NEW YORK — Since it was revealed Mark Wahlberg is seeking a pardon in Massachusetts for assaults he committed as a teen, the actor is well aware that the court of public opinion has weighed in on why he wants one and whether he deserves it.
“Everyone has an opinion and has a reason why they think I’m doing it,” said the actor at the New York premiere of his new movie The Gambler opening Dec. 25.
“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.
A document was filed Nov. 26 requesting the pardon. It states in 1988, when Wahlberg was 16, he hit a man in the head with a wooden stick while trying to steal two cases of alcohol in front of a convenience store near his family’s home in the Dorchester section of Boston. He punched another man in the face while trying to avoid police.
Wahlberg admits in the application that he was high on marijuana and narcotics at the time. He ended up being convicted as an adult of assault and other charges, and he was sentenced to three months in jail. He said he was released after serving about 45 days.
Wahlberg, 43, who went on to be a rapper and then A-list actor who’s been nominated for an Oscar, said he isn’t trying to use his public persona to sway the decision.
“In no way shape or form was I trying to use my celebrity or success to say, ‘Well, I feel entitled to get this because of the fame and fortune.’” Instead he said “Every day I wake up trying to be the best person I can be.”
He also tries to set an example for kids growing up in tough neighborhoods like he did.
“I’ve worked really hard to be a positive influence for kids growing up in communities like mine who don’t really have a chance, and try to provide an opportunity for them to be more successful and that’s why I’m doing it.”
The actor said he’s never shied away from talking about his troubled past.
“And it’s not like the story hasn’t been talked about. I’ve been talking about it for 25 years. You read any piece that’s ever been done on me it’s really the same old kind of story and for me to kind of be able to move on from that and move forward and continue to show kids that anything’s possible.”
The Massachusetts Parole Board would have to review Wahlberg’s case and make a recommendation to the governor, who can grant pardons.
Pardons rarely are issued in Massachusetts. Gov. Deval Patrick has not approved one in his nearly two terms in office. Nor did former Gov. Mitt Romney.
Wahlberg said his commitment to being a good person and role model stands, no matter the outcome. “I will continue to do that whether the pardon is granted or not,” he said.