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Originally published April 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 3, 2008 at 12:33 PM

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Pilot in sex case wrote to alleged victims, prosecutors say

Letters to an alleged victim and his brother from a wealthy Lake Tapps airline pilot suspected of torturing and molesting dozens of boys...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Letters to an alleged victim and his brother from a wealthy Lake Tapps airline pilot suspected of torturing and molesting dozens of boys have prompted federal prosecutors to investigate possible witness tampering.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Rogoff described one of the letters written by Weldon Marc Gilbert as a "template for the misguided, skewed thinking of a typical grooming child molester," intended to deflect guilt and manipulate the boy into not cooperating with authorities.

The first letter was seized in January from the prison cell at SeaTac Federal Detention Center where Gilbert, 48, a former United Parcel Service pilot and businessman, is awaiting trial on charges of sexual exploitation by producing child pornography and traveling across state lines with a child for sexual purposes.

It was addressed to a child identified only as "R.K.," who is described in court documents as "the central victim in the case." It purports "to convince R.K. not to participate in the current proceedings," prosecutors say.

The other was seized March 12 by guards at SeaTac FDC in the outgoing mail. It was addressed to "A.K.," an older brother who late last year went to law enforcement to report the abuse.

"In the context of this case and the defendant's behavior, the letter to A.K. can only be described as a litany of veiled promises and threats" intended for A.K. to communicate to his brother and their family.

Investigators and prosecutors say Gilbert has molested more than 20 young boys going back at least 15 years, in some cases videotaping sex acts and painful "sexualized spanking" sessions with children as young as 12.

The recovery of the first letter outraged Gilbert's defense attorneys because it was reportedly found by a guard in a stack of legal documents. The defense has filed a motion seeking to dismiss the federal charges against Gilbert, alleging the government is guilty of "outrageous conduct" that deprived Gilbert of his constitutional right to legal counsel. That motion has been sealed by a federal judge.

Defense attorney John Henry Browne could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

In addition to that letter, guards also seized a list that one guard said "involved sexual activity with children."

The exact content of those documents is not known, since they are being held by attorneys for the Federal Detention Center while U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle sorts out the legal issues. Prosecutors have asked Settle to review the letters and give them to the government if he determines they are not protected by attorney-client privilege.

The letter sent last month, however, was given to prosecutors by the corrections officers after it had been mailed. Prosecutors attached a copy of it to a motion Wednesday asking the judge to deny the defense's attempt to dismiss the federal case.

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Gilbert also has been charged in Pierce County.

In the letter, Gilbert pleads for forgiveness but says he believed the relationship with R.K. "seemed so mutually consensual and [R.K.] assured me he didn't have any problem with it at all."

When the pair met, R.K. was 12 years old and Gilbert was in his 40s, according to the court file. R.K. is 18 now.

While Gilbert wrote in the letter that he is now "embarrassed and ashamed" of his actions, he said the furor over the "time spent doing anything remotely shameful" — which he dismissed as a "few regrettable hours" — have caused his young victim to "forget what an incredible positive influence I had on him."

And, while Gilbert said he let God down by "idolizing the flesh instead of the spirit," the young victim is not without blame: "[He] had also sinned by idolizing money and wealth instead of the spirit."

The charges allege Gilbert traveled extensively with R.K., taking him to Hong Kong, Thailand and Europe.

The letter warns that R.K. will be subject to even more embarrassing media scrutiny during the trial and "all the scandalous details of [R.K.'s] and my actions in private will be out in public," he wrote. "The tapes will be shown.... ."

"I don't want your family ... to suffer through this horrific public shame," Gilbert wrote.

While Gilbert acknowledges he may go to prison, he asks A.K., "But, at what cost?"

"I pray it doesn't come to that," he wrote.

He ends the letter by saying that he had always intended to "provide for [R.K.] financially. ... "

"I know he knows me well enough to know he will be way ahead financially working with me rather than against me," Gilbert wrote.

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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