DC
11/10/2011 02:24 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

John Hinckley Jr. Off-Site Visits: Government Argues Against More Freedom

WASHINGTON -- The government is asking a federal judge not to expand John Hinckley Jr.'s off-site trips away from St. Elizabeths Hospital in the nation's capital, where he has been confined for nearly three decades following the attempted assassination of then-President Ronald Reagan.

Hinckley was committed to the psychiatric facility in 1982 after being found not guilty by reason of insanity in the Reagan shooting the previous year. He has been granted progressively more freedom since 1999.

In its filings, the government cites concerns about Hinckley's interest in a female dentist at St. Elizabeths and about Hinckley's marital intentions toward his girlfriend.

The first order allowing Hinckley to visit his parents in Williamsburg, Va., came in 2005 (the government opposed this release as well). In July 2009, a judge granted Hinckley 10 10-night visits to Williamsburg, where he was allowed unaccompanied time both in his mother's gated community and in Williamsburg at large.

The hospital's most recent proposal would expand Hinckley's visits to two 17-day visits and six 24-day visits to Williamsburg, and would give him more time on his own. The new conditions would also do away with a previous requirement that the Secret Service be given notice as to Hinckley's whereabouts.

The government argues that the proposed expansion of Hinckley's release "is premature and ill conceived" and "fails to adequately address the risks presented by Hinckley's clinical record, which reveals the persistence of several behaviors that universally have been recognized as risk factors for Hinckley's future violence."

Prosecutors are also troubled that the proposed plan allows for "little oversight by the Court and no ability by the Secret Service to conduct surveillance." St. Elizabeths, prosecutors argue, cannot be trusted to conduct adequate oversight of Hinckley -- as proof, the government points out that St. Elizabeths filed its proposed plan for the expanded release before conducting a risk assessment of Hinckley that would gauge his mental well-being and his future dangerousness:

"The practice among forensic psychiatrists designing conditional-release plans is to complete the risk assessment before the release plan because without an accurate gauge of the defendant's psychological status and risk of future dangerousness, it is impossible to design a release plan that will manage that risk...[T]he Hospital's willingness to ask this Court to expand Hinckley's conditions of release before it had methodically determined Hinckley's risk to himself and the community demonstrates why it is inappropriate to cede to the Hospital the right to withhold information about Hinckley's activities while on release and to determine, in its sole discretion, whether Hinckley ought to be granted further release, much less be placed on convalescent leave in his mother's home town."

As for the issue of future dangerousness, prosecutors point toward a troubling interest Hinckley showed in a female dentist at St. Elizabeths: In "June 2009, Hinckley searched the Internet for photographs of his female dentist. When he was caught, according to prosecutors, Hinckley claimed, falsely, that the dentist had invited him to view her personal photographs." Hickley also made an emergency trip to the hospital's dental clinic in 2009 complaining of tooth pain, but declined treatment once he learned that this dentist was not on duty.

Also problematic to the prosecutors: Hinckley's unclear intentions toward a girlfriend identified as "CB" in the government's filings. Hinckley, according to the prosecutors, told his family and treating physicians that he intended to marry CB, but never mentioned these plans to the psychotherapist treating him in Williamsburg -- a discrepancy that the government says belies unabated narcissism and future dangerousness.

(CB is Cynthia Bruce, a former fellow hospital patient; she is reportedly Hinckley's third girlfriend at St. Elizabeths. A previous relationship, with a social worker who had killed her 10-year-old daughter, ended, according to Washingtonian, when Hinckley was told by doctors that if he did not end the relationship, it would decrease the chances of having unsupervised visits with his family.)

Other problems cited by the government are the hospital's inadequate record-keeping, and the insufficiency of care available to Hinckley in Williamsburg.

The United States Attorney for the District of Columbia filed its opposition to the hospital's request at the end of September. On Tuesday, prosecutors filed papers with the court asking to cross-examine Hinckley if he testifies at a Hinckley hearing scheduled for Nov. 28 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Under the applicable legal standard, Hinckley can be released altogether any time he is found no longer to be mentally ill, or not to be a danger to himself or others.

RELATED VIDEO: The AP covers the 2009 ruling that granted Hinckley a drivers' license and more time away from St. Elizabeths.