The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Mark Wahlberg racial violence victim says actor shouldn’t be pardoned

Just 16 in 1988, the boy who would become film star Mark Wahlberg assaulted two Asian men while trying to steal two cases of beer from a convenience store.

More than 25 years later, Wahlberg, a devout Catholic and philanthropist, has made a much publicized — and much debated — request for a pardon for his crime.

But now, another of Wahlberg’s victims — not one of the Asian men, but an African American woman he attacked in 1986 — says the Commonwealth of Massachusetts shouldn’t forgive and forget hate crimes, even if they were committed by a movie star.

“I don’t think he should get a pardon,” Kristyn Atwood, 38, of Decatur, Ga., told the Associated Press. She was a Boston fourth grader on a field trip to the beach when Wahlberg and his partners-in-crime threw rocks and yelled racial epithets, including the n-word, at her and her classmates.

“I don’t really care who he is,” she said. “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. … It was a hate crime and that’s exactly what should be on his record forever.”

The attack left a scar, she said — and trauma that won’t fade even if the actor’s record is wiped clean.

“I was really scared,” Atwood told the AP. “My heart was beating fast. I couldn’t believe it was happening. The names. The rocks. The kids chasing.”

Wahlberg was not tried and convicted for this 1986 attack. Instead, a Boston judge issued a civil rights injunction against him and his friends; as the AP put it, “essentially a stern warning that if they committed another hate crime, they would be sent to jail.”

Unfortunately for Wahlberg, Judith Beals, the former Massachusetts assistant attorney general who sought that civil rights injunction, offered her thoughts on the actor’s pardon last week in a Boston Globe editorial called “Don’t Pardon Mark Wahlberg.”

In the 13 years I served in the attorney general’s office, I recall only one instance of a defendant violating a civil rights injunction — Mark Wahlberg,” Beals wrote, saying his 1988 attack on the Asian men at the convenience store showed “the same tendency toward serial acts of racial violence.” She added: “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.”

Indeed, Beals said a pardon would do little but indicate Wahlberg enjoys white privilege, undermining the actor’s work with at-risk youth: “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?”

Besides family members in business with the actor with the restaurant Wahlburgers — and, presumably, the cast of “Entourage” — there is at least one person in Wahlberg’s corner as he seeks his pardon: Hoa Trinh, one of the Asian men he attacked in 1988.

“I would like to see him get a pardon,” Trinh said. “He should not have the crime hanging over him any longer. … He paid for his crime when he went to prison. I am not saying that it did not hurt when he punched me in the face, but it was a long time ago.”


Mark Wahlberg wants a pardon for assault conviction in latest step on road to redemption

Should Mark Wahlberg be pardoned? The attorney who prosecuted him says no.