Reagan’s attempted assassin, John Hinckley Jr, will be granted ‘unconditional release’ in 2022

John Hinckley
In this Nov. 18, 2003 file photo, John Hinckley Jr. arrives at U.S. District Court in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
  • President Ronald Reagan’s attempted assassin will be granted “unconditional release” in 2022.
  • John Hinckley Jr shot Reagan and several others in 1981 in an attempt to woo actress Jodie Foster.
  • The court is waiting until June 2022 to see how Hinckley reacts to his mother’s recent death.
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President Ronald Reagan’s attempted assassin John Hinckley Jr. will be granted “unconditional release” in 2022.

“‘I’m going to after all these years grant unconditional release to Mr. Hinckley,” Judge Paul L. Friedman said during a court hearing on Monday in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

Hinckley Jr. shot Reagan, a police officer, a secret service agent, and Reagan’s press secretary in an attempt to win over child actress Jodie Foster in 1981. The court accepted Hinckley’s insanity plea, leading the government to place Hinckley in a DC-based psychiatric facility, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.

“He was ravaged by mental illness at the time,” Hinckley’s attorney, Barry William Levine, said in Monday’s court hearing. “It was that mental illness that was the basis of his acquittal.”

Friedman said the court has granted Hinckley several additional freedoms in the past two decades, ultimately letting him live full-time with his mother in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 2016.

Hinckley’s lawyer and US Attorney Kacie McCoy Weston both agreed with the judge’s decision for a full and unconditional release. Both parties said they wanted to wait until June 2022 to release Hinckley to see how he responds to the recent death of his mother, which will result in him being by himself for the first time in decades.

“The ball is completely in Mr. Hinckley’s hands,” Weston said.

In addition to lobbying from his attorneys, the Department of Behavioral Health at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital wrote letters in 2020 and 2021 recommending Hinckley’s unconditional release.

Friedman called Hinckley one of the most studied patients in the history of the institution, noting that very few people have been subjected to as many interviews, risk assessments, and testing as Hinckley.

“If he hadn’t tried to kill the president he would have been granted unconditional release a long, long time ago,” Friedman said.

The judge finished Monday’s hearing to say that after adjudicating Hinckley’s case for many years, it’s time for a change.

Hinckley “should be able to live out his life productively in Williamsburg interacting with people doing his art, his music, and all will be right with the world,” Friedman said. The judge said he’d issue his final order later in the week.