Should he or shouldn’t he? That’s the debate surrounding Mark Wahlberg’s request to the Massachusetts Board of Pardons for a pardon for a 1988 crime, where the actor — then aged 16 — beat up two Vietnamese men. Court documents report that Wahlberg shouted racial slurs at the two men as he attacked them.
Wahlberg was arrested, convicted of assault and served 45 days in prison. Now 43, the actor has pointed to his philanthropy and charity work in the decades since the assault as a reason his record should be cleared, while also mentioning his intention to obtain a concessionaire’s license for his restaurant businesses, which could be hindered without the pardon.
But Judith Beals, the attorney who prosecuted Wahlberg, doesn’t agree and has written a condemning op-ed on the matter.
“As private citizen, I see no reason why that history should be erased from the public record through a pardon,” Beals wrote in an editorial in the Boston Globe this week. “While private acts of reconciliation and forgiveness can be an important part of our shared racial history, that history should never be erased.” Beals recounts how Wahlberg had a history of using violence and hurling racial slurs against minorities prior to the 1988 incident. She added that the attack on the two Vietnamese men, Thanh Lam and Hoa Trinh, “showed the same tendency toward serial acts of racial violence.”
The former prosecutor went on: “Wahlberg has never acknowledged the racial nature of his crimes. Even his pardon petition describes his serial pattern of racist violence as a ‘single episode’ that took place while he was ‘under the influence of alcohol and narcotics.’ For a community that continues to confront racism and hate crime, we need acknowledgment and leadership, not denial.”
Beals also notes that pardoning Wahlberg would send a harmful message. “[A] formal public pardon would highlight all too clearly that if you are white and a movie star, a different standard applies. Is that really what Wahlberg wants?”