- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 25, 2007

Federal prosecutors are opposing a new request by attorneys for would-be presidential assassin John W. Hinckley Jr. to go on outings from a D.C. mental facility without giving two weeks’ notice.

Hinckley’s attorneys last week filed court papers asking a judge to remove a requirement that they give two weeks’ notice anytime Hinckley goes on trips off hospital grounds under hospital supervision.

Hinckley, who shot President Reagan in 1981, has been at St. Elizabeths Hospital in the District since he was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1982. In recent years, his attorneys have sought to expand his freedoms with the ultimate goal of releasing him from the city-run hospital.

However, the Justice Department on Friday opposed the latest request, saying Hinckley could be in proximity to prominent political figures during brief outings.

“The District of Columbia is home to numerous venues, including many community activities open to the public, at which the president and his staff as well as other prominent political figures attend under the protection of law enforcement,” argued Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Zeno and Sarah Chasson.

The prosecutors said two-week advance notice of Hinckley’s outings would give law-enforcement authorities time to prepare their security plans.

“An unanticipated visit by Mr. Hinckley at a venue where individuals receiving protection are present is an unreasonable and unnecessary burden on law enforcement, especially given the current security environment,” the prosecutors wrote.

Hinckley is permitted to go on so-called “B City” outings that the hospital’s “Class B” patients sometimes take — to the movies, museums and other places.

Hinckley’s attorney, Barry Levine, argued that such outings can’t be scheduled two weeks in advance, so Hinckley “has been denied the opportunity to participate in these therapeutic activities.”

In a March 16 court memo, Mr. Levine argued that the lack of outings are “without legal or medical justification” and hinders Hinckley’s right to therapy.

The dispute over the outings comes weeks before a hearing in which attorneys for Hinckley are expected to seek expanded conditions of release.

Hinckley has been allowed to go on overnight trips to his parents’ house in Williamsburg, each lasting as long as four nights.

The Williamsburg trips provide the most freedom that he has had since the shooting of Mr. Reagan; presidential spokesman James Brady; Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy; and D.C. police Officer Thomas Delahanty.

In recent years, Hinckley gradually has won increasing freedom from St. Elizabeths.

In November, Mr. Levine said after a court hearing that he planned to seek additional freedoms for Hinckley, in addition to the overnight trips.

He said the new conditions would be “life-changing.”

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