Donald Trump Grants Clemency to Legendary Las Vegas Gambler Billy Walters
Photo credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images. Pictured: Donald Trump
Famed sports gambler Billy Walters was among the 143 people to which outgoing President Donald Trump granted clemency in his final day in office.
Walters was among the 70 people who were commuted, meaning the crime isn’t wiped from his record but his required time served is being reduced.
Walters was convicted in 2017 and sentenced to five years in prison and forced to pay back more than $40 million in ill-gotten gains for his role in an insider trading scheme involving milk-maker Dean Foods.
Walters moved to Nevada in 1980 after being convicted of bookmaking in Kentucky. He was part of a betting syndicate in the 1980s that used data and computer analysis to beat sportsbooks — well ahead of their time.
Walters told “60 Minutes” in 2011 that he never had a losing year betting and that a good year could mean a $50 million windfall.
In that piece, former Vegas bookmaker Kenny White called Walters "the most dangerous sports betting in the history of Nevada, the history of the world."
Walters, who to this day maintains his innocence for insider trading, was released in May 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis and was serving the rest of his sentence at home. The commutation will now wipe out the remaining time — a little less than one year.
“I have tried to lead a life marked by concern for others and I hope those qualities, along with the government misconduct that led to my wrongful conviction, convinced the White House to grant me clemency. I also hope this sends a strong message to law enforcement to refrain from illegal misconduct in pursuing their targets," Walters said in a statement.
Walters said is optimistic he will prevail in his federal civil case filed against five senior federal law enforcement officials — including Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York — for allegedly covering up and lying to the federal court about illegal leaks of false information to the media.
In announcing his commutation, the White House said that several people sponsored the action on Walters’ behalf, including golfer Phil Mickelson, swing coach Butch Harmon, TV commentators David Feherty and Peter Jacobsen and former 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan, who did the profile on Walters and revealed his practice publicly for the first time.
Mickelson allegedly took a tip from Walters and made $931,000 on Dean Foods stock. The golfer then allegedly used that to pay Walters back for a gambling debt. In 2016, Mickelson paid the $931,000 back to the Securities & Exchange Commission, plus $105,000 interest. Mickelson’s name was mentioned at Walters’ trial more than 100 times, but Mickelson pleaded the fifth and never testified.
“Here is a guy that all he has to do was come forward and tell the truth,” Walters told ESPN in 2018. “That was all he had to do. The guy wouldn’t do that because he was concerned about his image. He was concerned about his endorsements.”
Walters was represented by lawyer John Dowd to spur Trump into action. Dowd was Trump’s lead counsel defending him against allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 Election.
Trump also granted a full pardon to Casey Urlacher, brother of former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, who was charged with taking part in an illegal gambling ring.