Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Does Mark Wahlberg Deserve a Pardon for His Violent Racial Attacks?

By any measure, the former teen music idol / underwear model turned actor / producer Mark Wahlberg has come a long way since the early 90's when he was the leader of a boy-band named  Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch.

His jovial side-kicks The Funky Bunch included his brother Donnie and five other guys who performed under names like Hector the Booty Inspector, Scottie Gee and Dan-o Fresh.

But over the years he's earned a reputation as a solid actor with legitimate screen presence.

He received critical acclaim for his roles in 1997's "Boogie Nights" and in 2010's "The Fighter" - he also scored a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for his role in Martin Scorsese's 2006 Best Picture, "The Departed".

So it's a little disconcerting to hear the words "bias crime" associated with his name.

According to a December 4th story posted on The Smoking Gun Website, public records show that Wahlberg has formally petitioned the office of the Governor of Massachusetts to remove a 1988 conviction for violent assault against a Vietnamese immigrant named Tranh Lam from his record permanently.

According to public records, Wahlberg served 45 days in jail for the assault which stemmed from a 1988 incident in which he tried to steal two cases of beer from a convenience store in Dorchester, MA.

When Lam tried to stop him, Wahlhberg called Lam a "Vietnam fucking shit" before striking him in the head with a stick, knocking him unconscious; then punched a man named Hoa Trinh as he fled the scene.

The police report states that Wahlberg repeatedly referred to his two innocent victims as "gooks" and "slant-eyed gooks".

In his petition to the Massachusetts Advisory Board of Pardons back in late November, the 43 year-old actor claims he has “dedicated myself to becoming a better person and citizen so that I can be a role model to my children and others.”

Then points out that the assault conviction on his record prevents him from getting a concessionaire's license in the state of California where he lives, which is an “important consideration given my personal involvement in various restaurant ventures.”

Hmm, I'll bet it is.

This story is getting a lot more attention up in the Boston area than it is down here in the NY/NJ/Philly area, my younger brother told me about it earlier today after he sent a letter to the editor of the Boston Globe opposing Wahlberg being granted a pardon that would wipe his record clean.

It's one thing if someone was petitioning for a pardon after an assault related to say a bar fight, but Wahlberg intentionally and violently assaulted a Vietnamese immigrant small business owner after hurling racial slurs at him.

Plus, it's not his only incident of assaulting someone based solely on their nationality, race or gender either.

As the Smoking Gun article notes, a 1993 article in the Village Voice by Shaun Assael reported that Massachusetts prosecutors raised accusations that Wahlberg had “demonstrated a continuing pattern of terrorizing people of color.” 

Like the multiple incidents as a teenager when he was identified as one of three boys who were "chasing and throwing rocks at black school children."  At one point during the chase they were screaming "kill the nigger, kill the nigger."

Now I believe in forgiveness.

And I'm happy that Mark Wahlberg has found God, is raising a family and trying to be a role model (and a restaurant owner...) but I don't see how that warrants permanently erasing violent assaults on Vietnamese immigrants and black school children from his permanent record.

If he really wants to be a role model then he should start talking publicly about how felony convictions hamper the lives of convicted felons long after they've served their time.

Or he could talk about his bias crimes against innocent people as a means of creating a badly-needed dialog on race and ethnicity in this country.

But trying to sanitize those crimes from his record as if they never happened?

That's not really demonstrating that he's learned much of anything; aside from being able to hire expensive attorneys and leverage his fame and wealth to game the system.

There are thousands and thousands of genuinely reformed felons across the nation with good hearts, families and religion in their lives who are systematically hampered from applying for certain jobs or applying for specialized licenses, OR VOTING because of felony convictions on their records that are over two decades old - and few if ANY of them have the kind of financial resources Wahlberg is lucky enough to have.

Look at this way, if Mark Wahlberg was black or Latino and he petitioned the state to erase a 26 year-old violent assault from his permanent record that occurred after a brazen shoplifting attempt, do you think his record would be expunged?

I don't think the dysfunctional American justice system should function differently for Mark Wahlberg just because he's a famous wealthy Hollywood actor/producer - or because of his skin color.

Especially when his crimes were motivated because of how he felt about the skin color or nationality of innocent people.

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