The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump extends clemency to sports gamblers and a rapper who had Lamar Jackson’s support

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson championed clemency efforts for rapper Kodak Black, above. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

In one of his final White House acts, President Trump granted clemency to several people with ties to the sports world Tuesday, his last night in office.

In all, Trump granted legal relief to 143 people, including rapper Kodak Black, whose cause was championed by Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson; sports gambler Billy Walters; and Casey Urlacher, the brother of former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher who pleaded not guilty in March to charges that he helped run an illegal offshore gambling ring.

Trump grants clemency to 143 people in late-night pardon blast

Black, who has had a handful of top-10 singles, was almost halfway through a 46-month prison term for lying on federal paperwork during an attempt to purchase guns. Jackson, the NFL MVP in 2019 who, like Black, grew up in Pompano Beach, Fla., had advocated for clemency, directing a Jan. 5 tweet to Trump’s attention, saying he had committed “a paperwork crime.”

“Hey @realdonaldtrump @potus my friend @KodakBlack1k deserves to be commuted. The system punished him way to hard for a paperwork crime,” Jackson wrote.

The 23-year-old rapper, whose legal name is Bill K. Kapri and who was born Dieuson Octave, has a history of other arrests and legal problems. He was sentenced in 2019 to 46 months in prison on federal weapons charges after he admitted to lying on background-check forms while twice buying multiple firearms. According to prosecutors, two of those guns turned up at crime scenes and one, which bore Black’s fingerprints and contained a live round, had been used to fire at a “rival rap artist.” Black has not been charged in the shooting. Another weapon was found in the trunk of a car as he and his team tried to cross the Canadian border. Black was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana and criminal possession of a firearm.

The White House noted Black’s “numerous philanthropic efforts … such as providing educational resources to students and families of fallen law enforcement officers and the underprivileged” in announcing the commutation of his sentence. “In addition to these efforts, he has paid for the notebooks of schoolchildren, provided funding and supplies to day-care centers, provided food for the hungry, and annually provides for underprivileged children during Christmas.”

Walters, whose sentence was commuted, had served nearly four years of the five-year sentence he received in 2017 for insider trading (he was released from a minimum-security prison in May to serve out the remainder of his incarceration at home because of the coronavirus pandemic). Reputedly one of the world’s most successful sports gamblers, Walters, 74, was found guilty of securities fraud, conspiracy and wire fraud, among other charges, in April 2017 after receiving nonpublic information from Thomas C. Davis, a board member of Dean Foods who helped Walters illegally make tens of millions of dollars, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors also claimed that Walters had given Phil Mickelson a Dean Foods stock tip that netted the professional golfer $1 million. Mickelson never testified in the case and was not was charged with a crime, and he and other golf personalities — including renowned teacher Butch Harmon, broadcaster David Feherty and former pro Peter Jacobsen — had supported Walters’s clemency, according to the Trump list.

The White House noted that Walters had paid nearly $44 million in fines — roughly equivalent to the amount he made in the insider-trading scheme — and is “well known for his philanthropic efforts and was previously named Las Vegas’ Philanthropist of the Year.”

The New York Times reported Sunday that Walters had hired John M. Dowd, Trump’s former personal lawyer, to assist in his clemency attempt.

Casey Urlacher pleaded not guilty in May after federal prosecutors alleged he acted as a recruiter and bagman for a Chicago area sports-gambling ring. In pardoning him, Trump said Urlacher “has been committed to public service and has consistently given back to his community.”

Brian Urlacher, Casey’s brother and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018, visited Trump at the White House in March 2020. None of the other nine co-defendants charged alongside Casey Urlacher received presidential clemency.

Trump also pardoned an art dealer and collector named Hillel Nahmad, who in 2013 pleaded guilty to a federal charge that he financed the operation of a high-stakes sports-gambling business. Nahmad, who owns six apartments on the 51st floor of Trump Tower in New York, served only four months of a 12-month sentence.

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