More than two decades ago, True-See Allah was convicted of attempted murder in a Boston shooting that left a man paralyzed for life.
On Monday, in an extraordinary scene, some of the state’s top law enforcement officials argued that Allah, who has been out of prison since 1998, deserves a pardon.
They said Allah had served his time, reformed his ways, been forgiven by the victim, and dedicated his life to helping steer at-risk youth and inmates to lives of purpose instead of ones of crime.
“I believe in accountability, but I also believe in redemption,” Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said in testimony before the Governor’s Council, an eight-member panel that approves or denies pardons submitted by the governor. “He is redeemed,” the hard-bitten prosecutor added.
The victim’s widow, on behalf of her and her family, publicly forgave Allah at the hearing.
A top public safety aide to Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston, top former Boston Police Department officials, and Andrea J. Cabral, the state’s executive secretary of public safety, also testified in favor of a pardon for Allah, who works for the Suffolk County sheriff’s office helping inmates make the transition from jail to freedom.
“This man exemplifies exactly what the criminal justice system promises if one does the work,” Cabral said, adding that in all her years in law enforcement — as a prosecutor, sheriff, and top state official — she had “never known anyone more deserving of a pardon than True-See Allah.”
Damequa Williams, the widow of the victim, said she and her family missed her husband, MacArthur Williams Jr., every day. He was paralyzed in the 1989 shooting and died of bladder cancer in 2010.
But, she said, just as her husband had, she forgives Allah.
“I want you to know that I forgive you, I have no hard feelings, and I wish the very best for you,” she said, before giving Allah, 44, a hug.
He told the council he is seeking a pardon, in part, to allow him to advance in his career. Allah, whose name was then Troy C. Watson, was not the shooter. He was convicted of armed assault with intent to murder and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon for his role in instigating the shooting of Williams.
Allah, a former gang member, served more than eight years in prison for his crimes. There, he said, he joined the Nation of Islam and changed the direction of his life.
Speaking to the council, Allah, a Roxbury resident, said he devoted his career to helping reduce violence in Boston, steering young people away from gangs, and helping current and former inmates rejoin society without returning to their old ways.
Allah said he takes full responsibility for his crimes. And he told the council he wanted a pardon to be able to expand his efforts beyond his current role, perhaps including a run for public office.
“I’d like to be able to apply for any job within the Commonwealth and be able to be considered based on the merit of my professional history, not because I had a criminal past to be overlooked,” he said. “For me, a pardon would be huge, it would be monumental, because it would wipe the slate clean.”
Patrick’s proposed pardon for Allah, which effectively would expunge his criminal record, is one of four the governor submitted to the council. They are the only pardons of his almost eight-year term. So far, the council has approved two.
Allah is the only one of the four seeking a pardon for a violent offense.
The state Parole Board, acting as the Advisory Board of Pardons, recommended to Patrick that Allah be pardoned for crimes including those related to the shooting as well as drug and gun offenses from the late 1980s.
Patrick submitted the conditional pardon, which would not restore Allah’s ability to lawfully carry a firearm, to the council for its consent.
It requires a majority vote. The council is expected to vote on Allah’s pardon on Jan. 2.
When the council asked if anyone wanted to testify against the pardon, there was only silence: No one came forward to speak against it.
Still, questioning Allah for hours, councilors grappled with the severity of the crime and the fact that Allah, who is married with a daughter, is already employed and appears to have a comfortable life.
Councilor Terrence W. Kennedy spoke about Williams never being able to get a pardon from a life using a wheelchair and wondered how to balance the “horrific” crime against the “wonderful things” Allah has done with his life since he got out of prison.
“I think you’re a great human being at this point in your life and you’re doing probably more than I’ve ever done in my life to help people,” he said. “But I still have to weigh it against what happened to this poor man.”
Through all the testimony, Damequa Williams sat quietly watching, her expression often pained. She later said it was an extremely difficult day for her, her children, and MacArthur Williams’s parents. And for all the discussion of the good Allah has done, Williams said she wished there had been more focus on the positive deeds her late husband had done in the years he was in the wheelchair.
Joshua Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.