Mark Wahlberg Explains Why He’s Seeking Pardon Over 1988 Assault Case: “I Have Done Tons of Work to Better Myself”

Mark Wahlberg, who is seeking a pardon for an assault conviction in 1988, says he has worked hard since then to better himself as a person, not a celebrity, and serve as a positive influence for children.


The 43-year-old Oscar-nominated Fighter actor and father of four submitted his petition two weeks ago to the office of the governor of his native Massachusetts. When he was 16 and living in Dorchester, Boston’s largest neighborhood, he was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, convicted of assault and spent more than a month in jail for attacking two Vietnamese men during an attempted robbery. During the incident, the actor used profanities and racist language.

“I’ve been spending the past 27 years trying to correct the mistakes that I’ve made,” Wahlberg told E! News. “I’m not trying to gain a pardon because I feel like, well, now I’m rich and successful. I didn’t ask for it five years, 10 years, 20 years, 25 years after the fact. ”

“I feel like I have now gotten to a place where not only did I have a huge amount of remorse but I have done tons of work to better myself as a person, not as a celebrity,” he said.

In his petition, Wahlberg notes that he has been in the public spotlight for more than 20 years, “first as a musical artist known as Marky Mark.” The filing includes a professional biography that notes his acting achievements, such as his Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for The Fighter and The Departed. The document also notes his “breakout rule” in Boogie Nights, which it says “established Wahlberg as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors.”

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Mark Wahlberg, Rhea DurhamFrazer Harrison/Getty Images

A copy of his pardon application was posted by The Boston Globe and CNN. Wahlberg writes that on the late evening of April 8, 1988 in Dorchester, he attempted to steal two cases of alcohol from a man standing outside a convenience store. He says he hit the person on the head with a wooden stick he was carrying, then ran down the block to avoid the police and encountered another man, who he punched in the face.

“I was detained by police a few minutes after that,” he says. “While I was detained, the police discovered that I had a small amount of marijuana in my back pocket. During the incident, I was under the influence of alcohol and narcotics.”

Wahlberg was tried as an adult and ended up serving 45 days in jail for the assault case.

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The actor has talked about his troubled youth publicly before.

“This something that I lived, you know, growing up in the street,” he told E! News. “Now I can be a positive influence in kids’ lives. I just hope that, you know, I can be recognized for that. If not, I will continue to do that.”

He says in his petition that for more than 20 years, he has “dedicated a substantial amount of time, energy and money to philanthropic efforts.” His petition includes a list of more than 10 charity organizations he supports, including the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Youth Foundation. He also states in his filing that he makes it a point to attend church almost every day.

“For me, it always kinda goes back to having God in my life and I have that joy and I have that appreciation, I have gratitude,” Wahlberg told E! News. “So that allows me to get up every day, inspires me to work harder at being a better person, a better father, a better husband, better at what I do, to appreciate and cherish the opportunities that I’ve had, considering all the things that I’ve gone through in my life and how many people that I know that aren’t as fortunate as me.”

Brendan Wahlberg, Mark Wahlberg, Ella Rae Wahlberg, Rhea Durham, Michael WahlbergD Dipasupil/FilmMagic

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The actor says in his petition that his past convictions still impact him legally and lists the reasons he is seeking a pardon.

“If I were to receive a pardon, however, I generally could not be denied a concessionaire’s license on the basis of my prior record, an important consideration given my personal involvement in various restaurant ventures,” he writes.

Walberg, who lives with his wife and four children in California, is a founder and owns two restaurants in his native Massachusetts, including Wahlburgers, the burger eatery that is the focus of an A&E Reality show. He notes in his petition that an additional branch opened in Canada and that the chain is “expanding nationwide.”

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He also states that with a pardon, he would have the option of becoming “more active in law enforcement activities, including those that assist at-risk individuals” and notes that if he were to receive a pardon, he would be legally authorized to obtain a firearm permit in California, although, as he states, “I have not attached any letters from my local licensing authorities because I am not seeking a full and unconditional pardon for the purpose of receiving a firearm permit.”

“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,” Wahlberg writes. “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.”

A Massachusetts parole board is set to review Wahlberg’s case and pass on its recommendation to Gov. Deval Patrick, who will make the final decision pending approval by an eight-person council, CNN reported.

The parole board’s chairwoman, Charlene Bonner, told The Boston Herald that it could be months before the actor is granted a hearing. The Boston Globe reported that Wahlberg is one of at least 70 people who have applied for a pardon in the months before Patrick leaves office, including a “store manager who sold crack cocaine,” and a father “arrested in the mid-90s for bringing marijuana to his high school.”

—Reporting by Alicia Quarles