Crime

Man who ate feces in court was sane when he robbed bank, jury finds

Andrew Gilbertson appears in court Thursday, March 26, 2015, for his trial on bank robbery charges.
Andrew Gilbertson appears in court Thursday, March 26, 2015, for his trial on bank robbery charges. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Even after the defendant ate his own feces while on the witness stand, a jury found a Paso Robles man to be sane when he robbed a bank in 2013.

After little more than a half a day of deliberation, the jury also found Andrew Gilbertson, 40, guilty of robbery and burglary. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

According to trial testimony, Gilbertson entered a Bank of America branch in San Luis Obispo in July of 2013 and handed a teller a note he had written in pencil. The note demanded, “Give me the money” and included a drawing of a peace sign.

He was arrested in Atascadero roughly three hours later.

Gilbertson pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

While Gilbertson may be troubled, said Deputy District Attorney Dave Pomeroy, he knew what he was doing when he entered the bank and he knew it was wrong.

“He just wanted methamphetamine,” Pomeroy told jurors during his closing argument. “He testified that he really, really likes methamphetamine.”

During his testimony Wednesday, Gilbertson drew feces from his pants and ate it while on the stand.

“That was upsetting a couple of days ago,” Pomeroy told jurors. But, he added, they should not feel sympathy for Gilbertson because of it.

“Because, obviously, it was designed to produce emotion,” he said.

Gilbertson had also eaten his feces during interviews with two different psychiatric witnesses.

Of the three psychiatric witnesses who evaluated Gilbertson, only one testified — Michael Selby, a forensic psychiatrist who concluded that Gilbertson was sane.

In court Friday, Gilbertson was subdued, a bandage still taped to his forehead. While he was cuffed at the waist, two bailiffs wore rubber gloves in the courtroom.

On the day of the bank robbery, Pomeroy said, Gilbertson took logical steps to rob the bank. He rode in a car with his parents but made sure they parked far from the bank. Then he entered the bank with a hat pulled down low while he wore a glove on one hand.

Using the gloved hand, he gave a teller the note.

After the robbery, Pomeroy said, Gilbertson got a haircut and shaved to conceal his identity. He also spent $40 at Frank’s Famous Hot Dogs in San Luis Obispo, purchased a methamphetamine pipe and spent $100 at Diamond Adult World.

While Gilbertson told jurors the Virgin Mary told him to rob the bank, Pomeroy said if the defendant had believed that, he would have told the teller so.

“He didn’t tell the teller that because it didn’t happen,” Pomeroy said.

To prove a defendant is not guilty by reason of insanity, the defense has to show he didn’t know what he was doing at the time or didn’t know it was wrong.

Defense attorney Brian Buckley said Gilbertson has complained about hearing voices for a while and has a history of hurting himself. Gilbertson blinded himself in one eye, disfigured his face by hitting it and had a habit of stuffing toilet paper in his ear, Buckley said. “This is a long, documented history.”

Gilbertson began showing signs of mental illness at 29, he said. Like many people with mental illness, Buckley said, Gilbertson used drugs to alleviate the symptoms.

“Methamphetamine is a way of self-medicating,” he said.

During an interview with a detective after the robbery, Buckley said, Gilbertson said he didn’t think he had done anything wrong, telling the detective, “That doesn’t make me bad to go do that. Because the voices told me I was good.”

Buckley, like Pomeroy, apologized to jurors for having to witness Gilbertson eat his feces.

“When I said this was going to be an unusual case, that wasn’t what I was expecting,” he told jurors.

Pomeroy said the incident was a stunt to make the jurors think he was insane. That’s why, Pomeroy said, he held his hands out for all to see before eating his feces.

“To be sure you all clearly understood what he had in his hand and what he was doing,” Pomeroy said.

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