Netflix’s ‘May December’ dramatizes the real-life scandal of Mary Kay Letourneau, adding fictional elements to the story. It gives the audience a vantage point through the perspective of an actress, Elizabeth Berry, who is researching the subject of the film she is to shoot in the next couple of months. She shadows Gracie, loosely based on Letourneau, to understand her and also talks to the people close to her, one of whom is Gracie’s lawyer. He doesn’t have more than a scene in the film, but in real life, he played a pivotal role in Letourneau’s story.
Who is David Gehrke?
Described as “a genuine, highly knowledgeable, attentive and straightforward professional,” David Gehrke is a well-known lawyer and a reputed member of the community. Before becoming a lawyer, he served as a combat medic in the Army in the 1970s. He is an alumnus of the University of Washington, where he studied Economics and then went to the University of Washington Law School. He got his Juris Doctor degree in 1977 and has been practicing law since 1978. He specializes in criminal defense and personal injury and has worked on all sorts of cases over the years, the most infamous of which is perhaps Mary Kay Letourneau’s defense.
Gehrke was Letourneau’s neighbor before he became her lawyer. He and his wife, Susan, lived next door to Letourneau and her husband, Steve, and discovering the truth about Letourneau’s affair with a teenager was a shock to them, too. Gehrke did his best to get a reasonable deal for Letourneau, believing that despite her crimes, she wasn’t a danger to society. He used the defense of mental illness, focused on his client having bipolar disorder, to get a more lenient sentence for her.
“When people hear that Mary Kay is pregnant again, that she is pregnant by the same boy she was sent to prison for raping, they say to me, ‘How could anybody in their right mind do such a thing?’ And I say, ‘That is the point exactly. Clearly, Mary Kay Letourneau is not in her right mind at all,’” he said. His defense also claimed that Letourneau was physically and emotionally abused by her then-husband, Steve, and “went to the hospital for treatment, and police were called” at least twice, though no charges were ever filed against her husband.
Gehrke remained friends with Letourneau while serving as her lawyer for the rest of her life. He also went to Letourneau and Fualaau’s wedding and reportedly gave them a telescope as a wedding gift. He revealed that after the wedding, once things had cooled down after Letourneau had served her sentence, she had a happy life with her family and children. Remembering a get-together he attended with her family in 2009, Gehrke said, “My wife was talking with the little girls; they were ten or so, and the kids from Alaska (from Letourneau’s first marriage) were helping out, and it was one big happy family.”
Where is David Gehrke Today?
David Gehrke lives in Des Moines, WA, with his wife, Susan, with whom he has two sons, Matt and Josh. He currently runs the Law Offices of Gehrke & Wegener. Even though he works on high-profile cases and has talked to media outlets about them, he has preferred to keep his family life away from the media spotlight. Gehrke is described as an active member of the community. He is invited to speak at schools and colleges and has also served as a youth basketball and soccer coach. He has also frequently donated and volunteered, either on a personal level or through his law firm. He and his wife have also sponsored the Des Moines Waterland 5K Run. Apart from this, Gehrke is also an avid traveler.
Expressing his thoughts on the Letourneau case, Gehrke said (though he doesn’t endorse relationships of such kind) that he believed Mary Kay and Vili really were in love. “They loved each other. They were devoted to each other. They courted for ten years, and they were married for ten years. Yes, he was a minor, but they had back-channel contact during the time they weren’t supposed to be speaking. Not as regularly as they would have otherwise, but they were in contact. This was a couple who was in love. They had children together, and they raised those children,” he said.
Despite this, he was also not shocked when Fualaau filed for separation in 2017. “I’m not surprised that they got married, and I’m not surprised, in this day and age, that they are separating. I’m convinced they were totally in love. But sometimes, people who are totally in love have trouble staying in love. They slowly drift apart. One day, you wake up and realize that things are different with your partner,” he said.