Letter from Jed Leist
I received this letter in the mail today and thought it was interesting enough to share it with you all. This is the entire letter, I've just removed certain names to protect the identity of his family.
February 13, 2009
My name is Jed Leist and I am the person that filed the lawsuit against you for the incident at Mandalay Bay at UFC 64. That being said, I hope you will read this entire letter with an open mind. I am a saved Christian man now, in part because of you. As funny as that may sound right now, please allow me to elaborate.
I went to UFC 64 (Franklin vs. Silva 1) a big fan of yours. No one can deny that you are an incredible athlete and one of the best fighters that the UFC has seen. Getting to meet you at the autograph session was pretty exciting for me. Afterward, I was pretty upset and thought of you and your friends as overly cocky. I had several problems with people after that including your friend Tim Sylvia. I went there from Atlanta looking to have a good time with my friends for the weekend, but left very dejected. I didn't read the bible back then, so I didn't have a very good Christian attitude. I was letting that weekend eat me up inside, instead of just letting it go. Also, I was facing some extremely serious legal problems at home that I'm sure you are aware of.
When I was young, I wanted to follow in my dad's footsteps as a police officer. I joined the Explorers and did a hitch in the US Army, serving in Desert Shield/Storm. After coming home, I made a lot of very bad decisions in life and ended up with a felony record. I matured very late in life. In 2001 when I was 30 years old, I moved to Los Angeles from Grand Junction, Colorado and basically started over. I met my current wife while living there. We are married and have two wonderful daughters ages 6 and 4. We eventually moved to Atlanta, Georgia where we own a nice home in the suburb. Things were going very well for us. My wife is German, so we would travel to Europe twice a year to visit family. In late 2004 I found the opportunity to pursue my dream job that I gave up on so many years before. That was a decision I will forever regret. At the academy, I was named class president. I placed first in shooting and second in academics. Once I started at the department, I really excelled. I was a member of our tactical team and I had a knack for finding drugs. I made more drug seizures than the rest of the officers in our small department combined. That included the largest drug seizure in the city's history. I also obtained a pilot's license in helicopters, my other love. I hoped to someday fly for a department. The best of both worlds. I have never been happier in my life. But, I didn't have Jesus in my life. Of course it all came crashing down on me.
I was arrested by the ATF for being a felon in possession of a firearm for carrying my duty weapon. And my wife was charged with lying on and ATF form by saying that she claimed some guns she bought were hers when they were in fact mine. This was extremely unfortunate because my wife did not know that I was a felon. She had never even had a traffic ticket prior to this. Ingrid was an account manager for 21 years when his happened. She obtained her college degree while working full time and also while carrying and giving birth to our two daughters. All of this at 42 years of age!
In other words, my actions caused my wife to be charged with a felony. She truly never had any idea that she broke the law. (In fact the ATF agent later said that he is convinced that she did not break the law, but by that time it was too late.) I was ultimately given a twenty year sentence (Which everyone thought was a big harsh.) and my wife was given fifteen months. (Which everyone just couldn't believe.) My kids now live in Germany with family and I haven't got to see them in sixteen months. Obviously this just tears my heart out. My wife was a permanent resident, but now INS is trying to deport her when she is released in April of this year. If that happens, I will lose all contact with my family. You may or may not agree, but there is a point where the punishment completely outweighs the crime. Child molesters and murderers get less. No one was hurt by my crime and a couple actually had their lives saved. As you can see, my whole life got turned upside down.
So here I am, very bitter and hating life. The show "The Ultimate Fighter" comes on TV one night and you and Matt Serra were the coaches then. On this particular show, you brought in some Bibles and asked the guys to read the book of Esther. That really offended a lot of people including me. For no reason what-so-ever, it made me really mad. I was raised in a very good, Christian home, but I never really accepted Jesus into my life. I thought I had, but I was wrong. Anyway, I asked myself why I disliked you so much and why I was so mad that you asked the guys to read out of the Bible. It made no sense to me. The only thing that I could come up with was that the Devil doesn't want people to learn about God. He hates us and will do anything to stop us. I went and found my Bible and read the book of Esther right then. Matt, I have never looked back! I just went to the beginning and read the entire thing. Then I read it again. Now I try and study it more. It's a great story on history, but you miss so much when you just blaze right through it!
I didn't come to jail to find religion. I am starting to know Christ now. I was truly in need of God and He showed me enough mercy to bring me back. And He used you to help me, Matt! It was no accident how we met and how things have went for me in my life. God had His plan and I am lucky that He introduced me to you. Even if it was under what I thought at the time was a bad circumstance. Now I praise God for that encounter I had with you.
You are in a very unique position being both a Christian and a pro athlete. Things that you do or say can effect other people even if you don't see it. Some people talked bad about what you did on that episode of TUF. Well pal, you get the last laugh because it did touch someone all the way across the country.
My wife has become saved and is a Christian herself! My daughters now have a much brighter future as well. We are good to our kids, but now we can raise them properly in Christ. I now have the peace of mind knowing that we are all saved. I don't think that I can put into words just how much of a weight that is to have lifted off my shoulders! We have a lot of difficult times ahead, but there is nothing that we can't handle because we now have Jesus on our side.
Matt, this letter isn't saying that I forgive you. It's saying, "Please forgive me!" It is also saying thank you! You have touched my life in a way that you can not fathom and I will never be able to repay you for it. I thank God for you and keep you in my prayers. I hope you find my story positive and realize that I truly hope you find it in you to forgive my actions.
I'm really not a bad person Matt. I have lived a life that I am not at all proud of, but that is my old life. If I ever get to meet you again, I will shake your hand and thank you for my life. If you find the time in your busy schedule, I would love to hear your thoughts. If not, I do understand. I know that it's got to be a little weird getting this letter from me. I wouldn't blame you one bit for tossing it. I did want you to know what you have done for me, even if it was indirectly. (Funny how I ended up at a prison twenty miles up the road from where you live. What a coincidence!)
God bless you and your family, Matt! And again, thank you!
All my respect
P.S. - Please keep my family in your prayers. I might have my problems, but my little girls and wife are the innocent ones here. They deserve much better in their lives.