WASHINGTON — John Hinckley, who shot and wounded President Ronald Reagan in 1981, soon will be spending more than half of his time outside a Washington mental hospital.
In an order Wednesday that Hinckley's lawyer called a "milestone," a judge laid out the guidelines for the monthly visits of 17 days that Hinckley will be allowed to make to his mother's home in Virginia.
Hinckley, who was found to be insane when he shot Reagan, has since 2006 been allowed to leave St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington to visit his mother's home in Williamsburg, Va. The length of those visits has expanded over the years with the goal that Hinckley will ultimately live there full time.
In December, U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman ruled that Hinckley should be allowed to make visits of 17 days, an increase from previous 10-day visits. In the 10-page order, the judge laid out the parameters of the visits. Hinckley's lawyer, Barry Levine, said he expects Hinckley to make his first 17-day visit in March.
"This is a giant leap for Mr. Hinckley," Levine said, adding that Hinckley's previous visits had been more sporadic.
The judge's order also repeats other details laid out in his December opinion. Hinckley, 58, will be allowed to drive on his own as long as he is traveling to places where people are expecting him. That includes therapy appointments and his volunteer work at a hospital. Previously, he had to be accompanied by his mother or one of his siblings.
The order also allows Hinckley additional time alone, including six unsupervised outings lasting up to four hours each. Previously, he had been allowed up to three hours of unaccompanied time twice a week. He has to carry a GPS-enabled cell phone any time he is unsupervised.
Hinckley must make at least eight visits to Williamsburg before he can ask that his freedom be expanded further.
Levine, Hinckley's lawyer, had argued that some restrictions on Hinckley's Internet use at his mother's home should also be relaxed. Currently, Hinckley has to talk with the hospital about how he will use the Internet at his mother's home and have it written down in an itinerary. He can only use the Internet under the supervision of family members or with the use of technology that can track and restrict use. The judge has for now kept those restrictions in place.
Levine called the latest order "a transition from the hospital to Williamsburg" and he repeated what he has said during court hearings, that Hinckley is not a danger. Hospital officials have said that the mental illness that led Hinckley to shoot Reagan in an effort to impress actress Jodie Foster has been in remission for decades.
"There is no reason to fear him," Levine said.