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John Hinckley: The man who shot Brady and Reagan

John Hinckley Jr. was 25 years old when he quickly emptied a six-shot, .22-caliber revolver to try to win the affection of Jodie Foster by assassinating President Ronald Reagan.
John Hinckley Jr. was 25 when he shot and wounded President Ronald Reagan, his press secretary James Brady, and two others on March 30, 1981.

John Hinckley Jr. was 25 years old when he quickly emptied a six-shot, .22-caliber revolver to try to win the affection of Jodie Foster by assassinating President Ronald Reagan. He had become obsessed with the actress after seeing her portray a teenage prostitute in Taxi Driver, in which Robert De Niro's deranged character, Travis Bickle, plots to kill a presidential candidate.

Now 59, Hinckley remains confined to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he was sent in 1982 after being found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was not allowed outside the psychiatric facility until 1999, and since then judges have gradually expanded the time he is allowed off-campus. In 2009, a judge allowed him to drive while being tracked by GPS.

Last December, a federal judge extended from 10 days to 17 days the time he's allowed to visit Williamsburg, Va., where his mother lives. His first supervised visits there were approved in late 2005, and his doctors hope he'll eventually be allowed to live there. They have pushed for longer releases so he can better integrate and adapt.

U.S. District Count Judge Paul Friedman ruled that Hinckley would 'not be a danger to himself or to others' and would provide 'new opportunities for employment and structured community activities than are presently available to him because of his sporadic presence there.'

But Friedman balked at doctors' request for a 24-day pass, saying Hinckley 'continues to exhibit deceptive behavior even when there are no symptoms of psychosis or depression' and had 'not cultivated any friends or established ties to any groups of people in Williamsburg.'

Regardless, the Justice Department was unhappy.

'We are disappointed in the Court's decision to grant John Hinckley, Jr., limited conditional release under the supervision of his parents,' the agency's public affairs director said. 'However, the Court was correct in imposing numerous specific conditions on the terms of release and in its finding that, 'Mr. Hinckley has continued to exhibit deceptive behavior.'

'Mr. Hinckley's atrocious acts forever impacted the lives of his innocent victims and their families. It is unfortunate that the concerns of the Reagan and Brady families were not accorded more weight in this decision.'

In February, Friedman spelled out the strict conditions for Hinckley's expanded freedom, including his travels, therapy, medication, volunteer work and even the walks he takes with his mother in her subdivision. When unsupervised, Hinckley must carry a GPS-enabled cellphone, stay clear of governmental centers in Richmond and avoid places where the president or members of Congress might be. He can't talk to the media.

At least once a day, he and his mother must also check in with St. Elisabeths, 150 miles away.

Hinckley, who was born in Oklahoma and raised from age 4 in Dallas, first sought occasional home visits in 1987, but a judge rejected that after hospital staff found photographs and letters revealing he was still obsessed with Foster. In addition, he had corresponded with notorious serial killer Ted Bundy and had tried to write to Charles Manson, the cult leader behind the 1969 mass murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and several others.

In 2000, a year after his initial supervised visits were allowed, he was granted longer releases that were monitored but unsupervised. He lost those privileges for four years after authorities found he had smuggled materials about Foster when he returned to St. Elisabeths.

Hinckley was allowed to attend the funeral of his father, an oil executive, who died in 2008 in Williamsburg.

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