URGENT Prosecutor Says Hinckley Wrote Letter Discussing Escape Plans From Hospital
WASHINGTON (AP) _ John W. Hinckley Jr. wrote a letter discussing plans to escape from the mental hospital where he has been held since 1982 for shooting President Reagan, a prosecutor said Friday.
The letter, ″involving discussions Mr. Hinckley had with people regarding escaping from St. Elizabeths Hospital,″ will be introduced Monday at a hearing on Hinckley’s request to make an unescorted Easter visit to his family, Assistant U.S. Attorney John O. Birch told a federal judge at an impromptu hearing on the case.
The letter will be among several Hinckley wrote in 1982 and 1983 that federal prosecutors will introduce as evidence to oppose Hinckley’s request, Birch told U.S. District Judge Barrington D. Parker.
Birch gave no further details about the letters.
Hinckley was committed to the federal hospital after he was acquitted by reason of insanity of attempted murder in the March 30, 1981 shooting of Reagan, White House Press Secretary James S. Brady, a Secret Service agent and a District of Columbia police officer.
Parker convened the hearing to consider a motion by Hinckley’s attorney, Vincent J. Fuller, to prohibit the government from releasing diaries and letters written by Mr. Hinckley as well as medical records it subpoenaed from St. Elizabeths Hospital.
″These papers are personal to Mr. Hinckley,″ Fuller argued. ″I do not think they should be put in the public domain″ unless they are relevant to Monday’s hearing.
Birch said prosecutors ″don’t plan on filing everything pell-mell that we’ve gotten from St. Elizabeths.″
Parker instructed prosecutors to inform Fuller in advance about what documents they plan to introduce as evidence to give the defense attorney advance warning.
Hinckley’s request, supported by his psychiatrists, is for court permission to make an unescorted visit to his family at a time, date and place specified by St. Elizabeths’ officials.
In a letter to the judge, hospital psychiatrists have said Hinckley has shown improvement since a 1983 suicide attempt and is no longer taking psychiatric medication.
The letter said the unescorted visit ″will enhance Mr. Hinckley’s self- esteem and provide him the opportunity to test out the insights he has gained through his treatment.″
Fuller indicated his motion for an order protecting the Hinckley papers was in response to a government brief that made reference to a former socialite prosecutors described as Hinckley’s girlfriend.
The woman, Leslie deVeau, 43, whom Hinckley met at St. Elizabeths, was acquitted by reason of insanity of killing her 10-year-old daughter with a shotgun in 1982.
Ms. deVeau, who lost her left arm when she tried to kill herself with the shotgun, was released from St. Elizabeths in 1985.
Fuller said he was fearful the government might release the Hinckley papers now in its possession, including a diary written during Hinckley’s trial.
″What reason do you have for this fear?″ Parker asked.
″They identified Miss Leslie deVeau to be Mr. Hinckley’s girlfriend″ even though ″there is nothing in the record″ available to the public about the relationship, Fuller said.
″I think that was an improper disclosure,″ he added.
Parker said Ms. deVeau’s name had already been ″bandied about in the press several years ago in connection with Mr. Hinckley’s statements about his amorous intentions.″
Birch disputed Fuller’s argument that Hinckley had property rights to the diary and letters.
″Whatever property rights he may have, and I don’t think he has any, they must be subordinated to the public’s right to know what is going on in a particular case,″ Birch said.
″This case is about a man who attempted to assassinate the president and to change history,″ Birch said.
″We find ourselves supporting the public’s right to know,″ he said.
The government brief that apparently angered Fuller quoted a psychiatrist’s letter that said Hinckley’s ″ultimate wish″ was to be released from St. Elizabeths’ and live with Ms. deVeau.
The psychiatrist, who supports the request for an Easter visit, quoted Hinckley as saying Ms. deVeau is ″the biggest influence in my life.″
Court records show that Ms. deVeau has a history of mental illness that includes several suicide attempts.