Man who shot Ronald Reagan granted unconditional release in June 2022

John Hinckley, who injured three others in the assassination attempt, also stalked actress Jodie Foster and former president Jimmy Carter

John Hinckley arrives at US District Court in Washington in 2003. At his 1982 trial, jurors found him not guilty by reason of insanity. AP
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A federal judge has ruled that John Hinckley Jr can be freed from all remaining restrictions next year if he continues to abide by current rules and proves to be mentally stable.

Hinckley, now 66, attempted to assassinate then-US president Ronald Reagan in March of 1981 as he exited a Washington hotel. Mr Reagan was wounded when a bullet ricocheted off his waiting limousine and lodged in his lung, a few inches from his heart.

He was released under a strict set of conditions in 2016 from a Washington psychiatric hospital where he had been held since the assassination attempt.

They included remaining within 80 kilometres of his mother's home in Virginia, and not traveling to any area where a current or former president, vice president or member of Congress is known to be.

“If he hadn’t tried to kill the president, he would have been unconditionally released a long, long, long time ago,” said US district court judge, Paul L Friedman.

“But everybody is comfortable now after all of the studies, all of the analysis and all of the interviews and all of the experience with Mr Hinckley.”

According to court documents, the conditions on Hinckley's release will be lifted in June 2022. Mr Friedman will release a full ruling later this week.

In this file photo from 1981, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy, foreground, Washington policeman Thomas Delehanty, centre, and presidential press secretary James Brady, background, lie wounded on a street outside a Washington hotel after shots were fired at Ronald Reagan. AP

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute said in a statement that it is "saddened" by the ruling.

"Contrary to the judge's decision, we believe John Hinckley is still a threat to others and we strongly oppose his release," the statement reads. "Our hope is that the Justice Department will file a motion with the court leading to a reversal of this decision."

Also injured in the 1981 shooting were Reagan’s press secretary, James Brady, who was shot in the brain and permanently paralysed, secret service agent Timothy McCarthy and a Washington police officer, Thomas Delahanty.

At the 1982 trial of Hinckley, jurors determined he was suffering from acute psychosis and found him not guilty by reason of insanity. He was interned at St Elizabeth’s psychiatric hospital in Washington.

In 2016, Mr Friedman ordered his release with court-imposed conditions that have included strict monitoring and oversight of his psychiatric medication as well as all of his therapy sessions.

He cannot own a gun or have a private computer. He is not allowed to contact any of the victims’ families, other victims or actress Jodie Foster, with whom he was obsessed at the time of the shooting in 1981.

He is also not allowed to contact a sitting or past US president. Hinckley had stalked former president Jimmy Carter before shooting Mr Reagan.

His lawyer, Barry Levine, had asked for unconditional release, saying Hinckley no longer poses a threat.

- Agencies contributed to this report.

Updated: September 27, 2021, 11:06 PM