WASHINGTON -- St. Elizabeths Hospital officials have withdrawn their recommendation that presidential assailant John W. Hinckley Jr. be released for unsupervised visits with his parents.
The decision was a major setback for Hinckley, who hoped to win court approval for one eight-hour visit a week. Without the hospital's backing, he will have a difficult time convincing a judge he is ready to leave the psychiatric facility's grounds without an escort.
Wednesday's turnabout came one day after a court hearing in which prosecutors said that they had uncovered evidence that Hinckley has a ''continued interest in violently themed books and music'' and that authorities believe the subjects were not suitable for him.
Senior U.S. District Judge June L. Green, who oversees the case, scheduled a hearing for Thursday to learn more about developments and decide what happens next. Prosecutors declined to comment, and Hinckley's attorney could not be reached for his reaction.
Hinckley, 45, has been confined to St. Elizabeths since 1982, when he was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the March 1981 shootings of President Ronald Reagan and three other people. During the past year, he has been permitted to join other patients on occasional supervised day trips to malls, restaurants and bookstores. But the hospital for years had recommended against letting him leave without an escort, for which he needs a judge's approval.
Then, on March 31, hospital officials filed papers in U.S. District Court saying unsupervised visits with Hinckley's parents would ''bolster his support system'' and contribute to his treatment. They said the visits would not endanger himself or others.
Hinckley attorney Barry W. Levine maintains that the unsupervised outings are the next step in Hinckley's treatment and that his client's illness had been in remission for a decade. Levine downplayed the significance of the reading materials at Tuesday's hearing.
Green had scheduled a July 17 hearing to consider the matter. Meanwhile, a psychiatrist working for the prosecution began a series of meetings with Hinckley to evaluate his condition. At the same time, the hospital's staff met with Hinckley and questioned him.
During those interviews, Hinckley was asked about his reading interests. Last week, Hinckley provided them with a six-page handwritten list and synopsis of books, magazines and newspapers he had read in recent years. Authorities have declined to reveal the titles.
Until last year, Hinckley had been permitted to leave St. Elizabeths only once, for a supervised visit with his parents in 1986. Hinckley or the hospital requested at least six other conditional releases over the years. All requests were denied or withdrawn when evidence indicated that Hinckley had not made the progress he said he had.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.