Washington lawyer Barry Levine is deeply concerned about his client's image.
Levine, the lawyer representing John Hinckley Jr. in his quest for greater freedom, today criticized prosecutors in Washington for making alleged misleading statements in court about the would-be assassin's recent deception regarding his whereabouts.
A Dickstein Shapiro partner in Washington, Levine complained this morning that alleged prosecutor misstatements are “poisoning the community” in Virginia where Hinckley spends time visiting his mother.
Hinckley resides at St. Elizabeths hospital in Southeast Washington but has been allowed visits to Williamsburg, Va. U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman is presiding over an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Hinckley should be allowed more freedom from the hospital.
Prosecutors are opposed to any additional freedom from the hospital, where Hinckley has received psychiatric treatment stemming from the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Government lawyers contend Hinckley remains a danger to the community.
Levine, co-leader of the firm's white-collar defense practice, today criticized an assistant U.S. attorney, Sarah Chasson, for a statement she made in opening remarks last week in Washington federal district court about a visit Hinckley made to a book store in Williamsburg in July.
Hinckley was supposed to see a movie. Instead, he went to a Barnes & Noble, later lying about his whereabouts. Prosecutors are playing up Hinckley’s apparent deception in trying to convince Friedman not to award Hinckley any greater freedom.
“He wasn’t in the art section. He wasn’t in the music section,” Chasson said in her opening statement. “He wasn’t in the fiction section. Mr. Hinckley looked at books about President Reagan and about presidential assassination.”
Levine said Hinckley didn’t pick up any books about those topics. He chastised some press reports about Chasson’s statements, calling the articles “woefully irresponsible.”
Responding to the criticism, Chasson said the government did not misstate the evidence. Chasson noted that she didn’t say that Hinckley actually flipped through books about Reagan and presidential assassination.
Friedman then read from the U.S. Secret Service surveillance report about the bookstore episode.
The agent who wrote the report said Hinckley looked at bookshelves in the American history section and that the shelves in that area contained books about Reagan and presidential assassination.
Agents attached two photos to the report. The photos showed, among other things, books about Reagan, including one published this year called “Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan.”
Hinckley also looked at magazines about art and literature and looked at music CDs.
An assistant U.S. attorney, Nihar Mohanty, said the government shares Levine’s concern that some press reports have taken out of context Hinckley’s action in the bookstore that afternoon in July.
The evidentiary hearing began Nov. 30. Several psychiatrists and Secret Service agents are expected to testify. Hinckley is in court attending the proceedings.