Mark Wahlberg finally wants to go straight.
The former Dorchester punk turned Hollywood star says he has turned his life around. He would like to bury his history of terrorizing people of color in and around Savin Hill and has requested a pardon, acting under loosened guidelines put in place by Governor Deval L. Patrick.
His request would have to be taken up by the state’s Parole Board and then the Governor’s Council. Such is Wahlberg’s star power that at least one Governor’s Councilor, Mike Albano, has already declared his support for Wahlberg’s petition.
It’s interesting that Wahlberg is bothering with a pardon request because he has suffered so little professionally as a result of his awful behavior. His application claims that his rap sheet could interfere with being granted liquor licenses and his work helping “at-risk” people. But, in fact, his restaurant empire is clearly thriving and has just announced plans to expand. In addition, he has been lauded for his support of groups like the Dorchester Youth Collaborative. Obviously, Hollywood doesn’t care — Wahlberg’s latest movie, “The Gambler,” will be released Christmas Day.
Everyone’s rehabilitation should go so well.
Almost by definition, anyone seeking a pardon has behaved badly at some point, and Wahlberg is no exception. In 1986, when he was in his mid-teens, he and his friends chased a group of black elementary school kids away from Savin Hill Beach with rocks. In 1988, at 16, he beat Thanh Lam, a Dorchester convenience store owner, with a stick. That earned him a two-year sentence in the old Deer Island Jail, of which he served 45 days.
Some of his victims — who apparently never knew that one of their assailants had become famous — seemed unmoved when they heard about his pardon request. It’s impossible to blame them. But their reaction also points the way toward what needs to happen next.
Before any other steps are taken, Mark Wahlberg needs to find every single one of his victims and apologize. (If the Globe can find them, so can he.) No hiding behind press releases or publicists. He needs to pull up to their houses, in whatever movie stars drive this week, and say, “I’m sorry I terrorized you. I was a horrible person then. I’ve since learned how and why to be a decent person. I’m no longer the person I’m sorry you met.”
Then we can talk about the Parole Board and the Governor’s Council.
Given how little material gain he will get from a pardon, I don’t really doubt that Wahlberg feels genuine remorse for his past. It’s the only explanation for why he would voluntarily dredge up this embarrassing history.
But pardons are a serious process, to the point that many argue that recent governors have granted too few of them. Wahlberg shouldn’t get an E-ZPass because he’s a movie star and people like his restaurants. Cleansing his record and his conscience should be hard, not as easy as writing a few checks.
Around the time Wahlberg’s pardon application was becoming public knowledge, the streets of downtown Boston were briefly paralyzed by protesters, an act of civil disobedience, fueled by the non-indictments of two white police officers who had killed black men, that was being duplicated across the nation. Not many elected officials leaped to their defense.
As those protests underscored, the path to justice is often painful. I’m not against Mark Wahlberg’s pardon, but it shouldn’t come more easily than anyone else’s. There are probably plenty of people who deserve to be pardoned first, and their petitions shouldn’t get lost in the glare of celebrity.
Mark Wahlberg claims he’s a different man now, and he should be commended for that. But before he leaves his past behind, there are some other people who would like some closure, too — namely his victims.
I hope they hear from him soon.
Correction: An earlier version had the incorrect date for when Wahlberg assaulted Thanh Lam. It happened in 1988.