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The letters in Gilbert's defense

A staffer and two students react after their school is chosen by Gilbert's charity. (By Susan Biddle - TWP)

There was a time not too long ago when every other week brought news of another quirky story demonstrating Gilbert Arenas's goodwill toward man. Befriending young area residents on MySpace and turning them into Wizards ballboys. Helping random teenage Wizards fans with their charity fundraising projects, a story told to me by a father that I apparently never used. Sponsoring high-level video game teams, taking the gamers out to restaurants and leaving $100 tips on $70 checks. That sort of thing.

Sure, there was always the understanding that he also had another set of quirks that were less PR friendly, up to and possibly including sneaker defecation. But as Gilbert stopped playing basketball and then became embroiled in the Finga Gunz Fiasco, the good quirky mostly got pushed underneath the bad quirky.

Reading through the letters attached to the sentencing memo filed by his lawyers, though, brought back some of the good. Sure, these were documents submitted by high-priced attorneys attempting to save Arenas from going to jail, but the stories read just like the ones we used to hear about during Gilbert's prime.

There was a single-spaced one-paragraph missive from Jared Levi, a college student in Chicago who used to gather autographs to sell for a profit, helping pay for his college tuition. Levi once gave Gilbert a letter explaining what he was doing, and Gilbert eventually signed more than 100 jerseys and 400 photos for the teenager, while inviting him and his friends to hang out in the team hotel on the road. "Gil single handedly changed my life," Levi wrote.

There was a letter from an AAU team manager in Richmond, whose players had once asked Arenas for support. They received sweatsuits, shoes, uniforms and socks from Arenas, who met and spoke with every player on the team. "I can not express to you what that meant to our boys," she wrote.

There was a note from Goodman League Commissioner and presidential heckler Miles Rawls, who noted how Arenas delivered uniforms and equipment for Rawls's Pop Warner football team "without hesitation."

There was a letter from Mystics star Alana Beard, who wrote how Gilbert paid for weddings for childhood pals "to thank them for their friendship."

There was a message from a Great Falls mother who saw him walking in the neighborhood, asked Gilbert to sign a basketball for a silent auction, and then watched as Arenas "ran off to fetch a pair of new shoes to sign for our event as well."

There was a note from Will Sherlin, the literary agent for Gilbert's canceled autobiography, who described how the book morphed from a parody of self-help books into a self-help book in its own right, "earnest, humorous and endearing."

There was a document from Gilbert's dad, the most wrenching of the bunch. "I think locking him up for any amount of time would destroy him," Gilbert Sr. wrote. "He's very fragile in a lot of ways; he just laughs and smiles to hide the pain."

But especially there was the note from Wizards equipment manager Rob Suller, one of the nicest men in D.C. sports.

Suller has two young children similar in age to Gilbert's; his oldest has a rare genetic condition that requires 24-hour care. In 2007, Suller wrote, Gilbert gave his family his entire portion of the team's playoff bonus to help them buy a minivan to accommodate her special needs. Two years later, Gilbert helped Suller's whole family attend a week-long conference in Florida about her condition, and insisted that everyone involved with her care attend.

"Gilbert has shown caring and compassion beyond what myself and my family could ever thank him enough for," Suller wrote.

What this all means in court on Friday, someone smarter than I has to decide. Prosecutors, of course, submitted a sentencing memo of their own, and it's also a captivating read. Michael Lee sums it up nicely, and there's plenty there that's damning.

But take a few minutes and read those letters in his defense. It'll remind you what we all thought Gilbert's legacy in this town would be.

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 23, 2010; 8:18 PM ET
Categories:  Wizards  
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Next: Gilbertology in sentencing memos


Thank you Steinberg for posting this. The letters are an important reminder of who this person is. The most charitable athlete in DC Sports history.

The prosecutor team in this case should be utterly ashamed of themselves for asking for 90 days jail time. He's being treated differently because of his fame alright. The very fact that these prosectors took this case and devoted so many resources to this case and brought up his fame in the sentencing memo to use against him in this case shows just how much more harshly he's been treated because of his fame.

Posted by: Barno1 | March 23, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

wow steiny, you sure are full of it. almost as delusional as gilbert himself

Posted by: slim4 | March 23, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

I have no doubt that Gilbert Arenas never meant this incident to be anything more than a prank played against a teammate. I've never met Arenas. But I get the impression he is a 10-year-old in a 25-year-old's body, with millions of dollars to play with, and -- up until now -- no one to tell him "no".

I don't know what purpose will be served by putting Gilbert in jail for more than a very short stay -- maybe two weeks. Just long enough to let him know that this society is serious about its gun laws. The extra 10 weeks should be traded-in for another 1000 hours of community service -- something for which Gilbert has already shown a talent.

I know that there are many who feel that the book should be thrown at Gilbert. The feeling is that he is benefiting from his ability to hire the best lawyers and that, if it were you or I, three months in jail would be the very least we could expect.

That is probably true.

But, in the end, the real question should be what would be best for society? Gilbert sitting in jail for an extended period would do him no good. It would simply prevent Gilbert from beginning his task of making this up to all of us.

I feel like Gilbert wants to do good. He's never had anyone set any boundaries or make him face consequences before. I for one am interested in seeing what happens once this whole thing is past him. I think there is a real possibility that we could see a profound and very positive change in Gilbert Arenas.

Kevin Olson
Manassas, VA

Posted by: noslok | March 23, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Oh boo hoo! Put him in jail where any of us would be if we did the same thing! This will give the Wizards what they need to void his contract and rid themselves of this self absorbed loser!

Posted by: slimjim21787 | March 23, 2010 10:35 PM | Report abuse

I am really glad to see that not everyone in the media just turn their backs on Gilbert. People love to go overboard with hero-worship and put their heroes up on a pedestal, but once they stumble they are quick to pile on with equal zeal. To many, everything is either black or white (and to the extremes) when in reality most things are shades of gray. Yes what Gil did was wrong, illegal and potentially dangerous. I am glad that some remember all of the great, kind and extremely generous things Gilbert has done for years (you didn't even mention the literally hundreds of thousands of dollars he donated through his Gilbert Scores for Schools program). That should all be considered by the judge. Does anyone really think anyone would be betterserved or protected by putting him behind bars?

Posted by: CoachD1 | March 23, 2010 11:20 PM | Report abuse

@CoachD1 I believe that people will be better off if Arenas serves a minimal jail sentence.

It'll reinforce to Mr. Arenas and others that guns are not toys, are not props, and require the proper storage, care, and registration that the law requires.

This is the second gun offense that Arenas has plead guilty to. He can't claim ignorance.

Posted by: Joran | March 24, 2010 12:15 AM | Report abuse

I appreciate this article here Gilbert Arenas has done alot for the Washington area community. I think its disgusting quite frankly to have a person make a dumb mistake and suddenly the kindness and generosity a man has expressed suddenly gets washed away in an incident where no one was harmed. He broke the law and has paid a heavy price but its time to stop piling on about the incident thats resulted in nothing but bad pr for the Wizards and the nba but has not harmed anyone physically or emotionally.

And I'm bitterly disappointed that a paper I call my own the esteemed Washington Post has chosen to put a darkened menacing looking picture of Arenas attached to todays article conerning his sentencing. I think its blatantly racist and should be removed asap.

Posted by: jrwalkerivory | March 24, 2010 12:22 AM | Report abuse

agreed jrwalk, i think that picture is in bad taste by the WaPo, from what i've read he's guilty of being a 10 yr old in 28 year olds body, in my opinion he's not a menace to society but does need to be taught a real lesson about our nations gun laws

Posted by: destewar | March 24, 2010 1:53 AM | Report abuse

What the heck is this WaPo? OJ redux. Get rid of that picture! What Gil did wasn't cool, and I'm sure he'll do (hopefully no more than) a few months, but that picture is demagoguery. Ridiculous!

Posted by: Donald8 | March 24, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for writing this. A lot of people forget that before some unfortunate injuries made him an afterthought to many, Gil was far and away the most beloved athlete in the city. And it wasn't just because he could hit buzzer-beaters, it was because of the consummate human being he is.

I wish things like this ran in the paper, so it could be disseminated to a wider audience, and not just presented to a handful of anonymous internet morons. So tired of reading: "Oh, if I did that at my job!!" in the comments. Least significant comparison of two people ever. AND, I can bet that if you did do this at your job, no one would go out of their way to write any defenses of your character.

I also agree that it was a total crap move to run the article in the Sports section mentioned above with the 'intimidator' photo. No one is disputing that Gil's prank was extremely dumb. No one is disputing that there is an alarming amount of thugs/criminals/horrible people in professional sports today. But the two things could not be more unrelated. This incident is a big deal, but it is still not what many make it out to be.

We can all see the errors in what Gilbert did. But if you can't see the errors in the collective response to what he did... you don't really have an understanding of the total situation, and are not qualified to make intelligent contributions to the discussion. In the end, this says so much more about all of you than it does about Arenas.

Posted by: JohnnyBlades | March 24, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

The picture is a disgrace. It's an age-old tactic by the media. There's an old saying you can tell what kind of article it's going to be based on the picture of you they use.

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Posted by: linjian76 | March 24, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Dan. What Gil did was stupid, so so stupid, but he shouldn't be kicked to the curb because of it.

#1, do the time. Whatever it is.

#2, play ball.

That's it. The charitable stuff that Gil has done since coming here is all very admirable, almost as admirable as the gun incident was shameful. He's just got to do his time in order to get this over with.

If he skated people would hold it against him forever, and some will do so anyway, but just do the time - come back and be yourself.

Preferably without the guns and/or crapping in people's shoes.

Posted by: tha_prophet | March 24, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Good luck Gil, I hope the judge considers all of the good you have done for the community. I never forget reading the story about the child whose family caught fire and how you helped him and almost adopted him, that was before the he was Allstar fame and all, but I knew he was good for the community and kind-hearted. Scores for schools also. Will be praying all goes well Gil.

Posted by: washwiz | March 24, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

correction: the young boys house caught fire and killed his family and Gil helped him, saw him on the news, and helped.

Posted by: washwiz | March 24, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

correction: that wasn't "before the he was Allstar fame"...whatever that means. But he was most certainly an All Star by the time that happened.

Posted by: Barno1 | March 24, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Gilbert Arenas is being made the scapegoat for the entire incident. The other athlete involved received a sentence of one-year unsupervised. Gilbert's good deeds and the work he has done for the Wizards isn't being considered. If the prosecutors wanted to do something fine both athletes and use the money to keep guns from coming in from Virginia. This prosecution really sucks.

Posted by: stewart20002 | March 24, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Gilbert took time to say hello to my young son a few years ago after the Wizard's inter-squad scrimmage in Richmond. He won us over that day. His mistake of a few months ago hasn't changed anything.

Posted by: mack1 | March 24, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

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