The Miami Herald
FAMED PSYCHIATRIST GETS YEAR FOR BRIBE
By Don Van Natta Jr.
May 1, 1991
Famed criminal psychiatrist Michael Gilbert stood up one last time in a Dade courtroom Tuesday and asked a judge to go easy on a mentally deficient defendant.
Only this time, the defendant was Dr. Gilbert.
“I regret terribly what I did, and I know what I did was an aberration,” said Gilbert, 75, who was convicted in March of bribing a Metro-Dade police officer to concoct a cocaine bust against a Miami lawyer.
His plea for leniency didn’t work. Dade Circuit Judge Leonard Glick sentenced Gilbert to 364 days in the Dade County Jail, 18 months of house arrest, 500 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine.
The sentence drew gasps from Gilbert’s family and friends. They had asked for probation and no fine.
“He subverted the very criminal justice system he claimed to be a part of for many years,” Glick said. “I believe he viewed himself to be above the law.”
By paying a cop cash to frame a lawyer, Gilbert showed a “kind of arrogance that blemishes not only the doctor, but the police department,” the judge said.
“The public can’t see this individual walk away with just a slap on the wrist. That won’t happen here,” said Glick, a prosecutor for 18 years.
Before his arrest on Aug. 28, Gilbert was considered one of America’s leading forensic psychiatrists. He spent 34 years in Miami courtrooms testifying about the minds and motives of almost 5,000 defendants.
More often than not, Gilbert testified on behalf of the defendants whom he deemed criminally insane. He created one-of- a-kind defenses — such as “television intoxication” — to explain a defendant’s irrational, homicidal urges.
At his trial, Dr. Gilbert tried to convince jurors he was criminally insane. Jurors didn’t believe it. Last fall, Gilbert almost “went over the edge,” but his regular psychiatric treatment has “brought him back,” defense lawyer Joseph Paglino said.
Family and friends, including Gilbert’s ex-wife, Sandra, told the judge about the doctor’s selfless nature. He often gave psychiatric care for free, they said.
Most of Gilbert’s family and friends sounded mystified that the doctor now suffers from the same problems he had diagnosed for so many years.
“Why would a man of his intelligence ruin his life, as he did, if he were not off his rocker?” said Lillian Rosenberg, Gilbert’s youngest sister.
Dr. Gilbert’s two-week trial in March attracted national attention from media as diverse as The New York Times and Vanity Fair. This summer, CBS-TV will showcase the case on a prime-time show. Although Gilbert never testified at his trial, Paglino called three psychologists to the witness stand. All three insisted the doctor was insane.
“Poor demented fellow,” his lawyer said.
But the state’s audiotaped and videotaped evidence was damaging to the doctor. On audiotape, Gilbert asked a top Metro- Dade cop, Dale Bowlin, if he knew of “a hit man who could kill” an enemy.
The target: Assistant Public Defender Arthur Spiegel, 32, a relative of Gilbert’s girlfriend. Gilbert was sure Spiegel was abusing his 3-year-old son, Adam. No one else — including the courts — believed that allegation.
Still, Gilbert wanted the cops to plant cocaine on Spiegel and arrest him. On Aug. 28, Gilbert handed an undercover officer a golf ball box stuffed with $2,000. The payoff, and the arrest, were videotaped.
An appeal will keep the doctor out of jail for now. As Gilbert’s freshly minted fingerprints were placed in a file Tuesday afternoon, Paglino patted the doctor on the back and whispered in his ear: “Don’t worry. It’s only paper.”