Mark Wahlberg, star of box office hits Boogie Nights, The Perfect Storm, The Departed, Lone Surivor and more, and executive producer of Entourage and Boardwalk Empire, was one vicious dude in his teens. His rap sheet from the 1980’s reads like a series of scripts from brother Donnie’s NYPD series Blue Bloods. Of particular relevance today is that the former Marky Mark, now a huge Hollywood success, has business interests that could be helped if he were pardoned for his earlier crimes.
At age 15, in June 1986, he and two other Dorchester toughs chased three black children, yelling “kill the nigger, kill the nigger,” and threw rocks at them. The next day, one of those children on a field trip from the Mather School to Savin Hill, recognized the three assailants from the previous day. Wahlberg and his friends followed the teacher and the students, yelling racial epithets, again throwing rocks and hitting them. The court ordered them to stay away from the neighborhood children.
Two years later, in April 1988, things got more serious. Wahlberg attacked Dorchester resident Thanh Lam as he was crossing Dorchester Avenue carrying two cases of beer. Wahlberg brandished a heavy wooden stick, called Lam a “Vietnamese fucking shit,” and beat Lam over the head, breaking the stick. As the criminal complaint describes, Lam “fell to the ground unconscious.” He was treated overnight at Boston City Hospital.
Wahlberg and his buddies fled the scene and, not long afterward, came upon another Vietnamese man, Hoa Trinh. He put his arm around Trinh’s shoulder to evade the police and, when the police had passed, punched Trinh in the eye, knocking him to the ground. Trinh lost the sight in that eye.
Later that evening, Wahlberg was arrested and readily admitted the attack, seemingly proud of what he had done and spouting a stream of racial slurs. The prosecutor asked for a two-year sentence for attempted murder, but Wahlberg pled guilty to assault. Instead of two years, Wahlberg did just 45 days in the Deer Island House of Correction.
He was into drugs and kept getting into scrapes, including a 1992 attack on a neighbor, in which he beat and kicked him “without provocation,” breaking his jaw. Eventually he started to turn things around. During the ’90’s, Marky Mark cut some records, had a couple of hits and was memorable posing in a provocative Calvin Klein photo campaign. Movie opportunities rolled in, and for the last 20 years he has been a highly paid celebrity.
So now he has applied to the Massachusetts Board of Pardons . He says he has been a model citizen, and, as the Wahlburgers restaurant chain he owns with his brothers seeks permits to expand, he wants to wipe the slate clean.
Some in the old neighborhood don’t want to forgive him for the fear and brutality he rained down on them. One critic wrote that Wahlberg shouldn’t apply for a pardon as a lesson to troubled youth that “their actions have repercussions even it they later become wealthy celebrities.” But Nam Phan, the executive director of VietAID, a Vietnamese community center that opened in 2002, told me that he believes Wahlberg’s regret is sincere. Pham left commercial banking to work in the community, and the VietAID mission, he said, is all about helping people and providing second chances.
Wahlberg’s statement in seeking a pardon includes an apology to those whom he injured. But apparently he has never sought out the two Vietnamese men and asked them face to face for forgiveness. Even if he can’t find them to do so, here’s an idea.
Wahlberg created the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, which donates to youth causes, among them the Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester. For the last three years, VietAID has sought a grant from Wahlberg’s Foundation but has never received any response. I would think that the Board of Pardons, and indeed the entire community, would look very favorably on a significant Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation grant to the Vietnamese community. To start, how about one to VietAID? Make it big, and make it annually. Maybe he could even get brother Donnie to bring the Blue Bloods cast (including Tom Selleck and Tom Brady’s ex, Bridget Moynihan) to headline a fundraiser. If Mark Wahlberg were to get a pardon, perhaps he could commit an annual percentage of Wahlburgers’ profits to Boston organizations fighting racism.
Mark Wahlberg terrorized his Dorchester neighborhood, and backed his racial slurs against blacks and Vietnamese with brute force. People were traumatized, some for life. Wahlberg has turned his life around. The neighborhood still faces challenges.
Pardon him perhaps, after a full public hearing and a thorough review by the Governor, who should be less star struck than the Governor’s Council if Wahlberg comes before them. But first let Wahlberg engage his victims, provide substantial support and make it personal.
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