May 12, 2011 / 12:10 AM / 6 years ago

Reagan shooter gets more time away from hospital

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Wednesday allowed John Hinckley, the man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, additional visits away from the psychiatric hospital where he is being treated.

Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity for the 1981 failed attempt on Reagan’s life and has been living at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington. He was previously granted permission to visit his mother in Williamsburg, Virginia.

He requested additional family visits on March 29, a day before the 30th anniversary of the assassination attempt. U.S. prosecutors argued the judge needed to conduct hearings to review Hinckley’s condition before granting the request.

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said there must be hearings about plans for future visits away from the hospital and possible eventual release, said Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington.

But in the interim the judge granted more visits with the same strict conditions that applied to previous visits, Miller said, adding that the hospital is expected to file a plan this month or in June.

Friedman did not reveal the exact number of visits he would permit, but set the hearings to tentatively begin October 12.

Hinckley, 55, was sent to the hospital in 1982 and was diagnosed with major depression and psychotic and narcissistic personality disorders. Hinckley shot Reagan to try to impress actress Jodie Foster, with whom he was obsessed.

When Friedman last approved visits in 2009, he put restrictions on Hinckley including limiting the time he could spend alone to two hours a day and requiring him to carry a GPS-enabled cellphone that would allow authorities to locate him.

The judge also required him to see a doctor locally, restricted his Internet access and barred him from seeing a former girlfriend.

Hinckley sought the extra visits ahead of his eventual move to Williamsburg and argued that the last dozen were completed without any problems. Government lawyers said hearings were needed because it had been three years since the court had heard testimony about Hinckley’s mental condition.

Editing by Xavier Briand

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