WASHINGTON — The man who shot President Ronald Reagan and three other people in 1981 won't face new charges in the death last summer of Reagan's former press secretary, federal prosecutors said Friday.
John Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shootings of Reagan, his then-press secretary James Brady, a Secret Service agent and a police officer. Hinckley, 59, has been committed to a psychiatric hospital for the past 32 years, although he now spends more than half of each month at his mother's home in Virginia.
Brady was shot in the head and suffered debilitating injuries, including partial paralysis, and died in August at age 73. The Virginia medical examiner's office ruled his death a homicide attributable to the gunshot wound and its complications. But new criminal charges against Hinckley were considered unlikely.
U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen announced Friday that Hinckley won't be charged, in part because prosecutors are barred from arguing now that Hinckley was sane at the time of the shootings. A prosecution would also be precluded by law because District of Columbia courts before 1987 did not allow homicide cases to be brought if the victim died more than a year and a day after the injury.
"The conclusion, I think, was inevitable. The prosecution would have been barred as a matter of fact, as a matter of law," said Barry Levine, Hinckley's attorney.
The Brady family said in a written statement that it respects Machen's decision.
"We deeply appreciate the extraordinary outpouring of love and support since the Bear's passing," Brady's family said, using his nickname. "We miss him greatly."
Along with his wife, Sarah, Brady became the face of the gun-control movement in the United States after the shooting. He was beloved by the Washington press corps for his quick, self-deprecating wit.
Hinckley told authorities that he shot Reagan to impress actress Jodie Foster. Officials at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington have said that Hinckley's mental illness has been in remission for decades.
"He is just haunted by what he did as a result of a mental illness. Now, of course, he is well and he confronts, every day, this tragedy," Levine said.
In addition to the time he spends at his mother's house, where he may eventually be allowed to live full time, Hinckley has permission to drive on his own and to take unsupervised outings lasting up to four hours. He must carry a GPS-enabled cellphone while unsupervised, and his use of the Internet is restricted.
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