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Actor Seeks Pardon--Not Expungement--of Assault Conviction

17-Dec-2014

Actor Mark Wahlberg, when he was only 16 years old, was tried as an adult and convicted of an assault on two Vietnamese men. At that time, Wahlberg had several run-ins with the law and was a self-described thug.

The teen was sentenced to two years in prison, with all but three months suspended. He served about 45 days in prison before being released.

Wahlberg says that he used the experience to turn his life around, and if it hadn't been for the support of positive mentors and the church, he could have ended up dead or in prison like many of his friends. Instead, he became a successful actor and producer.

Now, having drastically changed his ways, actor Mark Wahlberg is seeking a pardon for the 1988 assault conviction.

Since he filed the petition for a pardon, people have come out of the woodwork with commentary about whether or not the man deserves a pardon. It is clear from their statements that many of these have no idea what a pardon is.

First, there were headlines saying that Wahlberg wanted to "clear his record." A pardon is not an expungement. An expungement removes the court record of a crime. Violent felonies--such as felony assault--are not eligible for expungment, and so Wahlberg would be unable to have the record of his conviction sealed. A pardon does not seal the record or erase the conviction. Rather, it is a formal acknowledgement that the person convicted has since changed his or her ways; it's official forgiveness, so to speak.

Another article claims that Wahlberg is seeking to have his "conviction overturned." That is even further from the truth. A conviction can only be overturned in an appeal. Wahlberg is not appealing the 26-year-old conviction. He is arguing no error in the court case. Rather, he is seeking a pardon of the crime from the Massachusetts governor.

Another erroneous belief is that granting the pardon would be "special treatment" for a celebrity. The ability to petition for a pardon is given to anyone who has been convicted of a crime and since become a productive member of society. Wahlberg's celebrity status should have no bearing on his receipt or denial of a pardon. 

Finally, some argue that Wahlberg shouldn't be granted a pardon, because he is only asking for one in order to further his family's hamburger restaurant business. Even if that is true that his sole purpose for requesting a pardon is that he "denied a concessionaire's license on the basis of [his] prior record," does that matter?

What should matter is not his celebrity, not his reasons for wanting a pardon, but the positive changes he has made in his life in the past 26 years. He is no longer a teenager hurling rocks and racial epithets, but he is a grown man--a father and a philanthropist. Even his victim agrees, saying the actor should be forgiven for his past:

"I would like to see him get a pardon. 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. He has grown up now. I am sure he has his own family and is a responsible man."

The victim, Johnny Trinh, disputed the rumor that the assault blinded him, saying that he was blind in his left eye before the attack.



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