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Judge OKs Extra Releases For Ronald Reagan Shooter

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan 30 years ago can make additional visits to his mother’s house from the psychiatric hospital where he is committed, a judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman ruled Wednesday that John Hinckley Jr. can spend extra time away from St. Elizabeths Hospital. The actual number of visits will be determined in a future order from the judge, said Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington.

The hospital will file a plan either this month or in June for the additional releases, and the judge set an October hearing to discuss it in more detail.

“He agrees with us that there needs to be a hearing to discuss this issue more fully, and there needs to be a plan for these releases,” Miller said.

The decision was made during a teleconference between the judge and lawyers.

Barry Levine, a lawyer for Hinckley, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday.

Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity after shooting Reagan on March 30, 1981, as he left a Washington hotel. Hinckley has said he shot Reagan to impress actress Jodie Foster. Press secretary James Brady, a Secret Service agent and a police officer also were shot and wounded during the assassination attempt. Reagan was seriously hurt, and Brady was left paralyzed.

Hinckley has received increased freedom from the hospital in recent years as his lawyers have argued that his mental health has improved with no reports of incidents. In 2009, for instance, Friedman ruled that Hinckley could apply for a driver’s license and increase the length of his visits from his hospital to his mother’s home in Williamsburg, Va., from six nights at a time to nine.

Prosecutors, though, have argued that the hospital has underestimated the risk that Hinckley could be violent again. In court papers last month, they said it had been nearly three years since the judge heard testimony about Hinckley’s mental condition. Since then, they said, he has a new doctor in his mother’s hometown as well as “new family issues.”

“The issues raised by these changed circumstances warrant serious consideration to determine whether Mr. Hinckley may now pose a threat to himself or others,” they wrote.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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