John Gately III’s dispute with his sister over financial matters led to the deadly shooting of his brother-in-law, Mayer Brown partner Stephen Shapiro, a prosecutor said at a Thursday bond hearing in a northern Chicago suburb.
Gately, 66, was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder and attempted murder. A state prosecutor said Thursday that the attempted murder charge was related to Gately’s sister, Joan Gately Shapiro, who is also the wife of Stephen Shapiro, a nationally lauded appellate court advocate who launched Mayer Brown’s U.S. Supreme Court practice and argued 30 times before the nation’s highest court.
Gately and his siblings had been arguing for months over a living stipend that Joan provided him, according to Illinois prosecutors. Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Andreana Turano said that “family lawsuits were pending.” Joan Shapiro paid her brother’s rent and provided him money for expenses, but she had recently told him she would “no longer just give him money,” Turano said.
On Sunday, Gately had driven through a wrought iron fence at the property of another sibling, Turano said, leading to an argument with his sisters who believed he had been drinking. On Monday night, the arguments culminated in a grisly crime scene after Gately drove just a few miles to the home of his sister Joan, 69, and her husband, 72.
Shapiro answered the door at 7:17 p.m., after a quiet dinner with his wife, Turano said. Gately asked to see Joan, but Shapiro rebuffed him, the prosecutor said. Gately responded by shooting Shapiro multiple times, Turano said.
“’Johnny, no,’” said Turano (video below) in describing Shapiro’s reaction to Gately. The former Mayer Brown partner was found with two bullet wounds to his chest. One pierced his heart, Turano said.
Gately then entered the home and pointed a gun at his sister, the prosecutor said. “‘I’m going to kill you,’” he said, according to Turano. But Gately’s gun failed, and live .22 caliber rounds fell to the floor. As he attempted to fix his gun, Joan Shapiro fled the house, the prosecutor told the court. After Gately left the home, she called the police and her siblings to warn them.
During a standoff with a SWAT team unit at his apartment in nearby Winnetka, Illinois, Gately attempted to escape via a rope he had tied to a balcony, the prosecutor said. Police later recovered at least two weapons from his home. Neither was a .22 caliber handgun.
Gately, who remained expressionless during the prosecutor’s account of his brother-in-law’s death and his own subsequent arrest, was denied bail. The judge cited as reasons for doing so Gately’s alleged attempts to escape the SWAT team and that he had parked his car facing the road and left it running when he approached the Shapiro home. Turano said the state could seek a life sentence. (Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011.)
Michael Petro, a Chicago defense lawyer representing Gately, said after the hearing that his client would plead not guilty, and that he had been “surprised” to learn that Shapiro had died.
“He loves Joan, and he loved Stephen dearly,” Petro said.
After the hearing, Petro said he was not aware of the details behind the “family lawsuits” that the state said were pending related to the Gately family. But he said that Gately’s mother “has assets” and that one of the siblings had been appointed to make financial decisions on behalf of her estate.
“There was some turmoil in the family,” Petro said. “There is a parent that is still alive and she has some assets. I think there was a lawsuit filed by one of the siblings regarding those assets, but I don’t know any details other than that.”
Turano painted a picture of a man who had faced serious struggles in the past. She said Gately had faced at least two arrests for driving under the influence, a battery charge and two “domestic-related” assault charges, one of which included a weapon. In 2005, two family members sought restraining orders against him, Turano said. (On his Facebook profile, Gately posted a story on June 19 about living with depression, anxiety and panic attacks.)
Shapiro once served as U.S. deputy solicitor general during the Reagan administration. He is also credited with founding Mayer Brown’s Supreme Court and appellate practice. In front of the country’s highest court, Shapiro had argued 30 cases and personally briefed more than 200. His death on Monday led to an outpouring of shock and remembrances among the nation’s appellate bar.
His last oral argument occurred less than three weeks ago at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. A memorial service for Shapiro will be held at 4 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 20, at Christ Church in Winnetka.
Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Andreana Turano addresses the media outside a courtroom in Skokie, Illinois.