guilty by a federal jury for reason of insanity and subsequently spent decades in treatment at a D.C. hospital. In recent years, he had been living with family in Virginia under several dozen restrictions.

U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman said Monday that Hinckley, now 66, will be released unconditionally in June 2022, according to court documents, at which time his case will end.

Friedman said Hinckley, who had been diagnosed with acute psychosis, is free of symptoms indicative of mental illness and has showed no violent behavior and no interest in weapons for decades, the Associated Press reports.

Reagan Shooting
Hulton Archive/Getty

After the not guilty verdict, Hinckley became a patient at Saint Elizabeths Hospital. He remained in psychiatric care there until 2016 when the judge overseeing his case approved his release with restrictions, including mandatory therapy and treatment by doctors administering and monitoring his psychiatric medications.

He was also not permitted to contact Reagan's children, his other victims, their families or Foster, among other restrictions.

Federal prosecutors had opposed Hinckley's release up until Monday, the AP reports. But they said they would agree to the unconditional release as long as Hinckley shows mental stability until June. (A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

After his restricted release in 2016, Hinckley lived with his mother in Virginia until she died in July 2019.

Assassin John Hinckley Jr. Arriving at Quantico Detention Center
John Hinckley Jr. (center) in August 1981. Bettmann/Getty

"If he hadn't tried to kill the president, he would have been unconditionally released a long, long, long time ago," Judge Friedman said on Monday, according to the AP. "But everybody is comfortable now after all of the studies, all of the analysis and all of the interviews and all of the experience with Mr. Hinckley."

Some of Reagan's family had been critical of Hinckley's release.

In a July 2016 post on her website, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis wrote that "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," Davis continued then. "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."

According to the AP, Hinckley's attorney Barry Levine — who also did not immediately return a request for comment — said Monday that Hinckley wanted to express his "heartfelt" apologies and "profound regret" to the people he shot and their families as well as to Foster and the American people.

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