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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Persuasive Testimony,|or Just a Big Show?

SAN LUIS OBISPO (CN) -- An accused bank robber pursuing an insanity defense surprised jurors this week when he drew feces from his pants and ate it while testifying during his felony trial.

But a psychiatric witness for the prosecution said Andrew Gilbertson knew what he was doing when he robbed a San Luis Obispo bank in 2013.

"It would appear to me that he exaggerates his symptoms," testified Michael Selby, a forensic psychiatrist who had interviewed Gilbertson at the county jail.

According to court records, Gilbertson, 40, of Paso Robles, entered the Bank of America in San Luis Obispo in July 2013, brandishing a child's pink backpack and a green disposable glove. He allegedly handed the teller a note demanding money. He was arrested in Atascadero less than three hours later.

After charges of robbery and burglary were filed, his defense expressed a doubt of his ability to understand the charges and assist in his own defense. But after psychiatric evaluations were submitted, Superior Court Judge Teresa Estrada-Mullaney in February 2014 declared Gilbertson competent to stand trial.

Gilbertson has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of robbery and burglary.

Defense attorney Brian Buckley called Gilberston to the stand Wednesday. During his testimony, Gilbertson said the Virgin Mary told him to rob the bank. As jurors watched and a local TV news reporter filmed, Gilbertson reached into his pants, pulled out his own feces and began eating it.

The incident prompted Superior Court Judge Donald Umhofer to call for a break.

While the incident was the talk of the courthouse the next morning, Dr. Selby was less surprised.

While interviewing Gilbertson at the county jail before trial, Selby testified Thursday, Gilbertson complained about the food at the jail, then reached into his pants and ate his feces.

Gilbertson claims to have multiple personalities, Selby testified. And he claims to have hallucinations dealing with religion.

"He has been told by the Virgin Mary to do many things," Selby testified.

During his interview with Gilbertson, he said, Gilbertson was often angry. Shortly before eating his feces at the jail, Selby told jurors, Gilbertson said, "I hear voices. I see ghosts. I'm hungry."

Gilbertson also said his anti-depressants made him happy, Selby said, and when asked about the robbery, he allegedly said: "I know it's wrong to rob a bank," then added, "I see dead people walking."

But Selby thinks many of Gilbertson's actions are a put-on.

"In your opinion," Deputy District Attorney Dave Pomeroy asked, "was he eating his feces for show?"

"I believe so," Selby said.

After his testimony Wednesday, Gilbertson appeared at his trial in restraints Thursday, hands cuffed to his hips. One half of his head was shaved and a large bandage was taped to his forehead. He occasionally muttered things at the defense table, once blurting, "God save the queen!" as Umhofer gave jury instructions.

Closing arguments were scheduled for Friday morning.

Gilbertson has a lengthy history of crime, which includes convictions for sexual battery, aggravated battery, failure to register as a sex offender and car theft, according to the complaint in the bank robbery case.

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