Virginia health facility bows out of proposed treatment plan for John Hinckley Jr.
By Carol Cratty, CNN Senior Producer
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A Virginia mental health facility has dropped out of a plan to allow presidential assailant John Hinckley Jr. to participate in social group sessions, according to a government court motion issued Friday.
Government prosecutors are calling on the federal judge overseeing Hinckley’s case to reject a proposal by St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington to allow the man who shot President Ronald Reagan to have longer visits away from the government mental hospital.
According to the court filing, St. Elizabeths sent an August 8 letter stating that Colonial Behavioral Health, People’s Place facility in Williamsburg, Virginia, had withdrawn from the plan to participate in Hinckley’s treatment. The letter has not been made public and prosecutors did not reveal why People’s Place had bowed out.
Prosecutors called the group sessions a “core feature” of the plan to allow Hinckley to spend more time living with his elderly mother in Williamsburg.
“It now appears that the Hospital will need to begin anew in developing a plan for the expansion of (Hinckley’s) current conditional release privileges,” prosecutors wrote in their motion. The government wants the opportunity to have its mental health experts review any new plans St. Elizabeths may develop for Hinckley.
U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman did not immediately respond to the government’s motion.
Hinckley currently spends 10 days a month visiting his widowed mother, who is in her late 80s. In July 2011, St. Elizabeths made a proposal to allow Hinckley two visits of 17 days duration followed by six stays lasting 24 days. After the proposed visits, St. Elizabeths requested the authority to decide whether Hinckley, 57, could be released on “convalescent leave,” which would make him a permanent outpatient.
Friedman presided over 13 days of testimony in late 2011 and early 2012 to consider the plan and has yet to issue a ruling. The government is opposed to the plan. Government experts testified that Hinckley has failed to make friends in Williamsburg and could become socially isolated. Hinckley’s lawyers and St. Elizabeths said his participation in sessions at People’s Place would help prevent that.
One of the biggest controversies raised during the 13 days of hearings was that Hinckley did not always follow hospital-approved itineraries for how he would spend three hours of unaccompanied time allotted to him twice during each of his visits. \
Witnesses testified that in July and September of 2011 Hinckley skipped movies he was permitted to attend and then lied about it. In addition, Secret Service agents who were watching Hinckley without his knowledge testified that in July and October last year, Hinckley went to bookstores and looked at shelves of history books, some of which dealt with presidential assassinations.
Dr. Raymond Patterson, the former director of forensic psychiatry at St. Elizabeths, testified for the government. He said he interviewed Hinckley and specifically asked him about lying about going to the movies. According to Patterson, Hinckley said the doctor was “nitpicking.” Patterson and a second government mental health expert said Hinckley should have kept to his itineraries to prove he could be trusted.
Hinckley’s defense lawyer Barry Levine said the key question is whether Hinckley is dangerous. “Not once during any one of these releases has Mr. Hinckley done anything dangerous or violent. Not once,” Levine said during his closing argument in February.
Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the March 1981 shooting of Reagan, press secretary James Brady, Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy and police officer Thomas Delahanty. Brady was shot in the head and permanently disabled.