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Hinckley Wants To Leave Hospital

November 6, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The man who attempted to assassinate President Reagan should be allowed a brief dinner date away from the mental hospital where he has been confined for 17 years, his lawyer argued Friday.

John W. Hinckley Jr. appealed a federal judge’s decision last year denying him a holiday dinner with his parents and girlfriend off the grounds of St. Elizabeths Hospital. His doctors and the hospital administration supported the visit.

U.S. District Judge June Green ruled in December that Hinckley could still pose a danger to himself or others. His lawyers argued before an appellate panel Friday that Hinckley poses no danger, and that the court should not interfere in the treatment decisions of Hinckley’s doctors.

``It is preposterous to suggest _ it is nothing short of fear mongering to suggest _ that there is an element of danger,″ in letting Hinckley leave the hospital for a heavily supervised visit, lawyer Barry Levine said outside the courthouse.

Federal prosecutors concede Hinckley’s mental health has improved somewhat over the years, but claim he is still a threat.

Hinckley has been confined at St. Elizabeths since 1982, when he was acquitted by reason of insanity in the March 1981 shooting of Reagan; James Brady, the president’s press secretary; a Washington police officer; and a Secret Service agent. He said he was trying to impress actress Jodie Foster.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is expected to rule within three months. In the meantime, Levine said he expects Hinckley’s doctors to make a new request for an off-campus visit between Hinckley and his parents. That request could come as early as Thanksgiving, Levine said.

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