Reagan Shooter's Release Conditions: Barred From Giving Interviews, Must Stay Away From Jodie Foster

John Hinckley Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981 in an attempt to impress the actress and, after decades of treatment for mental illness, will soon leave the hospital subject to 34 conditions.
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John Hinckley Jr.

Thirty-five years after John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan to impress Jodie Foster, a judge has determined he's no longer dangerous and will be free to live with his mother — although he's barred from contacting the actress or speaking to the media. 

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman's 103-page opinion, issued Wednesday, largely reads like an historical novel.

"In 1981, John W. Hinckley, Jr. was a profoundly troubled twenty-five-year-old young man suffering from active and acute psychosis and major depression," Friedman writes, explaining the condition resulted in a deep obsession with Foster and the film Taxi Driver. "Mr. Hinckley began to identify with the main character in the film, Travis Bickle, who unsuccessfully plots to assassinate a presidential candidate in order to win the affections of a young woman."

Hinckley spent years trying to win Foster's affection by leaving notes and poems at her Yale University dorm. When that didn't work, he set his sights on President Jimmy Carter. He was arrested in 1980 with several firearms at the Nashville airport, where Carter was scheduled for a campaign stop.

The next year he sent Foster a letter "describing his plan to kill President Reagan in order to impress her" and shot and wounded the president that same day.

A jury found Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity, and he was committed to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. Now, three decades later, he's preparing to check out. 

Given Hinckley's prior obsession with Foster, it's no surprise that she is specifically mentioned in Friedman's order granting Hinckley's convalescent leave beginning no sooner than Aug. 5.

"Mr. Hinckley shall have no contact whatsoever with the following persons: Jodie Foster or any member of her family, any member of former President Ronald Reagan's family (including descendants)," writes the judge. "Mr. Hinckley shall stay away from them, their homes and/or their place(s) of employment, and shall not communicate or attempt to communicate with them either directly or indirectly, through any other person, by telephone, written message, electronic message, social media, or any other means." 

Hinckley also is barred from contacting the family of James Brady, who died in 2014 as a result of his injury in the shooting; Timothy McCarthy and Thomas Delahanty, who were also injured in the shooting; and Jeanette Wick, a hospital employee he reportedly stalked in the 1990s.

Hinckley and his family are not allowed to contact the media and must decline to speak to any members of the press who contact them.

In all, there are 34 conditions for Hinckley's release from St. Elizabeths Hospital, which result in his daily life being heavily scheduled and controlled. 

He must live with his mother in Williamsburg, Va., for at least a year, and notify his treatment team before visiting any private residence. He must volunteer or work at least three days each week in positions which have been approved by his team.

Hinckley will participate in music therapy sessions, but he can't publicly share any music he creates without approval — the same goes for any writing, paintings or photographs he creates. 

He can't break the law, drink alcohol, take any controlled substances that aren't prescribed or possess a firearm. He can't have non-family overnight guests unless his mother or one of his siblings is home.

Hinckley will have access to the internet, but he can't create social media accounts without unanimous permission from his treatment team. For at least six months, he's not allowed to search for information related to his crimes, his victims, weapons or porn — and he's not allowed to erase his browser history.

For the first six months, Hinckley will visit the Forensic Outpatient Department of St. Elizabeths for psychotherapy at least once per month. He must notify the Secret Service of the date and time and his intended travel route two weeks prior to each appointment. In addition, he'll have weekly calls with FOPD staff to "assess the status of risk factors" and meet at least twice per month with a social worker and three times a month with a therapist. After six months, the frequency of these visits could potentially be dialed back.

After a year of convalescent leave, the hospital will conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to determine if he's fit to live in a separate residence or a group home within 30 miles of Williamsburg.

Despite the many detailed conditions, Friedman finds Hinckley's depression and psychotic disorder have been in remission for more than 20 years, he has received "the maximum benefits possible in the in-patient setting" and finds "by a preponderance of the evidence" that he presents no danger to himself or others.

"Preponderance" is a lesser standard than "beyond a reasonable doubt," but the judge says he's had considerably more information, analysis and expert opinion available to him than most cases could ever provide.

"Thousands of times every day, judges across this country attempt the difficult, daunting task of predicting with confidence what a human being may do in the future," Friedman writes. "It is fair to say that the lives of few people have been scrutinized with the care and detail that John Hinckley's has been. Indeed, it is difficult for the Court to imagine a more thorough evidentiary and clinical record on which to base a conclusion as to whether a specific person will present a danger to himself or others in the reasonable future."

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