On President Trump’s Departing Clemency List, 'Hall of Fame' Sports Bettor Billy Walters
- President Trump commuted Billy Walter’s sentence but was not granted a full pardon
- Walters history in professional gambling is legendary among “the all-time greatest”
- He will continue fighting to maintain his innocence while disputing a wrongful conviction
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Many contained on the list of departing President Trump’s final clemency list may be considered worthy of biography film status but perhaps no one more colorful than convicted professional gambler William “Billy” Walters.
Walters, 74, was among the 143 on the President’s outgoing list as was the brother of NFL Chicago Bears Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher. Casey Urlacher faced federal charges of recruiting for a multi-million-dollar illegal offshore gambling ring.
The legendary Walters was convicted of insider trading in 2017 and sentenced to five years behind bars. During his time as a professional sports bettor, Walters was considered one of the greatest gambling figures ever, obtaining cult-like status. During his 39-year career, he was alleged to have obtained tens of millions from Las Vegas sportsbooks. Many books willfully shutting him off due to his uncanny ability.
Tales from Walters history were recalled including a 30-year winning streak with a $2.2 million winning bet in 2007 on USC beating Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Also, a $3.5 million win in 2009 on Super Bowl XLIV when quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints beat Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts 31-17.
In 2014, he told the Wall Street Journal that in a good year he could make up to $60 million in betting sports.
Where the Trouble Began
Walters was sentenced to five years in prison in 2017 for an insider trading case linked to professional golfer and PGA star Phil Mickelson, who ended up paying back nearly $1 million-plus interest for his involvement but was not charged. Walters later criticized the golfer for not testifying on his behalf at trial.
He was also fined $10 million for six years of that insider trading with former Dean Foods Co. Chairman Tom Davis. Between 2008-2014, Walters made $25 million off information provided to him by Davis about a relationship with a restaurant company that was not yet public.
While directly blaming Mickelson for his conviction, Walters said that Mickelson owed him $2 million from gambling debts, offering inside information as an exchange payment. Mickelson benefited $1 million on the information, which was subsequently forfeited to the US Securities and Exchange Commission in a civil case.
Walters told ESPN and the media in 2018:
All he has to do was come forward and tell the truth. 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.
A “Commutation” Not a Full Pardon
Different than a full pardon, a commutation does not mean the crime is wiped from the record. Walters had a little less than a year remaining and had been released from a Florida prison in April due to the coronavirus pandemic and allowed to serve the rest of his sentence at his Southern California home. The commutation negates the rest of his time to be served.
At the time of his conviction, Walters was forced to repay more than $40 million for his role in the insider trading plan involving Dean Foods.
Part of the reasoning in commuting the sentence is The White House said several people who sponsored the action benefitted, including Mickelson, noted swing instructor Butch Harmon, former PGA player and now broadcaster David Feherty plus former PGA golfer Peter Jacobsen.
Following the passage of the CARES Act acting US Attorney General William Barr ordered to release some of the older prison inmates (including Walters), citing potential health concerns should an outbreak occur inside a prison facility.
Walters has vigilantly maintained his innocence and will to clear his name. He issued this statement to USA Sports:
I am thankful to the President and extremely grateful for the longstanding support of friends and family, especially my wife, Susan. 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. I look forward to vindication as I pursue my civil damages case in federal court.
Whatever the outcome of the next chapters in this saga, we all look forward to a potential “Netflix film” documenting the remarkably interesting and intriguing legacy of Billy Walters life.
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Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
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