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Rescue Vince Gilmer: A Free Man Still in Prison

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Two decades ago, Vince Gilmer – suffering from a terminal neurologic disease, Huntington’s –was wrongfully sent to prison, rather than a mental hospital. Since then, Vince has suffered the hell of incarceration without treatment as his body and mind have progressively deteriorated. In January 2022, Virginia's Governor, Dr. Ralph Northam, granted clemency to Vince during his last hours in office. Now six months later, Vince remains locked up, often in solitary confinement, because the Virginia Department of Corrections refuses to facilitate his transfer to a VA public mental hospital. Help us raise a minimum of $100,000 to rescue Vince Gilmer and secure his legal transfer to a private hospital in North Carolina! (If more funds are raised, Vince can remain in the private facility longer.)

In 2003, Dr. Vince Gilmer, a beloved family doctor in Appalachia, suddenly murdered his father. At trial, Vince claimed that his “brain was not working right,” and that he had sexually abused by his father throughout his childhood, but the prosecution said he was faking mental illness. After firing his lawyers, Vince was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

A few years later, Dr. Benjamin Gilmer, a young doctor with no relation to Vince, took over Vince’s former practice in North Carolina and decided to investigate what happened to Vince. As documented in an episode of NPR’s This American Life , Benjamin discovered that Vince suffered from undiagnosed Huntington’s disease, a progressive, debilitating, and ultimately fatal brain disease. This diagnosis explained many of Vince’s symptoms, and confirmed through genetic testing that the judicial system should have sent Vince to a mental hospital – not a prison.

Benjamin launched an 8-year legal battle to get Vince out of prison and into treatment, documenting Vince’s story in his recently published book, “The Other Dr Gilmer.” Finally, in January 2022, on his last day in office, after rejecting it six months prior, Governor Northam granted their clemency petition, allowing Vince to be released from prison - but only if he is transferred to a mental hospital. For the last six months, though technically a free man, Vince has remained in prison, wheelchair-bound and suffering from late-stage Huntington’s disease because his transfer to a Virginia public mental hospital has been prevented. Vince cannot be placed directly in an out of state public hospital until this happens. Meanwhile, the Virginia Department of Corrections and Mental Health have explicitly told Benjamin they have no duty to find a placement for Vince.

Help us get what Vince deserves - justice, freedom, and proper medical treatment after wrongfully suffering 19 years of prison hell. Vince is not a threat to society, he is mentally and physically ill. He can be accepted by a public North Carolina hospital - but only if we raise a minimum of $100,000 to secure his transfer to a private hospital first. Vince Gilmer’s story illuminates the plight of hundreds of thousands of mentally ill patients incarcerated in US prisons, where they suffer from a system that is designed to punish, not heal. Help us rescue Vince Gilmer so he can be treated in a hospital – not behind prison walls – before his eminent death.

Huntington’s disease (HD) is a brain disease that is passed down in families from generation to generation. HD causes deterioration in a person’s physical, mental, and emotional abilities, usually during their prime working years and leads to early death. Most people start developing symptoms during adulthood, between the ages of 30 to 50. HD is known as a family disease because every child of a parent with HD has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the faulty gene - and currently has no cure.

NOTE: Thanks to all who have contributed to Vince's rescue from nearly 20 years of incarceration. We are so close and have a preliminary acceptance to a private hospital in Western North Carolina due to your support! We are negotiating the final details now and hope to move him there shortly after Thanksgiving. I would like all of you to know that Vince was giddy like a child when I told him this week (11/16/22) that we now have enough funds to pay for the first two months of his hospitalization. This is critical to the Virginia attorney general's office who must also agree on this plan. For transparency, we will now move the funds into my private account where the monies will be immediately available so I can pay the hospital directly, as well as his secure transportation costs, social workers, expert consultants, medications, etc. We are now realizing that the initial cost of taking care of him will quickly reach $100k. As such, we will leave the fundraiser open for another couple of weeks. We are grateful for all of your generous support!


  • Erin Coggins
    • $50 
    • 1 mo
  • Peggy C Reynolds
    • $25 
    • 2 mos
  • Elizabeth Yassenoff
    • $100 
    • 2 mos
  • Madelynn Pierson
    • $100 
    • 2 mos
    • $100 
    • 2 mos


Benjamin Gilmer
New York, NY

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