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UPDATED — 8:54 AM 05/14/2024

Attorney Claudia Payne, accused of representing Christopher Gilbert without his full consent, released a statement to BOSSIP defending her integrity and refuting any allegations of unethical representation. 

“Reports suggested that Gilbert never wanted charges pressed against the young lady accused of pushing him in the water, this is inaccurate and I can assure you that this desires and story only changed after he met with the group of friends that accompanied him to the lake-front restaurant,” reads Payne’s statement. “The accusations that I ever misrepresented my client’s interest and desires is simply untrue.”

The statement continues,

“Mr. Gilbert has chosen to accept a story given to him by his “friends” and desires to discontinue the pursuit of legal action. While we think it is the wrong decision and that he has been influenced by those who have a conflict of interest, we accept it. I have done nothing that is adverse to what my former client consented, advised, or agreed to. There are text messages, recordings, and other records that support the integrity of my office. “

Despite the Lawrence law firm alleging that Payne made “inflammatory and factually incorrect statements” to the press, Attorney Payne is adamant that it’s untrue and says she “resents all statements made by Attorney Aaron Lawrence” whom she labels a “low-tier attention-seeking individual” and a “good dog.”


Below this line, the original story begins.


Christopher “Chris” Gilbert, the 26-year-old Black man who was on life support after drowning in Lake D’arbonne, Louisiana, is speaking out to set the record straight.


Source: Christopher Gilbert / GoFundMe

New statements and clarifications have emerged, disputing reports of a racially motivated drowning leaving Gilbert “brain dead” from the April 14 incident. For the first time, the aspiring doctor explained what happened in his own words.

“I don’t think anyone did anything intentionally wrong,” Gilbert told the NY Postclearing the name of his friend and co-worker Cassidy Holland.

“I took my keys, wallet, and phone out of my pockets and took my shoes off. I knew Cassidy wanted to push me in for messing with her, so I kind of played into it.”

Initially, BOSSIP and other outlets reported that Gilbert’s friends pushed him into the water and left him submerged for an alarming 10 minutes, and the time underwater caused severe health complications, including brain damage and organ failure. 

This narrative sparked outrage and concern, with speculations of a hate crime and serious negligence.

Christopher Gilbert Explains The Drowning And An Official Statement From His Attorney Refutes Previous Claims

However, a recent press release shared online and with BOSSIP from Lawrence Law Firm, now representing Gilbert, provides a different perspective on the events. The statement explains that previous reports from another attorney about Gilbert’s accident were “rife with inaccuracies.”

The release emphasizes that Gilbert was underwater for approximately 3 to 5 minutes, contradicting earlier reports of 10 minutes. While Gilbert sustained serious injuries, he was never “brain dead,” either

“It has come to our attention that various news outlets and social media platforms have been disseminating information regarding the tragic accident involving Mr. Chris Gilbert, which has been rife with inaccuracies and unfounded allegations,” said Aaron Lawrence of Lawrence Law Firm. 

They mentioned that it was “imperative to set the record straight” that this wasn’t a hate crime.

Gilbert said he didn’t worry about going into the water at the dock of Rhett’s Tails and Shells because he underestimated how deep and cold it was.

“I thought maybe the water wouldn’t be as deep, and I would kind of hit the ground, get my footing and shoot up and come back up and grab the pier and just stand there,” Gilbert revealed to the NY Post.

“And then the water ended up being deeper than we thought and being a lot colder than we thought.

Gilbert, who says he’s “not the strongest swimmer” took accountability that he “misjudged the situation.”

The police report states that when Gilbert’s friends couldn’t rescue him, another customer named Dawson Foust jumped in to save him.

Controversy Over Gilbert’s Legal Representation And Allegations “Without Merit”

Adding to the complexity of Gilbert’s story is the involvement of attorney Claudia Payne, who allegedly represented Gilbert without his full consent. The statement accused Payne of making “inflammatory and factually incorrect statements” to the press, including claims of a racially motivated attack and urging for charges of attempted negligent homicide. The charge does not even exist under Louisiana law, but a lawyer “should already know that.”

The press release details that these assertions by Payne are not only unsubstantiated but also grossly exaggerated.

It also notes that the release of private photos of Gilbert during his hospitalization and allegations of a premeditated plan by his co-workers to cause harm “are wholly without merit.” The press release hints that the only one that appeared to have questionable motives was pushy Payne.

Gilbert’s Recovery And Return Home From The Hospital

Thankfully, Gilbert has made a significant recovery and returned to his home in Ruston, Louisiana. Since his discharge from the hospital, Gilbert reconnected with his friends and colleagues and returned to his place of employment. 

His current legal team is dedicated to restoring the reputation of Gilbert and his friends from the lake trip. He worries that Payne’s inaccurate claims about racial motivation and that he was “brain dead” will compromise their futures. 

“I kind of hate the…[claims about] me being brain-dead, or this attempting for it to be some sort of race issue,” Gilbert said continued to the NY Post.

Gilbert wants the world to know that the “brain dead” claims are untrue because, “Who would want a doctor who has suffered brain damage?”

Holland also spoke out about desperately trying to save Gilbert with their friends.

“I would never try to hurt him. Chris is a beautiful person, my co-worker, and dear friend… I’m so thrilled at his recovery and getting back to normal,” his 22-year-old coworker said.

Gilbert has established a GoFundMe page to manage the substantial medical expenses incurred from this accident. All proceeds will directly support his recovery, not towards any fees for Gilbert’s legal team.

Call for Corrective Action in Media Reporting

The Lawrence Law Firm has requested that media outlets and social platforms that have reported Payne’s narrative extend the same effort to correct the public record with Gilbert’s account of the events. This call for accuracy and fairness in reporting is a reminder of the responsibilities that come with journalism.

As this story continues to develop, BOSSIP is committed to providing updates with the most accurate and verified information available. 


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