Mark Wahlberg Seeking Pardon for Past Crimes—But Does He Deserve One?

Courtney Enlow

This week, news broke that Mark Wahlberg is seeking a governor’s pardon for crimes he committed when he was 16 years old. This is interesting for several reasons. Most know of his checkered legal past, but few knew the exact nature of the crimes Wahlberg committed in his teen years. Specifically, how completely, mind-bogglingly racist they were, attacking two Vietnamese men—beating one man brutally with a stick and partially blinding the other man—calling them “slant-eyed gooks” and “Vietnam fucking shit.” And this 1988 incident isn’t the only violent or racially item on his record. Gawker lists several.

But, clearly, if he’s requesting a pardon, he must feel really bad, right?

Well, he has never apologized to his victims, the Vietnamese community or the general public. And obviously his career has never suffered.

But, clearly, if he’s requesting a pardon, he must be facing some real struggles?

Well, part of his reasoning includes a desire to work with at-risk kids, but a big part of it seems to be to get a concessionaire’s license to kick Wahlburgers up a notch (the business is already set to expand to 27 new locations).

Should a person suffer forever the consequences of decisions they made in their teen years? That said, what is the answer when there have been no *real* consequences? Sure, he’s struggling getting a concessionaire’s license, but he’s a multi-millionaire Oscar nominee and restaurant owner, hugely respected in the industry, drawing massive crowds of movie-goers. His consequences don’t sound like the same consequences faced by a lot of people who have committed similar crimes.

In his petition, Wahlberg writes:

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. It would be formal recognition that someone like me can receive official public redemption if he devotes himself to personal improvement and a life of good works.

Wahlberg has turned his life around in a big way. He’s obviously been successful, and he’s done a lot for charity. That’s great. He can serve as a role model to kids everywhere that it is possible to take your life from low to the highest high. But money, success, even just being a good guy, that doesn’t pardon a crime. Especially, most especially, when no remorse has been shared with the victims.

Wahlberg may have done himself a disservice by seeking this pardon. In his very own Streisand effect, in an attempt to conceal the record of his past mistakes, he’s brought them attention they never had before. Most people had no idea about the racial nature of these incidents, now they do. Instead of highlighting what a great guy he is, everyone knows that he is or at least used to be an awful one.

The world of public perception is tricky. Celebrity images are hugely fragile, but also hugely resilient. Ultimately, Wahlberg will be fine. We’ll forget about this and move on. He’ll be pardoned by the people.

As for whether or not he’ll be pardoned for his crimes, that’s up to the governor.

[Photo Credit: Getty Images]