Councilman's killer not a threat, hospital chief says State to ask judge for Hopkins' release

June 05, 1996|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

The superintendent of Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center said yesterday he is confident that the man who shot and killed a city councilman 20 years ago would pose virtually no risk to public safety if he is given a conditional release from the hospital for the criminally insane.

State officials are preparing to ask a Baltimore Circuit Court judge to grant the release of Charles A. Hopkins, who killed Councilman Dominic M. Leone Sr. and wounded another councilman, a mayoral aide and a city police officer in a shooting spree April 13, 1976, at a temporary City Hall office on South Calvert Street. Hopkins was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Perkins superintendent Dr. Richard Fragala said Hopkins, who has been described in court documents as paranoid schizophrenic, is ready to move full-time to Hamilton House, a halfway house where he has spent increasing amounts of time over the past 12 years.

While Hopkins is still mentally ill, Fragala said, "Clinically, he is much, much, much improved. He demonstrates no psychotic [symptoms], and his insight into the nature of his mental illness is what we would want."

Family members of Hopkins' victims reacted with dismay Monday to the news that the hospital was hoping to increase Hopkins' freedom. The last time Perkins sought to do so -- in 1987 -- it was Hopkins himself who halted the petition, saying that he wasn't ready.

But Dr. Fragala described Hopkins today as a 54-year-old man who poses little threat when properly medicated and who still moves slowly after being shot during his attack.

And he said yesterday that Hopkins is now comfortable with the prospect that he will have more freedoms -- as are his treatment workers, hospital staff and a review board that has looked at his case.

Now the issue is whether a judge will agree.

In the past, prosecutors have opposed giving Hopkins further freedom. Baltimore Deputy State's Attorney Haven H. Kodeck said yesterday that would likely be the case again. "We will have our input into it," he said.

Dr. Fragala said that Dr. Jonas R. Rappeport, who has evaluated Hopkins in the past as chief medical officer of the city Circuit Court, had seen the killer again in the past six months and "endorsed" the idea of a conditional release. Dr. Rappeport verified yesterday that he had seen Hopkins, but would not comment further.

About 400 people found criminally insane are under various types of conditional release in Maryland, Dr. Fragala said. But he acknowledged that some criminally insane patients at Perkins have been there longer than Hopkins without similar privileges.

While he did not discuss Hopkins' medical condition in detail -- citing doctor-patient confidentiality -- Dr. Fragala said that, in general, patients with similar diagnoses are able to think rationally and logically with proper medication. Without it, however, they can become delusional.

Under the conditional release to be proposed, Hopkins will be given medicine at the halfway house at regular intervals. "The medication is administered to him," Dr. Fragala said. "He does not take it on his own. He's never off the tether enough that that's a question."

He would not discuss other conditions that would be proposed. But Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. -- whose father died of a heart attack after Hopkins' rampage -- said in a letter to his brothers that proposed conditions for Hopkins include living in the halfway house for up to 12 months, then perhaps with a family member; participation in a day treatment program; and no permission to possess firearms.

Pub Date: 6/05/96

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