In today’s heavily desensitized society, it’s rather common to see news stories about celebrities having run ins with the law. Troubled young celebs such as Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan, and Amanda Bynes have made it somewhat popular to have their infamous mug shots splashed across the front pages of tabloids. What about celebrities who found themselves being read their rights before they were a household name? The list is surprisingly longer than one would think. It’s actually quite admirable that some of these famous folks have managed to have successful Hollywood careers following the turbulence of their younger days. Check out this list of individuals who were behind bars before they were stars.
10. Tim Allen: Drug Trafficking – 1978
Affectionately referred to as “The tool Man” after his popular 90’s television show, Home Improvement (1991-1999), Tim Allen got off to a rocky start before taking prime time television by storm. At the age of 25, Allen, born Tim Allen Dick, was found in possession of nearly one and a half pounds of cocaine in an airport. At the time, this was punishable by life imprisonment. Tim the Tool Man found himself between a rock and a hard place. He decided to provide the police with the names of his “colleagues” which turned out to be a list of twenty one names. Tim the Tool Man, a rat? Who knew?! Cooperating with law enforcement cut his sentence to three to seven years. After serving two and a half years of that in a Federal Correction Institute, Sandstone in Sandstone Minnesota, Allen was paroled in 1981. Allen has not had any trouble with the law since.
9. Barry White: Theft – 1961
This late R&B bass crooner was known for his seductive voice. What most of us may not have known about him is that he placed himself in a less than desirable situation when he was a teen. Raised in crime stricken South Central L.A., White and his brother fell prey to the lure of gangs. When he was 17 he was arrested for stealing tires from a car lot-$30,000 worth of Cadillac tires to be exact. After a long seven months in juvie (pause for laughter), White was a changed man….or teen. He vowed that he would never go to jail again and he never did. Guess he was scared straight.
8. Danny Trejo: Armed robbery and various drug offenses throughout the 1960’s
Let’s face it-this guy looks scary. Hollywood directors know this and have taken advantage of his tough guy outer exterior, casting him as villains and criminals. Although most would say that Trejo is a textbook example of being type cast, it seems to work for him. Trejo’s rugged heavy scar laden appearance is a result of his rugged life. He admits that he was addicted to drugs, specifically marijuana, at the age of 8. Later in life he also battled with alcoholism. In an interview for an independent magazine devoted to information about prison and legal issues, Trejo credits his uncle for getting him started on marijuana. He says that he eventually got bored with weed and found himself taking whatever drugs he could get his hands on. Trejo’s life of crime started with a camp for juvenile delinquents in 1959. He went to prison for the first time in 1962 and again in 1965 for selling cocaine to an undercover officer. Trejo has done time in 5 different correctional facilities throughout California, where he was born and raised. While serving a sentence in San Quentin in 1969, Trejo got involved in boxing. This provided him with a healthy diversion from his addiction to drugs. While in prison he completed a 12 step program, he has been sober ever since. Not only has Trejo made a successful acting career fueled by his troubled past, he’s also become a drug counselor for people who are battling addictions.
7. Charles S. Dutton: Manslaughter 1968 & Possession of a Deadly Weapon – 1975
Born in Baltimore in 1951, Dutton dropped out of school in the seventh grade. At the age of 17, he was involved in a fight that turned deadly. Although Dutton claimed that he was acting in self defense when he stabbed a man to death, he was convicted of man slaughter and sentenced to 7 years in prison. Less than 2 years after he was released, he found himself behind bars once again, facing a 3 year sentence for possession of a deadly weapon. During his second sentence, Dutton began reading about African American playwrights; their stories inspired him to change his life. While serving his second sentence, Dutton got his GED and worked with prison officials to create a theater program for inmates with an interest in the theatrical arts. Following that sentence, he pursued his new found passion for the arts at Townson State University in Baltimore and eventually Yale School of Drama.
6. Courtney Love: Shoplifting – 1978
Known for her quirky antics, very public battle with addiction and marriage to fallen rock star Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love is no stranger to negative attention. Born Courtney Michelle Harrison, Love had a tumultuous childhood and was diagnosed with mild autism when she was 9. Her strained relationship with her mother made matters even worse. Feeling abandoned and socially awkward, Love coped by becoming a “bad girl,” and thus began engaging in deviant behaviors including frequent drug use. At the tender age of 14, she was caught stealing a KISS T-shirt at a department store. According to her autobiography, authorities were unable to locate her mother, Linda, when Love was arrested. She was taken to a holding cell at Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility. While there, Love noticed footage of herself on the local news and asked the guard if she could be let out of her cell to get a better view. When her request was denied Love pitched a fit, ripping the sheets on the small bed in the cell. As it turns out, the shoplifting charges were dropped but Love was charged with criminal mischief for ripping up the sheet, which was government property. Love was sent to a maximum security juvenile detention center. Unfortunately, stealing a t-shirt was only the beginning of Love’s legal woes.
5. Allen Iverson: Maiming by mob – 1993
Hailed as one of the greatest basketball players of our time, Iverson’s fate could have played out much differently. When a 17 year old Iverson and several of his friends got into a shouting match with a group of Caucasian teens at a bowling alley, things got ugly. Apparently racial slurs were shouted, igniting a fight in the small Virgina establishment. During the mele, a woman was hit in the head with a chair, witnesses pegged Iverson as the assailant. Iverson plead not guilty to the crime but was tried and convicted as an adult and sentenced to 15 years in prison and 10 years probation. After serving 4 months of the sentence, Iverson’s conviction was overturned due to a lack of evidence and he was released. Iverson went on to obtain his high school diploma from an alternative school in Virginia and the rest, as they say, was history. He did however face trouble with the law again in 1997 for drug and firearm possession and once more after a domestic dispute with his then wife in 2002.
4. 50 Cent: Drug and Firearm possession – 1990 & 1994
Born Curtis Jackson to a 15 year old who was a drug dealer herself, it serves as no surprise that popular rapper 50 Cent began his own drug dealing career at the age of 12. Just a few years earlier, his mother was found dead in the New York apartment where she lived with her young son. Her autopsy revealed that she was drugged and left in the apartment with the gas stove turned on and windows closed. Jackson was arrested for drug possession during his sophomore year of high school. Years later, a 19 year old Jackson was arrested twice, once for selling cocaine to an undercover officer and a second time just weeks later for drug and firearm possession. He served 6 months in a boot camp for juvie offenders.
3. Nick Nolte: Counterfeiting – 1965
Most of us have seen Nolte’s infamous mugshot from his 2002 arrest; you know, the one where he looks a hot mess. What you may be surprised to learn is that his first arrest was decades earlier in 1965 for selling fake draft cards. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison and ordered to pay a $75,000 fine. Obviously he did not serve his entire sentence (if he had, he would have been released just 4 years ago). In a 2008 interview, Nolte discusses his counterfeiting operation, saying that he was complete idiot back then. He plays coy when he says that he “…diffused the situation completely.” Whatever that means! Either way, his ‘diffusion’ method was successful as he has been free to star in more than two dozen films in the past 45 years. Well played Nick Nolte, well played.
2. Woody Harrelson: Disorderly conduct & resisting arrest – 1982
When this fresh faced kid appeared on the hit show Cheers in 1985 as the dim witted but lovable bartender Woody Boyd, it was clear that he would be a mainstay-not only on the show but in Hollywood. However, just a few years earlier Harrelson got into some trouble after a night of perhaps one too many ‘cheers’ at the bar. When he was found dancing in the middle of the street, officers approached him and attempted to arrest him. Harrelson ran from the cops, adding another charge to his ‘tab.’ Although he was charged, he escaped jail time by paying a fine.
1. Mark Wahlberg: Multiple offenses from 1984-1992
Born and raised in a working class Boston neighborhood, Wahlberg was addicted to cocaine by the age of 13. When he was 15 he was in the middle of a civil suit as a result of his involvement in two separate racially charged incidents in which he harassed and threw rocks at African American children. Perhaps he was not pleased with only having a few blemishes on his record when he decided to attack two Vietnamese men-within the same day-knocking one unconcious and leaving the other blind in one eye. Wahlberg was 16 when he was charged with attempted murder after attacking the two men. He was sentenced to two years in prison but only served 45 days of the sentence. The now famed actor is said to have had more than 20 run ins with the law before he was 21. While serving a sentence for assault, Wahlberg had a light bulb moment and realized that he desperately needed to change. Several of his 9 siblings had also had more than their share of legal troubles and he realized that this was a pattern in his family. He eventually cleaned up his act and is now a law abiding citizen.