John Hinckley Jr. is a selfish, lying narcissist who can not be trusted to live on his own without substantial restrictions on his movements and Internet access, a federal prosecutor told a judge here Tuesday.
But Hinckley's lawyer said his client has been living a life of "virtual perfection" during increasingly longer visits to his mother's home and that his three mental illnesses are in complete remission or "substantially attenuated."
The graying 59-year-old man who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan 34 years ago sat quietly watching, his torso turned to face the judge, his musicians' fingers at times seeming to tap a tune on the table.
At a hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman, who will say whether Hinckley is to be granted indefinite leave from St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington and under what conditions, said he faced a hard decision.
"Twelve years ago, when I opened the door a crack, I knew this day would come," the affable judge said after two hours of oral argument. "That doesn't make it any easier."
He gave no indication of when he would rule.
Because the government is not actively opposing Hinckley's release to the care of his 89-year-old mother on "convalescent leave," the often contentious debate Tuesday was over the restrictions attached to his freedom.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Colleen Kennedy, a specialist in mental health litigation, argued that Hinckley must be tethered to a daily preset itinerary of all of his movements and that his "dangerous" access to the Internet be closely monitored. She said he should wear a GPS ankle bracelet so the Secret Service can keep track of him.
Kennedy also said Hinckley should be required to meet weekly with his four therapists in the Williamsburg, Va., area, where his mother lives.
She said Hinckley was selfish, untruthful and had an exaggerated sense of entitlement. "Now is not the time to loosen the reins," Kennedy said.
Barry William Levine, Hinckley's lawyer, said the list of 35 conditions on his release advocated by the government were "maliciously designed to trap Mr. Hinckley" into making a mistake that would send him back to St. Elizabeth's. The proposed conditions "are so exacting, so inflexible that no human being can comply," Levine said.
Levine won support from a lawyer for St. Elizabeth's, where Hinckley has lived since a jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity in 1982. The lawyer, Deon Merene, said Hinckley is not likely to be a danger to himself or others and argued for fewer restrictions on his life, not more. She said he has shown "marked improvement" in the past year as he has been allowed to spend more time in Williamsburg.
"He has a long record of being very compliant," she said.