You just can’t make this stuff up.
A Princeton graduate has been found guilty of killing his own father over allowance.
On Friday, a jury in Manhattan found Thomas Gilbert Jr. guilty of second-degree murder. The verdict came after they rejected an insanity defense after two days of deliberation.
Gilbert stared straight ahead with no expression on his face while the decision was read and the six men and six women of the jury affirmed the decision. He’ll be sentenced on August 9 and faces 25 years to life.
His lawyer, Arnold Levine, argued the shooting was done by a mentally ill son who was too screwed up to know what he was doing. He said he plans to appeal.
“Someone like Tommy doesn’t belong in state prison,” he said. “He needs to be in a psychiatric hospital.”
Prosecutors, on the other hand, said Gilbert was an ungrateful son who was mad that daddy had cut him off, and had been planning the murder since he bought the gun in Ohio seven months earlier.
The murder took place four years ago now, when Gilbert was 30. His father was a well-known figure in Manhattan and the Hamptons, and the killing stunned New York’s high society.
The trial took place over five weeks, and prosecutors painted the picture of a rich and entitled yet troubled young man who couldn’t get his act together and ended up angry at his father, who had supported him with a weekly $1,000 allowance.
Gilbert attended private boarding schools on the Upper East Side and in New England when growing up.
He graduated from Princeton with an economics degree, and everyone expected he’d follow in his father’s footsteps to a lucrative Wall Street career.
His father owned Wainscott Capital Partners and tried unsuccessfully to bring him into the family business.
Gilbert failed at it, and instead spent years living off his daddy while he surfed, traveled the world and attended exclusive social clubs in Manhattan and the Hamptons.
He was later diagnosed with several mental illnesses, including obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and schizophrenia.
Doctors prescribed him medication that he refused to take, according to testimony.
His mother, Shelley Gilbert, was called to the witness stand.
She said she was ecstatic when her son, whom she referred to adoringly as Tommy, showed up unannounced at their Turtle Bay apartment on the afternoon of Jan. 4, 2015.
“He came in and told me he wanted to talk to Dad about business and so I was excited about that,” she said.
According to Shelley, she hadn’t seen her son in months and so she was more than happy to take care of him when he asked her to go out to buy him a sandwich and a Coke, a brand of soda he knew his parents didn’t keep in the apartment.
She said that on her way out, she stopped into the bedroom where her husband was watching a sports game from his bed, quietly put on a pair of sneakers and left without telling her husband that his son had arrived.
She said she wanted the two to sort out their differences on their own.
But she testified that as soon as she left, she changed her mind and decided the two might need a mediator if they got into a confrontation.
She walked back in three minutes later, but it was too late. She found her husband lying dead next to their bed and called 911
The recording was played for the jury. In it, when the operator asked who had shot her husband, she replied:
“My son, who is nuts.”
Jurors later said the fact that Mr. Gilbert asked his mother to go out and buy him a sandwich and a soft drink proved motive.
And while nobody argued that Mr. Gilbert didn’t struggle with mental illness, the jurors came to a consensus that he knew killing his father was morally wrong because he went out of his way to send his mom away before committing the crime.
“It was the can of Coke,” said one juror, Julie Thiry-Couvillion, 32. “And also the fact that she offered to make him something there and he said, ‘I’d like you to go out.’ It let us know that he knew what he was doing.”
Levine argued that his client’s mental illness clouded his sense of reality, and claims it prevented him from understanding his actions or knowing they were wrong.
As an example, he said Gilbert became obsessed with the idea that random objects, and even people around him, would contaminate him with unknown, toxic substances.
Three psychiatrists and a psychologist summoned by the defense testified that as Gilbert grew older, his delusions led him to be aggressive toward his father
“It’s mental illness — that’s not the real Tommy,” Mr. Levine said during closing arguments. “Tommy Sr. was the object of Tommy’s delusions.”
Prosecutors successfully argued that while Gilbert suffered from mental conditions, his moral judgment was not impaired.
According to them, he was an entitled and vindictive son. They said he very carefully plotted the murder his father when his father followed up on a threat and cut his allowance to $300 a week.
“This defendant didn’t want to grow up and be an adult,” the lead prosecutor, Craig Ortner, said during closing arguments. “When his father tried to push him along in that direction and cut his allowance, he threw the ultimate tantrum.”
They were able to prove premeditation by calling to the stand John Jay Bennett, a former United States Navy service member.
He told jurors that Mr. Gilbert drove 570 miles to a town in rural Ohio to buy a .40-caliber gun that he had advertised on social media.
Detectives also said Gilbert had placed the gun in his father’s left hand in a failed attempt to make the death look like a suicide.
Ortner concluded that Gilbert acted because he was about to lose his only financial support.
“The timing shows a rationality. It disproves his insanity defense,” the prosecutor said. “A truly insane person kills for no reason at all. They strike seemingly at random times and places. That’s not the case here.”