A wealthy Lake Tapps pilot – who turned his child-sex case into a circus by representing himself and convincing a judge he had the right to watch sexual videos in jail – pleaded guilty Tuesday as his trial was about to begin.
Weldon Marc Gilbert’s plea to multiple counts of second- and third-degree child molestation allowed him to avoid a potential life prison sentence.
But his pretrial legal wranglings so incensed Pierce County Superior Court Judge Katherine Stolz that she sentenced him to serve his nearly 10-year state prison term consecutively to the 25-year sentence he received in federal court for similar crimes about three years ago.
That means Gilbert, 52, will face 10 years in state prison once his federal term expires.
Pierce County prosecutors Tim Lewis and Patrick Hammond encouraged Stolz to order Gilbert’s state sentence to toll at the same time as his federal sentence, saying that condition was part of a so-called “global plea agreement” reached among federal prosecutors, state prosecutors and Gilbert.
Stolz wasn’t having it.
“You have just played games with us from the get-go,” the judge told Gilbert once he’d pleaded guilty. “There are consequences for playing the criminal justice system, Mr. Gilbert.”
He sat quietly at the defense table as Stolz reprimanded him.
Gilbert, then a commercial airline pilot with business interests across the region, was arrested in November 2007 after a teenage boy reported to authorities that Gilbert had been molesting him at his Lake Tapps home.
Federal and Pierce County investigators later tracked down more teenagers and young men who said Gilbert had ingratiated himself with them. He used rides in his boat and helicopter and sometimes plied them with alcohol before persuading them to participate in sexual activities, including fondling and paddling.
Gilbert was charged in state and federal courts with numerous sex crimes. He pleaded guilty in both courts but withdrew his state plea when he learned at sentencing he might be confined for life under Washington’s indeterminate sentencing laws for certain sex crimes.
Gilbert then decided to go to trial and to serve as his own lawyer.
He filed voluminous pretrial motions, including a demand to review in jail some of the videotapes seized from his home that allegedly showed him engaging in sexual activity with some of the young men. Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper allowed him to do so, saying he had a right to view the evidence against him.
Gilbert said Tuesday he decided to plead guilty to save his victims the pain of a trial at which they’d be expected to testify. He entered a special plea in which he maintained his innocence but said he’d probably be convicted at trial.
“I think it’s time for this to end,” he said. “I apologize.”
Stolz said Gilbert’s apology rang hollow.
She said he’s minimized his behavior from the beginning and dragged out the case for nearly three years even though he knew that once jurors saw the videotapes he’d be convicted.
“This court does not feel you are remorseful,” said Stolz, who went on to call Gilbert a pedophile and sexual deviant. “Maybe you don’t want to hear the blunt Anglo-Saxon, but there it is.”