Saying he has reformed his life, current and former law enforcement officials on Monday backed the proposed pardon of a man convicted of armed assault with attempt to murder for his part in a 1989 shooting that left a victim paralyzed.
True-See Allah, formerly known as Troy Christopher Watson, was not the shooter, but he was convicted for participating in the shooting of Macarthur Williams, who was paralyzed. With an eye on a potential Boston City Council bid, he is seeking a pardon for the conviction as well as possession of marijuana and receiving a stolen motor vehicle.
"I am profusely sorry about that night in question," he told the Governor's Council, a body that votes on gubernatorial pardons and commutations. Allah said he felt the shooting was a factor in Williams's death years later, and said he didn't know the name of the shooter who he said was never charged with that crime.
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Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley joined the late victim's wife; Gov. Deval Patrick's public safety secretary, Andrea Cabral; and retired Boston Police Department officials Daniel Linskey and Paul Joyce in supporting a pardon for Allah. Local religious leaders and Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins also backed the request.
"I believe in accountability but I also believe in redemption," Conley said.
Conley called Allah, a 44-year-old Roxbury resident, a "well-known figure" in Boston and a friend he has known for the last 15 years.
No one spoke in opposition to the proposed pardon, though councilors expressed ambivalence, juggling the seriousness of the crime against Allah's good works since his release from prison in 1998.
"Mr. Williams isn't here to tell us what he went through... because nobody could pardon him out of a wheelchair," said Councilor Terrence Kennedy. He said, "Whether you get this pardon or not, you should be proud of who you are now."
A majority vote by the elected eight-person council would grant Allah the pardon.
The late victim's wife, Damequa Williams, hugged Allah after offering her support and saying her late husband had forgiven Allah. Her husband died in 2010 at the age of 41 after a battle with cancer.
"I want you to know that I forgive you, I have no hard feelings and I wish the very best for you," she told Allah.
Allah described attending Catholic Memorial High School, playing sports, and then getting cut from a local basketball team when his father was using drugs.
"It led me to end up in the streets in Grove Hall," said Allah, who said he became one of the roughly 20 members of the Castlegate gang at the age of 16.
The gang sold crack, carried guns and beefed with other neighborhood gangs, he said. In 1989, Allah said, he was jumped by the rival Intervale gang, and sought revenge, enlisting a member of the Franklin Hill gang, a Castlegate ally.
"I just knew he was a young kid trying to earn stripes in Franklin Hill. And he was willing and able - ready to go," said Allah, who said he only knew the accomplice as Carl.
Allah, who brought a shotgun out that night, said he knew his accomplice was armed with a handgun, but didn't tell him to shoot Williams.
Allah and his accomplice encountered Williams and another man changing a tire on a car, and Allah said he asked Williams if he was a member of Intervale. Allah said he remembers Williams saying yes, though at Allah's trial Williams said he was not in the gang.
Allah said he intended to beat up his rivals and maybe take their money that night, but his accomplice opened fire, and he ran back toward their car.
During his 8.5 years behind bars, Allah said he found the Nation of Islam and stopped seeing himself as a gang member. He grew up Catholic and converted to Islam in 1994. After his release he worked as a temp and managed a Reebok store. Allah then started volunteering at the sheriff's office where he was eventually hired.
"Political backlash" and chatter about his history pose impediments to him moving up toward superintendent, said Allah, who added that he also wants a firearms license to do private security.
The Parole Board was unanimous in its recommendation of a pardon for Allah, and Dr. Charlene Bonner, its chair, testified to the Governor's Council on his behalf. "This was not an easy recommendation to make," she said, but since he completed incarceration in 1998, he has lived a "peaceful, productive and successful life."
The Parole Board recommended a conditional pardon, which does not include the right to obtain a firearms identification card.
"It's never going to quash rumors," said Councilor Eileen Duff, of the potential pardon, a sentiment echoed by other councilors.
Allah has worked for the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department for the last seven years as director of the Boston Re-Entry Initiative at the South Bay House of Correction, counseling inmates before release into the community.
Linskey, who said he had "chased" Allah when he was a young police officer, praised Allah as readily available to police to help turn around the lives of young men. "If we had more men like True-See Allah we wouldn't have to chase young men off the streets of Boston," Linskey said.
Councilor Robert Jubinville, a defense lawyer and former state trooper, asked whether he would have been accosted by Allah if he ran into him the night he went out seeking revenge.
"You don't fit the description," Allah replied. "I would have thought you was a lawyer."
Expressing skepticism about the need for a pardon, Duff pointed to Allah making almost $70,000 a year, with full benefits and access to the state pension plan.
Allah said a pardon would be "monumental" because clemency would wipe the slate clean and it would offer him an opportunity to pursue a promotion.
He also said a potential run for political office is "one of the reasons" he wants a pardon, saying he would be interested in starting out running for city councilor.