Mark Wahlberg did some bad stuff when he was a kid, but at 43, he’s more than made up for it as a philanthropist and a role model for others. Right?
As the actor and producer petitions Massachusetts to pardon him for a hate crime he committed when he was 16, back in 1988, one of his victims says the answer to that question is no.
“I don’t think he should get a pardon,” Kristyn Atwood told the Associated Press. “I don’t really care who he is. It doesn’t make him any exception. If you’re a racist, you’re always going to be a racist. And for him to want to erase it, I just think it’s wrong.”
Wahlberg attacked Atwood and other then-fourth grade students who were on a class trip to the beach in 1986, more than a year before the crime he is seeking to wipe from his record, in Dorchester, Mass. The Boston-born Wahlberg — still several years away from his turn in Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch — joined his white friends in shouting “Kill the n-s!” and throwing rocks at the mostly black students until a nearby ambulance driver broke it up.
Atwood, now 38, still has a scar from the incident.
“It was a hate crime,” she said. “And that’s exactly what should be on his record forever.”
Atwood’s former teacher, Mary Belamonte, feels differently, though.
“I believe in forgiveness,” said Belamonte, who is white. “He was just a young kid — a punk — in the mean streets of Boston. He didn’t do it specifically because he was a bad kid. He was just a follower doing what the other kids were doing.” Still, Belamonte admitted that she was “really scared” during the attack. “My heart was beating fast,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it was happening. The names. The rocks. The kids chasing.”
The teenage Wahlberg was slapped with a civil rights injunction for his part in the crime. But he got into even more trouble a year later, when he was 16, and that is the crime for which he’s seeking a pardon. In that attack, a drug and alcohol-fueled Wahlberg knocked a man unconscious and punched another in the eye. That time, both victims were Vietnamese. Wahlberg again used racial slurs and again, it was determined to be a hate crime. Wahlberg was tried as an adult, and served 45 days in prison for the offense.
The Fighter star filed his petition Nov. 26. In it, he explained that he sought the pardon for many reasons, including the fact that he’s reformed himself with good works, such as the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, which has raised millions for youths.
“The easiest answer is that my past convictions still legally impact me to this day,” he wrote. “For example, my prior record can potentially be the basis to deny me a concessionaire’s license in California and elsewhere. If I were to receive a pardon, however, I generally could not be denied a concessionaire’s license on the basis of my prior record, an important consideration given my personal involvement in various restaurant ventures.”
Wahlberg noted his convictions also prohibit him from “actually obtaining positions in law enforcement,” although he’s become close with officers in both L.A. and Boston. He already serves on the board of directors of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Youth Foundation and wants the opportunity to become more active assisting at-risk individuals.
“The more complex answer is that receiving a pardon would be a formal recognition that I am not the same person that I was on the night of April 8, 1988…” he wrote. “My hope is that, if I receive a pardon, troubled youths will see this as an inspiration and motivation that they too can turn their lives around and be formally accepted back into society.”
The application is currently in front of the parole board.