Some think he deserves forgiveness, while others don't want to see the record just "erased"

By Tim Nudd
Updated January 20, 2015 11:30 AM
Credit: HT/Abaca

Some think he deserves forgiveness. Others want the stain permanently on his record.

As Mark Wahlberg seeks an official pardon for a 1988 attack on two Vietnamese men, victims of an earlier racially motivated attack by a teenaged Wahlberg in 1986 – which got him a civil rights injunction, which the assistant district attorney who issued it said in a recent Boston Globe op-ed amounted to a “stern warning” – have spoken out about whether the actor deserves exoneration.

And they’re hardly in agreement.

“I don’t think he should get a pardon,” Kristyn Atwood tells the Associated Press. Atwood, now 38, was one of a group of mostly black 4th grade students on a class trip whom Wahlberg and his white friends threw rocks and shouted racial slurs at during an incident in 1986.

“I don’t really care who he is,” Atwood says. “It doesn’t make him any exception. If you’re a racist, you’re always going to be a racist. And for him to want to erase it, I just think it’s wrong.”

However, the teacher on that class trip, Mary Belmonte, thinks he deserves the pardon.

“I believe in forgiveness,” says Belmonte, who is white. “He was just a young kid – a punk – in the mean streets of Boston. He didn’t do it specifically because he was a bad kid. He was just a follower doing what the other kids were doing.”

Wahlberg was 15 at the time of the 1986 attack. He and his friends shouted “Kill the n–s!” until an ambulance driver intervened. Atwood still has a scar from getting hit by a rock. “It was a hate crime, and that’s exactly what should be on his record forever,” she says.

“I was really scared,” Belmonte says. “My heart was beating fast. I couldn’t believe it was happening. The names. The rocks. The kids chasing.”

Wahlberg and two friends were issued a civil rights injunction over the incident, meaning if they committed another hate crime, they would be sent to jail. That’s just what happened in 1988 after Wahlberg, then 16, attacked two Vietnamese men while trying to steal beer near his Dorchester, Massachusetts, home.

Wahlberg, now 43, says he’s tried to be a positive influence for today’s wayward youth so they don’t commit the kind of crimes that he did.

“I’ve been working very hard to correct a lot of mistakes that I made since the day that I woke up and realized, ‘You know what? I need to be a leader instead of a follower,'” he said in December.