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Prosecutors Fight Bid to Let Reagan Shooter Hinckley Go on Weeks-Long Leave

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In this November 2003 file photo, John Hinckley Jr. arrives at U.S. District Court for a hearing. (AP)

WASHINGTON -- A proposal to let the man who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan go on weeks-long visits to his mother's home and live there eventually is "premature and ill conceived," government attorneys said Friday in a court document. 

John Hinckley, who was found by a jury to be insane at the time of the 1981 shooting, has spent the last three decades largely confined to a Washington mental hospital. In recent years, however, he has been allowed increasing amounts of time outside the facility including multi-day visits with his family. 

When a judge last reviewed the conditions of his confinement in 2009, he was permitted to go on a series of 10-day visits to his mother's home. According to a court document filed Friday, the hospital wants a judge to extend the visits to 17 and 24 days and then let the hospital decide if he should be allowed to live full-time at his mother's home. It was not clear, though, how soon that step might come. 

"The Hospital's proposal for expanded conditions of release is premature and ill conceived," prosecutors said in a 13-page document filed late Friday in federal court in Washington. 

But Hinckley's lawyer, Barry Wm. Levine, said Friday that he agrees with the hospital's proposal and there is no evidence Hinckley is a danger to himself or to others. 

"Not one bit. There is no evidence of him being dangerous, not a little bit, not marginal evidence. None. And they know it," he said of prosecutors. 

He said the prosecutors' court filing was "shameful fear-mongering without any factual basis." He said it was unfair to his client that the proposal by St. Elizabeths Hospital-- including all the reasons supporting more time for Hinckley outside the facility -- is confidential while the government responded in a public document. Because the hospital's proposal is confidential, Levine could not discuss its contents, but he said his client is not a danger. 

"The record is replete with uninterrupted success for over two decades. There hasn't been a shred of evidence of danger as a result of mental disease. Not a shred," he said. 

Prosecutors, however, opposed what they said were "sweeping expansions" of Hinckley's current privileges. They said Hinckley is "a man capable of great violence" and "still not sufficiently well to alleviate the concern that this violence may be repeated," though his mental health is better. 

In addition, prosecutors said the city psychiatric hospital should not be allowed to decide independently if Hinckley can live full-time at his mother's home. They also expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed visits, saying the U.S. Secret Service would not be able to adequately monitor Hinckley during times he is allowed to be alone because they would not be given advance notice of his plans for that time. 

Hinckley, who said he shot Reagan to impress actress Jodie Foster, continues to be "deceptive regarding his relationships with and interest in women," prosecutors wrote. They said that in 2009 he searched the Internet for pictures of his female dentist, later falsely claiming she had told him he could look at her personal photographs, and once feigned a toothache in order to try to see her. 

Prosecutors submitted the document in preparation for a hearing scheduled in Hinckley's case for the end of November. At that time a judge will assess the proposal by St. Elizabeths Hospital that he be granted more time away from the facility. 

Beginning in 2006 a judge granted Hinckley an increasing number of multi-day visits to his mother's home in Williamsburg, Va., about three hours south of Washington. In 2009, in the latest ruling, Judge Paul L. Friedman granted Hinckley 12 visits of 10 days each to his mother's home but required him either to be with her or carry a phone with a GPS device while on the visits. Hinckley was also allowed to obtain a driver's license. 

The hospital and Hinckley's lawyer told Friedman in March that Hinckley had used up all of his authorized visits. The hospital submitted its proposal seeking expanded privileges in July. 

Prosecutors said Friday the release plan had "numerous shortcomings." 

"Although it has been thirty years since Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Reagan, the damage that he caused his victims remains," prosecutors wrote at the close of their submission to the court, adding that the Reagan family "to this day is distraught" by the shooting. 

A secret service agent and police officer who were shot eventually recovered from their wounds as did Reagan, who went on to serve two terms as president. He died in 2004 at the age of 93. Reagan's press secretary, James Brady, was shot in the head and permanently disabled. He has since become an advocate for preventing gun violence.