Netflix’s ‘May December’ introduces the audience to Gracie Atherton-Yoo, who is married to a man much younger than her. But that’s not the issue with their relationship. The scandalous part is that Gracie and Joe had an affair when he was still a teenager while she was in her mid-30s. When caught, the affair caused a media frenzy. Now, about two decades later, Elizabeth Berry arrives at Gracie and Joe’s house to shadow Gracie and understand her enough to play her part in the movie. One of the things that Elizabeth finds out about her subject is that she gave birth to Joe’s child in prison. How does that track with the real-life case?
Mary Kay Letourneau Spent More Than Seven Years in Prison
Gracie Atherton-Yoo in ‘May December’ is based on Mary Kay Letourneau, who was 34 years old, married, and a mother of four when she had an affair with Vili Faulaau, who was about twelve when the relationship commenced. Their secret came to light in February 1997, and when Letourneau was arrested on rape charges, she was already pregnant with her first child, whom she gave birth to in May of that year. By August, she had pled guilty to two counts of second-degree rape of a minor.
Despite the gravity of her crime, the judge was lenient to her, and instead of giving her the 89-month sentence, Letourneau was sent to prison for six months. Additionally, she had to attend a treatment program and was not supposed to have any contact with Fualaau. Letourneau didn’t keep the latter part of her sentence, and soon after she was released from prison, she was found with Fualaau in a car.
Reportedly, Letourneau and Fualaau had been in contact with each other as soon as she was out on parole. Evidence suggested that they might have been planning to run away together. In the court hearing, the police officer who’d found Letourneau testified that they were found near her home on a Tuesday morning. At first, she lied and claimed to be alone in the car, and later, she and Fualaau lied about their identities when questioned.
According to the prosecution, the officers found $6,200 in cash, Letourneau’s passport, snack food, beer, men’s and baby’s clothes, and their receipts worth $850 made in the past couple of weeks in the car. Allegedly, Letourneau told her parole officer that the money was for her lawyer and her dermatologist, and the clothes were gifts from her relatives. In her defense, Letourneau’s lawyer, David Gehrke, asked for a 180-day jail sentence and additional treatment, claiming that she was sick and fixated on Fualaau and wasn’t a danger to society, only to herself.
At the end of the hearing, the original sentence of seven years and five months was reinstated. The judge said that Letourneau had “purposely violated the terms” of her sentence and had “foolishly squandered” the opportunity she was given in the form of a lenient sentence.
Letourneau Gave Birth to Her and Vili’s Second Child in Prison
By the time Letourneau returned to prison, she was already pregnant with her second child with Fualaau. She gave birth to their daughter, named Georgia, in October at St. Joseph Medical Centre at the Washington Correctional Center in Purdy. She wanted to keep the news of her pregnancy a secret, but according to her lawyer, “someone at the prison had access to her medical records and released the information prematurely without her permission.”
When asked about Letourneau’s pregnancy, Faulaau, who was 15 at the time and in Paris, promoting the book he had co-authored with Letourneau about their affair, said: “I’m very excited and can’t wait to go back and see my next baby.” He lamented that Letourneau wasn’t allowed to keep the child with her for a few months after the birth. She wanted to keep the baby with her at the prison, but the authorities revealed that it was not possible because they didn’t have accommodations for babies.
She was given the time to sort out the arrangements of who would take care of her baby while she was in prison for the next seven years. If she didn’t, the state would send the child to foster care. However, it didn’t come to that. Much like their first child, Letourneau and Fualaau’s second child was also brought up by Fualaau’s family.
Read More: Where is Vili Faulaau Now?