The Ted star shared a picture of George Floyd, whose death sparked protests across the United States after a police officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes, to his Instagram feed last week in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The murder of George Floyd is heartbreaking. We must all work together to fix this problem,” he wrote. “I’m praying for all of us. God bless.”
However, many commenters accused Wahlberg of hypocrisy given his history of using racial slurs and hate crimes as a teenager. The Independent has approached Wahlberg's representatives for comments on these accusations.
While living in Boston in the 1980s Wahlberg was twice charged for race-related hate crimes, serving time in jail for one of the attacks.
What were Wahlberg’s crimes?
In 1986, a then 15-year-old Wahlberg and three friends were charged for chasing three black children and pelting them with rocks while yelling: “Kill the n*****s” until an ambulance driver intervened.
The next day, Wahlberg harrassed another group of mostly black children (around the age of nine or 10) at the beach, gathering other white men to join in racially abusing and throwing rocks at them.
A seemingly unrelated second incident occurred two years later in 1988, when Wahlberg attacked two Vietnamese men while high on the drug PCP.
He called one man, Thanh Lam, a “Vietnam f***ing s***” and knocked him unconscious with a five-foot wooden stick, while punching another man, army veteran Johnny Trinh, in the eye later in the same day. Officers reported that Wahlberg used racist slurs to describe both men.
What was he charged with?
For the first attack, Wahlberg was found guilty of violating the civil rights of his victims, with a civil rights injunction being issued against him and two of his friends and the case settled the next month.
For the latter, Wahlberg was charged with attempted murder, but pleaded guilty to felony assault, claiming that he was intoxicated and that the attacks weren’t race related.
Due to his previous civil rights injunction prohibiting him from assaulting, threatening or intimidating anyone because of race or nationality, he was found to be in contempt of court and was sentenced to a two year prison sentence.
What sentence did Wahlberg serve in prison?
In the end, Wahlberg only served 45 days in prison of his two year sentence for attacking the Vietnamese men.
What has he said about the attacks?
In 2014, Wahlberg attempted to seek pardon for the second attack and have it wiped from his criminal record, saying that while his celebrity should “in no way, shape or form” be a reason to grant it, he hoped his recent actions would show that he had changed.
“I am deeply sorry for the actions that I took on the night of April 8, 1988, as well as for any lasting damage that I may have caused the victims,” Wahlberg wrote in his pardon application.
“Since that time, I have dedicated myself to becoming a better person and citizen so that I can be a role model to my children and others.”
He later dropped this request in 2016 and in a 2020 interview with The Guardian explained that he had “done the work” to make things right.
“I took it upon myself to own up to my mistakes and go against the grain and not be a part of the gang any more – to say that I was going to go and do my own thing,” he explained.
“[It] made it 10 times more difficult to walk from my home to the train station, to go to school, to go to work. But I also prided myself on doing the right thing and turning my life around … I would hope that people would be able to get a second chance in life.”
What have his victims said?
In recent years, the actor’s victims have expressed differing opinions on whether Wahlberg should still be held accountable for his teenage actions.
Kristyn Atwood, one of the fourth-grade students Wahlberg attacked at the beach in 1986 told the Associated Press that she didn’t think he should be pardoned: “I don’t really care who he is. It doesn’t make him any exception.
“If you’re a racist, you’re always going to be a racist,” she continued. “And for him to want to erase it, I just think it’s wrong.”
Trinh, the second of the Vietnamese men attacked by Wahlberg holds a different opinion, claiming that he should be forgiven.
While it was reported that the actor had blinded Trinh in one eye when he punched him during the 1988 attack, the army veteran revealed in 2014 that he had actually lost his eye when a grenade exploded while serving for the South Vietnamese army in 1975.
Trinh explained to the Mail Online: “He was young and reckless but I forgive him now. Everyone deserves another chance. I would like to see him get a pardon. He should not have the crime hanging over him any longer.”