- The Washington Times - Monday, November 15, 2004

A federal judge yesterday said he will decide within a week or two whether President Reagan’s would-be assassin — John W. Hinckley Jr. — should be allowed extended, unsupervised trips from the mental hospital that has confined him since 1982.

“I will make that decision as soon as I can,” U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman said yesterday, after nearly five days of testimony from psychologists, psychiatrists and others involved with Hinckley’s treatment at St. Elizabeths Hospital.

Judge Friedman yesterday heard closing arguments from defense attorneys, who said Hinckley no longer poses a threat to the public, and government lawyers, who said the hospital inmate is still mentally ill.

Summing up testimony from defense witnesses, attorney Barry W. Levine said Hinckley has behaved himself during short, unsupervised trips with his parents around the greater metropolitan area and has been a relatively trouble-free patient.

“Everybody says there is no hint of that mental illness at all,” Mr. Levine said.

But government lawyers stressed that mental health experts during the hearings did not agree that Hinckley is in full remission from a narcissistic personality and depression, or has accepted a broken romance with Leslie deVeau, a former St. Elizabeths patient who now says she is merely Hinckley’s friend.

“Mr. Hinckley cannot be trusted,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert R. Chapman said. “It may appear secure, but a house constructed on a foundation of sand will collapse.”

“He has not broken up safely with Miss deVeau,” said Mr. Chapman, pointing out that Hinckley wears a ring Miss deVeau gave to him on his wedding ring finger. “He says he has no romantic feeling for her. At the same time, he says he loves her.”

The federal lawyers noted that Hinckley shot Mr. Reagan to impress actress Jodie Foster, and that he could act violently again to impress Miss deVeau.

Miss deVeau was committed to St. Elizabeths in 1982 after being acquitted by reason of insanity in the killing her 10-year-old daughter. She became romantically involved with Hinckley, was eventually released from the hospital and pronounced an end to the romance in 2001.

Hinckley, 49, has been in St. Elizabeths since he was found not guilty by reason of insanity of shooting Mr. Reagan, presidential press secretary James Brady and two law-enforcement officers. Mr. Reagan was nearly killed, and Mr. Brady was permanently disabled.

Judge Friedman is considering two proposals: allowing Hinckley four-day leaves every two weeks to his parents’ home in Williamsburg, or allowing him four-day leaves for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year before resuming his normal leave program.

The judge has granted Hinckley six unsupervised visits in the Washington area, which the late Mr. Reagan’s family has opposed.

Judge Friedman yesterday said he was uncertain about granting Hinckley more freedom.

“This is more difficult because there is no unanimity this time,” he said.

U.S. attorneys have argued against releases or furloughs for Hinckley, saying he has a “history of deception and violence.” Hinckley has praised Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, and written to serial killer Ted Bundy before his execution and to mass murderer Charles Manson.

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