Man who shot Ronald Reagan makes bid for freedom
The man who tried to kill Ronald Reagan was caught browsing books about presidential assassins by Secret Service agents assigned to follow his movements, a court heard today.
John Hinckley Jr is applying to be allowed to have more time outside of the mental ward where has spent the three decades since shooting President Reagan outside a Washington hotel in 1981.
On the first of an expected nine days of hearings prosecutors argued that Hinckley, now 56, remains a threat and is too dangerous to be given more freedom.
They cited reports by Secret Service agents who trailed Hinckley during recent trips away from the hospital. In one incident in July of this year Hinckley told his doctors he was going to see a film but instead went to a bookstore where he browsed books on Reagan and presidential assassinations.
"Mr. Hinckley has a long history of deception and misconduct," Sarah Chasson, an assistant U.S. attorney told Judge Paul Friedman, who is weighing Hinckley's request for more time away from the hospital and eventual release.
The judge has previously given Hinckley permission to leave St. Elisabeth’s Hospital 12 days of supervised freedom per month to visit his 85 year-old mother in Williamsburg, Virginia.
His lawyer, Barry Levine, admitted that his client had not been honest about his whereabouts, saying it was "a very foolish error" but insisted that did not mean he posed a danger to himself or others.
"The doctors at the hospital say he is not dangerous," he said. "Perfection is not the standard."
In papers submitted to the court earlier this year, prosecutors said Hinckley "continues to be deceptive regarding his relationships with and interest in women.
"In June 2009, Hinckley searched the Internet for photographs of his female dentist. When he was caught, Hinckley claimed, falsely, that the dentist had invited him to view her personal photographs.”
At the time of the 1981 shooting, Hinckley he had been trying to impress actress Jodie Foster, with whom he was obsessed.
He sat quietly through the hearing in a brown sports coat, his brown hair starting to thin and gray. He occasionally leaned over to whisper something to his lawyer.
A list of possible witnesses includes up to six Secret Service agents who would testify about their observations. Hinckley is also included on the list as a possible witness. If he takes the stand he is likely to come under severe cross-examination by prosecutors determined to prevent him from gaining more freedom.
Hinckley was judged to be insane in court hearings following the shooting, which wounded President Reagan and three others.