- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A government psychiatrist said yesterday that he does not support plans to allow would-be presidential assassin John W. Hinckley Jr. more freedom from St. Elizabeths Hospital.

Dr. Robert T.M. Phillips said plans to allow Hinckley, who shot President Reagan in 1981, to stay overnight at his parents’ Williamsburg home fail to include adequate preparation if problems occur.

“I do not support either of the motions,” Dr. Phillips said. “The interests of the community must be paramount.”

He said the rigid timetables in the plans should be altered to permit psychiatric teams to immediately review unusual behavior and occurrences.

U.S. attorneys previously have argued against releases or furloughs for Hinckley, saying he has a “history of deception and violence.” He has praised Adolf Hitler and wrote to serial killer Ted Bundy and to imprisoned mass murderer Charles Manson.

The hearings yesterday in U.S. District Court also included testimony from Dr. Robert Keisling, a psychiatrist and former medical director at St. Elizabeths who has not opposed the additional freedom.

“I do not believe Mr. Hinckley would pose a danger to himself or others,” he said.

The proposal by St. Elizabeths officials would require Hinckley to spend six weeks at the hospital between each weeklong visit with his parents. The proposal urged by Hinckley’s attorney, Barry William Levine, would allow two or three weeks between such visits.

Hinckley, 50, has been in the mental hospital 23 years since shooting President Reagan, his press secretary and two police officers.

The testimony came before U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman, who has permitted a furlough program the past couple of years that has allowed Hinckley freedom to go bowling, be with his parents, tour museums and go through shopping centers. The Secret Service has Hinckley under surveillance during the trips. Hinckley also is allowed to walk routinely without supervision inside the grounds of the hospital.

Now, Judge Friedman must decide whether Hinckley should be allowed periodically to make the three-hour trip to Williamsburg.

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