Gambler William “Billy” Walters was one of more than 140 people who received a commuted sentence or was pardoned by President Donald Trump in his final hours in office on Tuesday night.
The White House said that Phil Mickelson, who was connected in Walters’ 2016 insider trading case, was one of several in the golf world who lobbied for Walters’ release.
Yet on Thursday, Mickelson’s lawyer insisted that the Hall of Famer had nothing to do with Walters’ release.
“Phil had nothing to do with this,” Mickelson’s lawyer Glenn Cohen told ESPN.
Mickelson denies advocating for Walters’ release
Walters, 75, was convicted in 2017 on securities fraud, conspiracy and wire fraud charges. He was sentenced to five years in prison and made to pay a $10 million fine and millions more in restitution after prosecutors said that he earned more than $43 million on trades of Dean Foods that he made on insider information from a former chairman of the company. Walters was released from prison in May, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was serving the rest of his sentence on house arrest.
Walters, a longtime gambler, had plenty of connections in both the golf and sports world in general. Mickelson, an avid gambler himself, at one point started using Walters essentially as his bookie. In 2012, he made a $1.95 million payment to Walters “related to sports gambling.”
Mickelson, according to court records, started trading Dean Foods stock in 2012 — something he had never done previously. The stock then jumped quickly by nearly 40 percent, earning Mickelson more than $930,000 in profits.
Prosecutors couldn’t prove if Mickelson knew Walters’ source of information, and never charged him with a crime. He was named as a “relief defendant” in a later civil case, and settled that lawsuit by surrendering his profits from the stock.
Walters has long denied his in guilt, and did so again after receiving his commuted sentence.
“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 in a statement, via ESPN. “I also hope this sends a strong message to law enforcement to refrain from illegal misconduct in pursuing their targets.”
Mickelson, 50, is hosting this week’s The American Express in Southern California, where he’ll make his first appearance on the PGA Tour of 2021. The 44-time winner last picked up a victory at the 2019 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Though Trump’s White House said that Mickelson sponsored the move to commute Walters’ sentence — as did swing instructor Butch Harmon, golfer and broadcaster David Feherty, golfer Peter Jacobsen and former CBS News anchor Lara Logan — both Mickelson and Cohen insisted he did not reach out to Trump.
“The press release referencing Phil Mickelson is erroneous,” Cohen said, via ESPN. “The reason we are upset is because it’s untrue.”
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