In the final hours of his presidency, Donald Trump pardoned legendary sports bettor Billy Walters.
The 74-year-old 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 best ever and during his 39-year career, he netted tens of millions from Las Vegas sportsbooks.
Along with the prison time, Walters was fined $10 million for six years of insider trading with former Dean Foods Co. Chairman Tom Davis. Between 2008-2014, Walters made $25 million off information given to him by Davis about a relationship with a restaurant company that wasn’t yet public.
In the wake of the legal battle, Walters blamed professional golfer Phil Mickelson for his conviction. Walters said that Mickelson owed him $2 million from gambling debts and offered up the inside information as payment. Mickelson also made seven-figures on the information, which was subsequently forfeited to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in a civil case.
Last April, shortly after the outbreak of coronavirus in the U.S., Walters was released from a federal prison in Florida and allowed to serve the rest of his term under house arrest in his San Diego home. The passage of the CARES Act allowed Attorney General William Barr to release some of the older prison inmates, citing the potential health concerns if an outbreak occurred inside prison.
With the pardon, Walters is considered a free man. He was originally set to finish his sentence in February 2022.
Poker legend and 10-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Doyle Brunson seemed happy that Walters had his sentence commuted, saying that he thought the sports bettor was “railroaded.”
I see Trump pardoned our old buddy Billy Walters. I think that was a legitimate pardon because Billy was railroaded on what they sent him up for.
— Doyle Brunson (@TexDolly) January 20, 2021
In October 2019, Walters appealed to a federal judge that his sentence should be cut short because of “prosecutorial misconduct.” Walters argued that the prosecutor leaked facts to the media before the trial, which caused Davis to cooperate with authorities. The judge denied his motion.