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The Times' criminal justice team looks behind the scenes and behind the headlines.

June 25, 2009 at 12:23 PM

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Letter to victim's parents lands child-porn producing pilot in hot water

Posted by John de Leon


Weldon Marc Gilbert

From Times staff reporter Ian Ith:

Weldon Marc Gilbert, the multimillionaire Lake Tapps pilot, convicted child molester and child-pornography producer, apparently missed the part about his right to remain silent.

Even though he is locked up in federal detention awaiting sentencing on dozens of crimes related to the years-long sexual abuse of more than 17 boys, Gilbert last month took up a pen and inked a five-page letter to the parents of one of his victims.
The parents gave it to federal prosecutors, who now are asking the judge in the case to formally order Gilbert to knock it off.

Gilbert, a commercial freight pilot who used his sprawling lakeside home to groom and lure his victims to on-camera sexual torture, pleaded guilty in April to 31 counts of producing child pornography, two counts of transportation of minors for illegal sexual contact and two counts of obstruction of justice. Sentencing is set for Aug. 17 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, when he will face between 19 and 25 years in prison.

In the letter written in meticulous block letters on May 18, Gilbert begins by apologizing to the family. But he then downplays his actions and ends up blaming federal authorities for putting the boys and their families -- and himself -- through a "public media spectacle beyond comprehension."

"This process has been an incredible nightmare for everyone involved and I am the one who is solely to blame," Gilbert says. "I will not try to minimize my actions."

But then Gilbert refers to his crimes simply as "extremely inappropriate" and "shameful behavior."

"At the time, it seemed so harmless and like typical teenage horseplay," wrote Gilbert, who is 48 years old.

Gilbert then blames the media, saying the reports have been "exaggerated beyond recognition."

"I am horrified they have been so publically (sic) embarrassed," he writes of his victims.

Next Gilbert launches into an indictment of the prosecution of his case, calling it a "farce" and accusing authorities of "flat out" lying.

He says he was planning to fight the charges in a trial, but then realized he could be locked up "for hundreds of years as if I were Jeffrey Dahmer." And besides, he wanted to protect the victims from having to testify.

"The thought of dragging each of these guys through this was hideous," he wrote.

Finally, Gilbert apologizes again and says he hopes the family gets money from the restitution ordered in his case.

"My life is basically over," he laments. "But all these young people have a bright future. I will do what I can to help them put this tragedy behind them."

He signs the letter: "Warmest Regards, Marc."

In seeking a protection order against Gilbert, Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Rogoff wrote that the letter "is simply one more piece of evidence that the defendant does not, in any meaningful way, comprehend the damage he has done to the victims in this case."

"His belief that he can write a letter, prior to sentencing, and somehow have a meaningful impact on a boy who he abused for more than three years, is yet another example of his deviant thought process."

Gilbert is not contesting the protection order. But his lawyer, the prominent Seattle defense attorney John Henry Browne, wrote that the letter has been misconstrued. It's actually "nothing greater or more dramatic than a heartfelt apology that was never intended to cause further harm."

Of course, Gilbert should know by now that sending letters to his victims is a bad idea. The two counts of obstruction of justice in his case stem from two letters he wrote to two other victims from his jail cell in last year.

Those letters also apologized to the boys for what Gilbert called "idolizing the flesh instead of the spirit." But they also contained not-so-veiled threats meant to manipulate the boys into refusing to cooperate with the prosecution.

Unlike this latest letter, though, those letters were seized by jail guards before they reached the boys.

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