- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal prosecutors argued Monday against a request by St. Elizabeths Hospital to allow would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley Jr. expanded visits to his mother’s home in Williamsburg.

Hinckley has been committed to the mental hospital in Southeast since he shot and wounded President Reagan in 1981. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity after saying he shot Mr. Reagan to impress actress Jodie Foster.

In court hearings that began Monday, Hinckley’s sister, Diane Sims, testified that there has been no sign of relapse in her brother’s psychosis and depression, even as they mourned the death of their father in January. Mrs. Sims said Hinckley had been a stable comfort to their family.

“He was as much of a support to us as I believe we were to him,” she said. Hinckley was “somber” and “very appropriate” as his father’s health declined, Mrs. Sims said.

During an emergency visit to attend the funeral, Hinckley introduced himself to dozens of guests he’d never met before.

“How did he do in this kind of setting?” U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman asked Mrs. Sims.

“He did very well,” she said, adding that her brother stood with the family and introduced his niece and nephew to the guests. “He was very much in control of himself.”

Hinckley’s brother, Scott, also testified Monday, echoing many of Mrs. Sims’ comments.

Hinckley is seeking an increase in the length of his periodic visits from six nights to nine nights. He also wants to do volunteer work during the visits and to get a driver’s license. Prosecutors also are opposing the hospital’s proposal to allow Hinckley to perform volunteer work in the District unaccompanied for up to four hours, twice a week.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Zeno said the request to expand Hinckley’s release was “premature and insufficient to guarantee the safety of the community.” Prosecutors stressed Hinckley’s “lack of initiative” in finding a volunteer position.

Prosecutors also argued that his personal relationships show a pattern of inappropriately dating more than one woman at the same time. They quoted a doctor who said Hinckley likes to “stockpile women,” but didn’t present evidence he had mistreated them.

Psychologist Paul Montalbano, the pretrial services chief at St. Elizabeths Hospital, said it appears Hinckley’s “major depressive disorder has been in full, sustained remission for 25 years” since his last suicide attempt in 1983. He said Hinckley was “remarkably stable” for the hospital’s population but that political factors were complicating his release procedures.

“He may have some idiosyncratic thinking,” Mr. Montalbano said. “He may miss some subtle social cues, but overall he has … a good ability to synthesize information and a desire to engage in interpersonal relationships.”

Hinckley’s attorney, Barry Levine, argued the hospital has encouraged Hinckley’s relationships with women to observe his progress.

“The government offers no evidence of danger,” he said. “This case must be decided on evidence - not fear and innuendo.”

cAssociated Press writer Sarah Karush contributed to this report.

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