Worrisome freedom for would-be assassin John Hinckley
In the time between the midterm elections and Thanksgiving, an important news story made some headlines but did not get the attention it deserves: John Hinckley Jr., attempted assassin of President Ronald Reagan, was granted more freedom by a federal judge.
Conditionally released in 2016 from the mental institution he had been committed to after being found not guilty due to insanity of the 1982 attempted assassination, Mr. Hinckley enjoyed extended visits with his mother, with whom he would live.
That was bad enough, but now the judge has ruled he can live alone if he chooses, and with restrictions indicating authorities aren’t sure Mr. Hinckley is entirely well, or can even be trusted.
In 2014, Mr. Brady passed away. His death was determined to be a result of the wounds he suffered at the hands of Mr. Hinckley and was ruled a homicide.
Yet, just two years later, Mr. Hinckley was granted additional freedom that was part of a series of steps to fold him back into civilized society, where he still does not belong.
In 2011, when the hospital first suggested “expanded conditions of release,” for the attempted mass murderer, the Daily Mail reported on federal prosecutors’ alarm, “…prosecutors opposed what they said were ‘sweeping expansions’ of Hinckley’s current privileges, saying he is ‘capable of great violence.’ They added that he is ‘still not sufficiently well to alleviate the concern that this violence may be repeated. …’”
The Washingtonian reported about an occurrence during the granted “expanded conditions”: “When he did venture out, there were breaches and deceptions. In 2011, Hinckley repeatedly went to a Barnes & Noble when he was supposed to be at the movies. On one occasion, Secret Service agents watched as he stood before a shelf of books about presidential assassinations, including an account of the moment he severely wounded Reagan and press secretary James Brady. On another visit, Hinckley was back at the same shelf — again, not touching, just looking. An agent said the scene gave him goose bumps.”
Now 63 years old, we are told Mr. Hinckley’s mental illness has been “in remission” for two decades. In expanding his freedom, the judge noted Mr. Hinckley “has been compliant with all the conditions of his release and has remained mentally stable,” according to USA Today.
He’s fine, we’re told. No problems. Yet he is bound by a number of conditions that indicate to an outside observer that the would-be assassin isn’t entirely trusted. USA Today reported Mr. Hinckley “is restricted to a 75-mile radius of Williamsburg and can travel unaccompanied, but will not be required to have a tracking device on his car. The order, however, does require him to carry a GPS-enabled cell phone whenever he is away from his residence … The order allows him to use the Internet but not to search for information about himself, or join any social media sites. Hinckley is banned from having weapons or consuming alcohol or illegal drugs. He must also avoid any contact with the news media, his victims and their families, the U.S. president, and members of Congress.”
He is also forbidden from trying to contact Jodie Foster or from seeing any of her films.
A strange set of rules for someone we’re told is A-OK.
More disturbingly, there are reports within the last few years indicating he’s not entirely a rehabilitated and reformed disturbed stalker of women and attempted killer. The Daily Mail reported in 2009, 28 years after the attempted assassination, that Mr. Hinckley was obsessing over his hospital dentist, was researching her on the Internet and lied about it when confronted. He also attempted to see her by feigning injury.
We know his stated reason for trying to murder Mr. Reagan was to impress the actress Jodie Foster with whom he was obsessed. Understandably, his release conditions include a ban on all things Jodie. Yet in 2016, CNN reported a disturbing 2013 incident. “He is forbidden from contacting Jodie Foster or seeing her movies. That became a problem during one visit home in 2013. Hinckley went to the theater with his brother to see the film ‘Elysium,’ according to notes from one of his therapists. Just a few minutes into the movie, Foster appeared on screen. Hinckley leaned in to his brother and whispered, ‘We have to leave.’ “
To be clear, Ms. Foster wasn’t seen in an unbilled, surprise cameo; she was the star of the film. Matt Damon. Jodie Foster. Big stars, top billing. It was impossible to not know it was a Jodie Foster movie.
This fact matters because: 32 years after an attempted assassination there was John Hinckley, out of the mental hospital, the new and improved “in remission” Hinckley, sitting in a movie theater watching … Jodie Foster. Despite all the rules against it, she being the trigger in his delusional mind for mass violence, yet there he sat, along with a family member.
Mr. Hinckley’s lawyer hopes the next step will be unconditional release. Because, after all, what could go wrong — he’s fine.