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Hinckley Wins Unsupervised Visits

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the man who shot President Ronald Reagan may visit his parents without staff from the mental hospital where he has lived for the last 21 years.

The judge did not grant Hinckley's full request to travel to his parents' home in Williamsburg, Va., reports CBS News Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts. Instead, he will be allowed six one-day trips within a 50-mile radius of Washington, D.C., and then possibly two overnight visits. He must stay with his parents at all times and stay away from both his former girlfriend, Leslie Deveau, and the media.

"All of the evidence submitted to the court weighs heavily in favor of finding that Mr. Hinckley, under appropriate conditions as outlined in this opinion, will not be a danger to himself or others," U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman said.

Hinckley, 48, has lived at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington since he was acquitted in 1982 by reason of insanity in the shootings of Reagan, presidential press secretary James Brady and two law enforcement officers. Reagan was nearly killed and Brady was permanently disabled. Hinckley said he shot Reagan to impress actress Jodie Foster.

The Reagan and Brady families have vigorously fought against Hinckley's limited release. Former first lady Nancy Reagan said she and her family were disappointed by the ruling.

"Although the judge limited Mr. Hinckley's travel to the Washington, D.C., area, we continue to fear for the safety of the general public," she said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with all of Mr. Hinckley's victims today, especially Jim Brady and his family, as they must continue to live with the tragic consequences of the assassination attempt."

"We are disappointed in the Court's decision to grant John Hinckley, Jr. limited conditional release under the supervision of his parents," read a statement from the Department of Justice.

"However, the Court was correct in imposing numerous specific conditions on the terms of release and in its finding that, 'Mr. Hinckley has continued to exhibit deceptive behavior,'" the statement said.

In a letter to the judge, Jim Brady's wife Sarah argued with the determination that Hinckley did not pose a danger.

"In the past, he has lied to and fooled his parents, his doctors and law enforcement," Sarah Brady wrote. "I cannot say I feel confident he has not, yet again, fooled the doctors and his family."

In its case opposing the visits, the Justice Department cited Hinckley's 1987 journal in which he wrote: "Psychiatry is a guessing game and I do my best to keep the fools guessing about me. They will never know the true John Hinckley."

For years, the courts rejected Hinckley's petitions for release, agreeing with the government's contention that he still represents a danger, though since 1999, Hinckley has been allowed supervised visits to a bowling alley, theatre and a mall.

In granting this small step toward freedom, the judge accepted the findings of multiple psychiatrists, who said Hinckley's "psychosis" and "depression" are now in full remission.

If there is any sign of deterioration in Hinckley's mental condition, he must immediately be returned to the hospital.

During five days of hearings on Hinckley's request, psychiatrists testifying for Hinckley, the government and the hospital said his mental health had improved to the point where he would not be a threat to himself or others if he were to leave the hospital for visits with his parents.

But government lawyers opposed the request, insisting that the would-be assassin was still dangerous and trying to deceive his doctors.

Hospital officials have said there have been no problems with Hinckley on his supervised trips off hospital grounds. The Secret Service watches Hinckley whenever he leaves the hospital.

The psychiatrists said allowing Hinckley to leave unsupervised was the next step in his recovery from his mental illness.

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