Last Wednesday, before leaving the White House, former President Donald Trump commuted the prison sentence of Las Vegas gambler Billy Walters, convicted in 2017 of insider trading. It was one of 143 pardons and commutations made on Trump’s final day in office.
Walters served two and a half years in prison, but was released in May 2020 on house arrest because of the coronavirus. The White House said the move was supported by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, former Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons, former Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley, former Clark County Sheriff William Young and former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik, among others. Professional golfers Butch Harmon, David Feherty, Peter Jacobsen and Phil Mickelson were also implicated in an insider trading case linked to Mickelson and Dallas-based Dean Foods Co.
“I am thankful to the president and extremely grateful for the longstanding support of friends and family, especially my wife, Susan,” Walters said in a statement from his home in Carlsbad, California.
“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,” Walters said. “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.”
According to news reports, Walters was Las Vegas’ Philanthropist of the Year in 1997 and was known for giving millions of dollars to charitable organizations in Southern Nevada, especially Opportunity Village, a Las Vegas nonprofit for people with intellectual disabilities.
Before his conviction, reported the Houston Chronicle, Walters was a big-time sports gambler and a successful gambling syndicate known as “The Computer Group,” which was formed in the early 1980s and later busted by the FBI. No charges were ever filed in that case, but according to the White House, Walters paid $44 million in fines, forfeitures and restitution.
Walters filed suit in New York saying federal prosecutors leaked confidential information about him. Among the defendants in that lawsuit is former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York, whom Trump fired in 2017.