Did Prosecutors Embellish Hinckley’s Actions?

The prosecutors arguing against the conditional release of attempted Ronald Reagan assassin John Hinckley Jr. may have embellished their statements about a trip that Hinckley made to a bookstore in Williamsburg, Va., when they asserted he looked at books about President Reagan.

Last week in opening arguments of the multi-day evidentiary hearing Assistant United States Attorney Sarah Chasson told U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman that Hinckley was not to be trusted and that he was deceptive. Chasson said that on July 24, 2011, Hinckley claimed he was going to attend a movie but Secret Service agents conducting surveillance on him say he walked to the movie ticket counter but then proceed to a Barnes and Noble where he looked at books about President Reagan and presidential assassinations.

Chasson's statement before the court implied that Hinckley was reading the books about Reagan, but a Secret Service surveillance report entered into the court record today as an exhibit clarifies Hinckley's actions.

"Inside the bookstore the subject was observed stopping and looking at bookshelves in several different sections to include Bargain Books about American History, True Crime, American History. In these areas the subject was not observed picking up and looking at specific books," the report noted. "One item of note is the subject stopped for a time and looked at the shelves in the American History area that contain several books about President Reagan and his attempted assassination.

"No unusual incidents pertaining to the subject were observed during this surveillance. The subject was observed interacting with two people, the cashier at [redacted] and the employee at the [redacted] Cinemas," the report notes in the conclusion.

So while, Hinckley was apparently deceptive about going to the movie, the prosecutor overstated her case. Unclear, how much this will mean to the court's decision about whether to expand Hinckley's freedom. His attorneys say the government has been fear-mongering and that his mental health issues are in remission and treatable. Prosecutors say Hinckley is still a risk for violence and prone to deception, including being misleading about his apparent fixation on a female dentist.

Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting of Reagan and has been treated at St. Elizabeth's psychiatric hospital. Friedman is holding the hearings to consider a request by St. Elisabeth's Hospital and Hinckley's lawyers to permit him to have visits with his mother for durations up to 24 days. Friedman last approved 12 visits of up to 10 nights to his mother's residence in 2009.

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