WASHINGTON – A federal judge Wednesday denied a request from presidential assailant John Hinckley Jr. (search) to spend several days at a time away from a mental hospital.
But U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman said the man who shot President Reagan (search) can continue making shorter, overnight visits with his parents without supervision, despite objections from prosecutors who wanted those visits stopped.
Under the ruling, Hinckley can take up to six, 32-hour visits with his parents at a hotel in the Washington area, with hospital assessments required after each visit. Hinckley had sought permission to stay four nights at his parents' home in Williamsburg, Va., every two weeks.
Officials at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington had suggested instead that Hinckley be allowed to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas at his family's home before being granted regular visits. Federal prosecutors opposed both plans.
His attorney, Barry Levine, was out of town and unavailable for comment, his secretary said.
Hinckley, 49, has lived at the hospital since he was acquitted in 1982 by reason of insanity in the shootings of Reagan and three others. Hinckley said he shot Reagan to impress actress Jodie Foster (search).
He has gradually won permission to leave hospital grounds, first with escorts and, more recently, for short, unsupervised visits with his parents. He has taken six daylong visits and two overnight visits in the Washington area since last year, all without incident.
Secret Service agents monitor Hinckley during each trip outside the hospital. Friedman's ruling requires hospital officials to submit a detailed itinerary to the court and the government at least two weeks before each excursion by Hinckley.
During a five-day hearing this month, government lawyers contended Hinckley has a troubling relationship with his former girlfriend, Leslie deVeau, that must be resolved before he could be allowed to take more unsupervised visits. Citing Hinckley's obsession with Foster, prosecutors said he has a "pathology regarding his perception of relationships with women."
Hinckley and DeVeau had a romantic relationship while both were confined at the hospital, but DeVeau broke it off several years after she was released in 1990. Since then, she and Hinckley have remained close friends, but prosecutors said it is unclear whether Hinckley has come to terms with the breakup. The two still talk on the phone twice a day and she visits him once a week.
Hinckley's therapist and a senior hospital psychiatrist, who supported his request for longer visits, said Hinckley has overcome the breakup and no longer poses a danger to himself or others. Doctors who have treated Hinckley testified that his mental illness has been in remission for more than a decade.
Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington, said the government would have no comment until it could study the opinion.