Court Orders Expanded Freedom for John Hinckley, Jr.

Hinckley's been in custody since his attempt on President Ronald Reagan's life.

June 16, 2009, 6:10 PM

June 16, 2009— -- A federal judge on Monday ordered expanded freedom for the man who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, continuing a process that's been years in the making. John Hinckley Jr., who has been living at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C., for more than two decades, has gradually been granted more freedom to visit with family in recent years.

The expanded release came over the objections of the Justice Department which argues that Hinckley remains mentally ill and continues to have inappropriate, counterproductive relationships with women. The government also expressed concern that Hinckley "maintains inappropriate thoughts of violence."

The government pointed to a CD Hinckley recently recorded that contains a song he wrote prior to the attempted assassination of President Reagan. It is called the "Ballad of the Outlaw," which the government said reflects suicide and lawlessness.

The government's case against Hinckley is largely built on his relationships with women. According to court records, Hinckley maintained, "near simultaneous sexual relationships with ["Ms. M," who suffers from bipolar disorder, and "Ms. G," who is in a long-term relationship with another man]."

While in those relationships, the government said Hinckley rekindled his relationship with an ex-girlfriend and began a relationship with a fourth woman, "Ms. B", though it is unclear if that relationship was romantic.

Hinckley, 54, shot Reagan in 1981 and wounded three others over an obsession with the actress Jodie Foster. At trial, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity and confined to St. Elizabeth's.

In the latest ruling, the court found the government's argument that Hinckley was regressing unpersuasive and determined that "Hinckley will not be a danger to himself or to others under the conditions proposed by the hospital."

Today's order, the beginning a fourth phase of expanded movement for Hinckley, will allow him to have longer visits with his mother and begin volunteer work in his mother's home town of Williamsburg, Va.

The court also allowed Hinckley to apply for a driver's license.