The trial of Thomas Gilbert Jr., who is accused of murdering his father by shooting him in the head in his New York City apartment in 2015, entered its second week in Manhattan, on June 3, with the defendant at one point being forcefully removed by court officers after an extended outburst during which he directly addressed the jury, asking them to consider suppressing evidence.
Detective Darrell Ng was on the witness stand in the courtroom of New York State Justice Melissa Jackson at the time. Gilbert began speaking while Ng described for the prosecution his assessment of Gilbert’s mental state during the time he was with him after Gilbert’s arrest on January 5, 2015.
“Objection,” Gilbert said, looking directly at the jury, “I would like to suppress the evidence.” He said that he wanted the jury to meet for 10 minutes to consider his request. Gilbert spoke in long, rapid-fire sentences that were hard to understand, given the speed at which he spoke.
After speaking to the jury, he then said, “The defense would like to address the prosecution” and looked directly at prosecuting attorney Craig Ortner, asking his assistance at
Justice Jackson had the jurors taken back to their waiting room.
When Shelly Gilbert, the defendant’s mother, was questioned by Ortner last week, there were several times when Gilbert would say “Objection,” usually followed by similar, though much shorter, statements, but always directed toward the judge.
Jackson had warned Gilbert last week that she would have him removed from the courtroom during the trial if he persisted in stating objections, and began to make good on her warning June 3. She reminded the defendant about her warnings from the prior week, when she had said he was out of chances. She ordered Gilbert removed. Gilbert struggled after being handcuffed, and continued to speak as he was taken away. It took three guards to remove him.
Worst Mental State
Arnold Levine, Gilbert’s defense attorney, then went to speak with Gilbert in his holding cell. First, though, he asked the court to consider, as he had last week, another mental exam to determine if Gilbert was now unfit to stand trial. He pointed out that this was the first time in the four and a half years that the case has been in front of Jackson that there had been any kind of physical resistance offered by Gilbert.
Levine said that Shelly Gilbert had visited her son on Rikers Island the past weekend, and found him to be in the worst mental state she had ever seen him display, talking, for example, about Osama bin Laden.
Jackson denied the defense’s request for a new exam. “Your client is fit,” she said.
Levine then asked the court for Gilbert be allowed back into the courtroom to aid in his own defense. He lobbied strongly to allow Gilbert to return. Jackson agreed to give him another chance. “I don’t want any more outbursts,” Justice Jackson warned Gilbert before bringing the jury back in.
Shelly Gilbert’s testimony last week clearly troubled the defendant. She testified after being subpoenaed, essentially as a hostile witness.
First, though, a recording of her 911 call reporting her husband’s death was played for the jury. She had been asked by the operator who had shot her husband. “My son,” she answered. “He’s nuts. But, I didn’t know he was this nuts,” she is heard saying.
Gilbert had shown up at his parents’ Beekman Place apartment on January 4 after not speaking with them for months. According to Ortner, after years of paying for his every want, the father, known as Tom Gilbert, started applying what the attorney called tough love, by greatly reducing his son’s allowance.
Gilbert sent his mother out to buy a sandwich, along with a bottle of Coke. The son knew that his mother never kept Coca-Cola in the house, Ortner told the jury, a fact Shelly Gilbert confirmed on the witness stand. In the few minutes Shelly Gilbert was away, Tommy Gilbert went to his father’s room. Tom Gilbert was lying in bed, watching a football game. The son pressed a .40 caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol to the side of his father’s head and squeezed the trigger, Ortner said. He then allegedly put the gun near his father’s left hand in an effort to make the shooting look like a suicide.
Every Material Advantage
In his opening statement May 28 to the jury, Ortner described Tommy Gilbert. “Up until his arrest, the defendant had lived a life of wealth and privilege. His parents gave him every material advantage you could want,” Ortner said. Tommy attended the Buckley School, then Deerfield Academy, followed by Princeton University, as a “legacy” student He had memberships at the Maidstone and River Clubs. His parents “supported him in playing golf and tennis and surfing, giving him thousands of dollars a month in spending privileges. They even paid his parking tickets for him,” Ortner added. Despite this life of privilege, Gilbert’s anger and resentment towards his father grew, Ortner said.
On May 28, Ortner illustrated this privilege through a series of questions to Shelly Gilbert about their lifestyle.
He asked her about their home at 8 Georgica Association Road, in Wainscott, which Ortner called the family’s “house in the Hamptons.”
Shelly Gilbert corrected the prosecutor. “I don’t consider it to be part of the Hamptons.”
He asked her about the family’s membership at the Maidstone Club in East Hampton, which Shelly Gilbert said the family has belonged to since 1993.
“It is a country club we belong to,” Shelly Gilbert said. The club is where “friends we raised our children with are together. It’s a place I play mediocre tennis and tried to improve it with my mediocre tennis playing friends for years,” she said. “It’s the heart, a big part of the heart of my support system.”
Ortner inquired about the membership process for the Maidstone Club. “You have to apply and somebody proposes you and people second you and you go before the committee and either you get in, or not. We got in,” she said.
“Did your son get what is known as junior club privileges?” Ortner asked.
“Yes,” Shelly Gilbert answered. “Objection,” her son said quietly from the defense table.
“He outgrew being eligible on our family membership,” Shelly Gilbert said. “We wanted him to have access to the club because he has friends there and we felt it would be good for him.”
Ortner asked if those junior club privileges at the Maidstone were terminated in 2014.
“Objection,” Tommy Gilbert said again, quietly.
“Wait,” Shelly Gilbert answered. “I am having tracking problems. I do apologize.”
Justice Jackson adjourned for the day, and Shelly Gilbert left the stand.
Jackson then addressed Gilbert directly. “I am asking you please to refrain from these outbursts.” She said it was very confusing for the attorneys, the jury, the witnesses, and the court reporter, who must keep an accurate record of the proceedings. “You have a very good lawyer,” she said, “Try to control yourself.”
“Yes, your honor,” he answered. “Thank you for allowing me to exercise my right to freedom of speech.”