Why Mark Wahlberg Doesn't Deserve a Pardon

Why Mark Wahlberg Doesn't Deserve a Pardon

In 2014, actor Mark Wahlberg applied for a pardon from then Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.  By the time he turned 17, the actor committed several crimes.  After reading his petition, I concluded Wahlberg did not deserve a pardon. I will explain why.

His Crimes

In 1988, Wahlberg attacked two Vietnamese men.  He hit one man in the head with a wooden stick. He punched another man in the face. One of Wahlberg's victims lost an eye. Wahlberg made racial slurs during the attacks.

Wahlberg was charged with and convicted of assault, battery, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. In a separate proceeding, Wahlberg was convicted of criminal contempt. The contempt charges stemmed from an earlier case.

In both cases, Wahlberg was charged as an adult, a decision he clearly feels was unjust.  But his history suggests otherwise. At 15, Wahlberg was caught throwing rocks and making racial slurs at a group of African-American fourth graders. A civil injunction was entered against him. Wahlberg violated the injunction when he was arrested again in 1988.  That violation led to the criminal contempt charges.

Wahlberg was sentenced to two years in prison but served just 45 days.

In Massachusetts, two requirements must be met in order to qualify for a pardon: 1) accepting responsibility for the  crimes committed, and 2) identifying a “specific, verified, and compelling need” for a pardon.” Wahlberg does not satisfy either requirement.

Wahlberg’s Failure to Accept Responsibility

Wahlberg’s description of what happened in 1988 begs the question of whether he's accepted responsibility for his crimes.

Wahlberg does not describe what injuries his victims sustained or that he made racially insensitive comments during the attacks. He also fails to discuss the rock-throwing incident.

Wahlberg’s selective storytelling reminds me of a clemency argument I once heard. The person sought clemency for auto theft. He and his attorney provided few details about the crime. The state’s attorney, who opposed the request, provided the additional facts: 1) the stolen car belonged to a convent, 2) the car was driven to a school and set on fire, and 3) the school caught fire from the car. The devil is in the details.

Wahlberg Lacks a Compelling Need to be Pardoned

Wahlberg's efforts to show a compelling need for a pardon fall short.

Initially, Wahlberg asks:

Why isn’t it enough that I have personally risen above my past, found success in Hollywood, have served as a local and national philanthropist and am the father of four beautiful children with my incredible wife?

The reasons Wahlberg gives for why he deserves a pardon are the same reasons I would use to argue the contrary.

A pardon is reserved for individuals who, despite having rehabilitated themselves, continue to be stigmatized by their criminal history. They have few job prospects and often face discrimination in housing. Unlike the clients I represent, Wahlberg does not face discrimination in the workplace or in the housing market.

Wahlberg claims that his record might cause him to be denied a concessionaire’s license. Mere speculation, however, is not proof of a verified or compelling need for a pardon.

Wahlberg further argues that he cannot work in law enforcement. This fact, he contends, keeps him from being able to work with at-risk individuals.

Does anyone believe that Wahlberg wants to quit his day job to become a police officer? His age alone would disqualify him. As to Wahlberg's claim that he's being denied an opportunity to work with at-risk youth, I find that claim doubtful. I am aware of several organizations that employ ex-felons to work with at-risk youth because of their street cred.

Many people oppose Wahlberg’s petition, mostly because they don’t believe he should be singled out for special treatment - for being “white, rich and famous,” as New York Times columnist Frank Bruni recently wrote

My objection to Wahlberg's pardon request is simple: he doesn't need or deserve one.