Judge: ‘Full Speed Ahead’ For Gilbert Trial

Shelly Gilbert with her son’s attorney, Arthur Levine, outside courthouse, after hearing May 13 set for a jury trial for her son. Independent/T. E. McMorrow
Independent/T. E. McMorrow

There will be no more mental competency exams for the former Georgica Estates man accused by the New York Police Department of murdering his father in January 2015 in the bedroom of his Beekman Place apartment, then staging the scene to make it look like a suicide.

Thomas Gilbert Jr.’s attorney, Arnold Levine, told New York State Justice Melissa Jackson on February 15 that Dr. Alexander Bardey, hired by the defense, had met with Gilbert the previous day. Bardey had reported that he found Gilbert “was, for the most part, cooperative” and said that “Gilbert squeaks by as fit, competent.” However, according to Levine, Bardey was concerned with Gilbert’s level of paranoia.

Gilbert had sent a letter to Justice Jackson two days earlier, as he has previously, asking to be released, and calling for a speedy trial. She denied the request to be released, but then added, “However, in light of this news from your attorney, we will be moving this case, as you want, to trial.”

She then returned to a point that had been broached in court last month. Since Gilbert’s attorney was being paid by Gilbert’s mother, Shelly Gilbert, who is also the wife of the deceased man, and is expected to be called by the prosecution (she was the one who first found her husband’s body) as well as by the defense, a claim of a conflict of interest could be made, requiring a new attorney to be appointed by the court.”

“Now that you have been found fit,” the judge asked, “I want to see if you waive any perceived conflict of interest?” Gilbert responded by nodding his head, yes, which he did several times. She noted for the record that he was replying, “Yes,” then said, “I’m going to take that as a full speed ahead on this case.”

Unlike other recent court appearances, when he has responded to the judges’ questions verbally, sometimes at length, Gilbert remained silent throughout.

May 6 was set as the date for all preliminary trial matters to be settled, with May 13 for jury selection to begin.

Shelly Gilbert, who has attended each of her son’s dozens of court appearances since his arrest by the NYPD January 5, 2015, made a statement to the reporters on hand, outside the courtroom. “I think the bar of fitness for trial in New York State is so low that we have people in the courtroom that are not fit for trial,” she said. “This is unconstitutional. Certainly, in the history of the laws in America, slavery used to be perfectly legal. This process is perfectly legal too, but it is highly, highly wrong. And the only way to clear it up is to shed some light on it.”

She compared the state of treating mental health issues in America as matching that of a third world country. She questioned her son’s confinement on Rikers Island, given his mental condition, rather than being taken to psychiatric hospital for treatment.

Levine said, as he walked away from the court, that the prosecution has indicated that its initial presentation of witnesses, including Shelly Gilbert, and of evidence to the jury would last about three weeks. He noted that he has already notified the prosecution of his approach to the case, apparently one of not guilty by reason of insanity at the time of the alleged murder. Levine indicated he would call on Bardey and at least one other professional from the mental health field, along with family members, including, it appears, Shelly Gilbert, to reveal Thomas Gilbert’s struggle with mental health and his state of mind at the time. That process will likely take a couple of weeks, followed by the prosecution attempting to rebut the defense’s arguments.

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