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'I Bargained With The Devil': Ronald Reagan's Daughter Speaks Out On John Hinckley Jr.'s Unconditional Release

Author Patti Davis, daughter of former President Ronald Reagan, said she "bargained with the devil" when writing an emotional op-ed about the freedom of her father's would-be assassin. 

By Jax Miller

The daughter of former President Ronald Reagan has written an emotional opinion editorial in light of her father’s would-be assassin being granted unconditional release this week.

John Hinckley Jr., the man who shot the 40th president of the United States and three others in 1981, was released from a psychiatric hospital in 2016, as previously reported. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said he planned to lift the restrictions initially attached to his release, including supervision of Hinckley’s movements and internet activity.

“If he hadn’t tried to kill the president, he would have been given unconditional release a long, long, long time ago,” Friedman said at Monday’s hearing.

On Monday, The Washington Post published former first daughter Patti Davis's op-ed.

“Every time I have weighed in my mind the value of informing people that this man who shot four people on a chilly March day in 1981 – shooting three of them out of the way so he could kill my father – shouldn’t be granted more liberty,” wrote Davis. “I have weighed that against the reality that by writing, I was giving Hinckley, a diagnosed narcissist, the attention he craved.”  

Hinckley admitted to shooting Reagan, as well as Police Officer Thomas Delahanty, Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy, and Press Secretary James Brady, who died 33 years later as a result of his injuries, according to NBC Washington. Though Brady’s death was ruled a homicide, federal prosecutors declined to press charges against Hinckley, citing a law predating 1987 which prohibited murder charges if the victim died more than a year and one day after injury.

Hinckley claimed he shot the president in an attempt to entice then-teenage actor Jodie Foster, to whom he’d written many letters.

“Now, Hinckley’s last restrictions have been lifted,” Davis continued. “He can now, if he wants, contact me, my siblings, and the actress Jodie Foster, whom, as is well known, he was trying to impress by carrying out this ambush.”

In 1982, Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity and ordered to the custody of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, where he remained for 34 years.

“I was going to stay silent this time,” said Davis. “But again, I bargained with the devil, and again I decided that silence wasn’t an option.”

Davis stated that Hinckley’s defense attorney, Barry Levine, was “relentless” in his campaign to attain complete freedom for his client.

“People’s memories have faded,” she wrote. “That burst of gunfire outside the Washington Hilton was a long time ago… But for me, for my family, for Foster, the memory of that day will never fade. In my mind’s eye, I will always picture Hinckley’s cold eyes as he blew open White House press secretary Jim Brady’s head, as he wounded Secret Service Special Agent Tim McCarthy and Metropolitan Police Department Officer Thomas Delahanty. I will always picture my father being shoved into the limousine after a shot struck his lung and nearly grazed his heart.”

Since his 2016 release from the hospital, Hinckley has lived with his mother in Williamsburg, Virginia, as previously reported. Earlier this year, he created his own YouTube channel, to which he uploads videos of himself singing and playing guitar.

The decision to remove the restrictions from Hinckley’s freedom comes one month after news that prosecutors wouldn’t block parole for Sirhan Sirhan, the man convicted of assassinating Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. Davis acknowledged the decision in her op-ed, detailing the emotions she shares with the Kennedys who objected to the ruling.

“When someone you love is gunned down, time doesn’t move on from that day, that hour, that moment,” wrote Davis. “The event is your prison, and there is no release from it.”

Davis says she doesn’t believe that Hinckley, whom psychiatrists diagnosed as a narcissist, has any remorse for the shooting. She also wrote about her fear that Hinckley is now free to contact her if he so pleases.

“And now there is another fear – that the man who wielded that gun and almost got his wish of assassinating the president could decide to contact me,” Davis concluded. “There is no manual for how to deal with something like this. You can’t Google it or look for reference material. You just have to live with the fear, and the anger, and that darkness that one person keeps bringing into your life.”

On Tuesday, Levine stated his client was “very sympathetic to the feelings of Davis and her family,” according to People. Levine said Hinckley understood that Davis was “justifiably emotional.” 

The Reagan Foundation and Institute also expressed their disapproval of Friedman’s decision to lift the restrictions.

“Contrary to the judge’s decision, we believe John Hinckley is still a threat to others, and we strongly oppose his release,” the foundation wrote.

It's representatives asked that the Justice Department file a motion to reverse the decision.

Freidman said he planned to write an order this week to ensure the provisions are removed from Hinckley’s release by June 2022.

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