More often than not, having a criminal record does nothing for a person’s prospects for success in life. Most jobs worth having require you to get a criminal background check, and of course, a rap sheet can also limit your opportunities for international travel and many other “finer things” in life. But, it is often different for celebrities. Entertainment is fundamentally unlike most other industries out there; but still, there are many celebrities whose lives have been changed by criminal activity.
Even though he was found not guilty, O.J. Simpson became a pariah over his murder case, even before he committed his robbery in 2007 that did get him put away. Similarly, Bill Cosby hasn’t even been to trial, let alone been found guilty, but any career or respect he may have carried into his golden years is gone…and with good reason.
Plenty of celebrities have criminal records for nonsense “crimes” too. Plenty of them use drugs, so guys like Robert Downey Jr., Matthew McConaughey, and most musicians to ever achieve any fame have drug charges. Most of these are trafficking or possession, and have produced no victim, though. Similarly, quite a few have been caught with prostitutes, such as Hugh Grant and Eddie Murphy. But of course, it’s a simple monetary exchange for a quick favor, so the crime isn’t all that harmful to anyone. These victimless crimes often don’t do much to the celebrity beyond making them front page news for a few days. But as we said, serious criminal offenses can end careers.
At the same time, however, plenty of famous people have been able to commit despicable acts and maintain their “star power.” Here are fifteen famous people who have committed horrible crimes, but have seen very little in terms of negative impact on their careers.
15. Charlie Sheen
We said earlier that we had no serious problems with people committing crimes such as drug use and soliciting prostitutes, so we won’t bother mentioning those two aspects of Charlie Sheen‘s awesome life. The Warlock (does he still go by that moniker?) has spent more on hookers and blow than most people spend on food, shelter, and clothing. I mean, we can’t hold it against the guy; he’s had one heck of a career. What we can call the guy out for, however, is his treatment towards women. When he was on Two and a Half Men, he was a womanizer like in real life, but without the violence. He was pretty brutal to a couple of the women in his life, shooting his then-fiancee, Kelly Preston back in 1990, and later, threatened Denise Richards while explosively drunk and high. Preston later said that she may have actually shot herself in the arm. But this is show business, who knows what really happened?
Of course, the guy is still worth a ton of money (between $125 million and $150 million, depending on who you ask) and even after shooting his fiancee, he went on to be the highest paid actor in television. Wouldn’t you know it, after all that, what ruined his career was a brief showdown with Chuck Lorre.
14. Halle Berry
We’ll get to some real scumbags later; you know, people who have done really despicable things. However, in Halle Berry‘s case, she was involved in a hit-and-run in 2000. While there are plenty of terrible crimes, far worse than a hit-and-run, smashing into a car, and then driving off is an explosively selfish thing to do. In this incident, Halle, in her Chevy Blazer (SUV) slammed into the side of a Pontiac Sunfire, breaking the wrist of the woman inside. She plead no contest and got probation, community service, and a $13,500 fine.
The woman she hit had to be helped out of her car by respondents and sued Berry in the aftermath, arguing that she was intoxicated when she ran the red light, crashed, and then fled the scene. The matter was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
13. Snoop Dogg
While most rappers only spit rhymes about murdering people, Snoop Dogg or Lion, or whatever he’s taken to calling himself this month, has actually taken a life before. In a heavily publicized case that took place back in the early and mid 1990’s (back when he was Snoop Doggy Dogg), Snoop and one of his bodyguards were on trial for first degree murder for killing a gang member near a park in Palms, a community in Los Angeles.
The two were found not guilty of these charges, but there is speculation to this day over whether the killing was self-defense or a genuine murder. On one hand, the victim, who was shot in the back, may have been running away from Snoop and his car. But on the other hand, he and his bodyguard thought that the man was reaching for a gun while moving away from them. In the heat of the moment, he fired, hitting Philip Woldemariam a couple of times and killing him.
12. Kobe Bryant
Among athletes, especially when they are in their prime, a criminal trial or investigation can have serious repercussions. Endorsements can dry up pretty quick and many teams would rather not gamble on a guy who is going to potentially tarnish their brand. But if you’re good enough, you can get away with almost anything.
Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players to ever hit the basketball court. Depending on who you talk to, he may as well be the best. Put in simple terms for non-basketball fans, his footwork, shooting, and overall ability to just put the damn ball through the hoop on offense was unmatched during his time in the league. He retired last year with five championship wins and eighteen All-Star seasons.
His two-decade career started out in 1996. But by 2003, he was in hot water. He was accused of s*xual assault by a young employee of a hotel in which he was staying, prior to getting a surgical procedure. He admitted to having fooled around with her, much to the dismay of his wife. To make the long story short, he was never convicted because his accuser refused to testify (read into this as you see fit) and settled a resulting civil suit out of court.
His fans never abandoned him. He returned to the NBA after the incident and went back to his winning ways. His wife didn’t even end up leaving him, even though they did briefly file for divorce at one point. Since his retirement, he has started a couple of investment operations and seems to be living an amazing life. People completely forgot that his s*xual encounter with this young lady was very questionable in terms of consent.
11. Sean Penn
We can’t really say anything bad about Sean Penn‘s acting career. He did some silly stuff in his youth, but nothing that shameful. Everyone has to do some roles like that before they hit it big. He’s a two-time Academy Award winner and has been nominated for awards for his writing and directing in addition to acting.
What many people forget, however, is that he apparently beat Madonna quite brutally when they were married. While she reported there having been numerous instances of abuse, the worst involved tying her to a chair and assaulting her for several hours before she agreed to “a degrading s*x act,” after which he untied her and fled the scene.
10. Chris Brown
We all know what happened. Singer Chris Brown brutally beat his former girlfriend, Rihanna, back in 2009, leaving her looking like someone who lost a prize fight. They later got back together briefly, but broke up for good in 2013. After this assault, he briefly became a total pariah, but continued to make music. His first album after the incident was Graffiti, universally considered as his worst album and remains among his lowest selling ones. His following three albums, however, got significantly better numbers, with all selling significantly more than Graffiti (but of course not as much as his first two albums, which went multi-platinum). So in short, his numbers went down significantly, but he’s still making music and getting paid. His career didn’t suffer nearly as much as that of a non-celebrity would likely have if they had committed such an assault.
9. Will Smith
We all know Will Smith for a few things—rap, movies, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. His rap career started back in the 1980’s and after earning some amazing success and making a huge name for himself (and spending a ludicrous amount of money), he moved on to the big screen. In 1989, however, he was arrested for a serious beat-down in which an associate of his mercilessly beat William Hendricks, a record promoter, during an argument. Hendricks needed stitches and suffered a broken orbital bone that nearly left him blind.
Obviously, there are two sides to the story. Smith claims that he had nothing to do with the violence, but was present for it. Of course, several witnesses and the police report seem to indicate that Smith ordered his bodyguard to wail on Hendricks. The case was thrown out of court and the rest is history as most people completely forgot about this incident.
8. Jay Z
If we look at some generally accepted numbers, Jay Z is usually ranked at number three in terms of wealth among all rappers out there, worth somewhere on the short end of $600 million. He’s immensely talented, earning success with his own music. As a producer, he’s started businesses that are now massive, and of course, he has a wife who is equally talented, Beyonce.
Back in early December 1999, Jay Z and producer Lance Rivera were at the same party, celebrating a Q-Tip album release. A rumor circulating that night (likely true) indicated that Rivera was responsible for pirating Jay’s upcoming Volume 3 to the public, and for this, Jay stabbed Rivera, who was rushed to hospital. We understand being angry, but this isn’t the way to handle it. Oh wait, they’re rappers and this is normal.
Jay could have been facing something like attempted murder, but instead, he turned himself in, accepted a plea deal, and spent three years on probation. This nasty crime did absolutely nothing to his career. If anything, the business respected him more.
7. Mark Wahlberg
The Mark Wahlberg we know today is worlds apart from the young man he was while growing up. These days, he’s playing cops, soldiers, and generally a lot of tough guys with good hearts. Back in the 1980’s, he was doing some things that he still regrets to this day. He was arrested a few times throughout his teen years but his most notorious crime was a pair of attacks against Vietnamese people in 1988. He beat one man with a stick and left him unconscious. He also punched another man in the face. He was arrested shortly thereafter, and served just a month and a half after being charged with attempted murder but pleading guilty to assault. He was seeking pardon for his crimes last year but dropped his request, saying he had done enough to improve himself as a person that he didn’t need a piece of paper to confirm anything.
6. Matthew Broderick
Sure, we all know and love the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but did you know there was a sequel called Ferris Bueller Drove a BMW Like An Idiot in Ireland and Killed Two People? Okay fine, it was never made into a movie, but it happened. In 1987, Matthew Broderick was on vacation with his then-girlfriend Jennifer Grey. They rented a BMW and while driving, Broderick drove into oncoming traffic and killed a woman and her mother. He was initially charged with dangerous driving causing death, but took a plea deal for a careless driving charge, which brought only a $175 fine. He killed two people and had to pay $175.
Many sympathetic people might say things like “he didn’t mean to kill anyone” or “he just made a small mistake in a car.” Not the point, his actions killed people and the only consequence was sacrificing chump change. This was back in 1987, and since then, Broderick has had dozens of great gigs on TV, in movies, and onstage. Of course, he married Sarah Jessica Parker, so it hasn’t all been good.
5. Caitlyn Jenner
In what many people have called a classic case of “celebrity justice,” transgender icon Caitlyn Jenner caused the death of a motorist in Malibu, California back in early 2015. She rear-ended a car while driving, pushing that car into the opposite lane and into traffic. The driver of the car she hit died at the scene. While a few people close to the case have argued that Jenner was tailgating the person at the time, no criminal charges were filed. The families of the other people involved with this accident have sued her and she has settled at least one of the lawsuits. Caitlyn Jenner doesn’t seem to be intent on stepping out of the limelight anytime soon, and causing this person’s death seems to have done nothing to slow down her career.
4. Vince Neil
Motley Crue is up there among the all-time highest selling rock/metal/glam metal (whatever damn genre you want to call them) bands and for a good reason. Catchy tunes, heaps of attitude, and a lifestyle worthy of the name “metal” endeared them to fans for over thirty years. Included in that lifestyle was reckless behavior and little in the way of respect for authority. While all band members were maniacs, nobody represented these things quite like singer Vince Neil. Throughout the 2000’s, he was arrested a few times for assault and DUI but his worst act occurred in 1984, when the band members were still making a name for themselves.
He was partying with the members of Hanoi Rocks and decided, while already loaded, to take a drive to a local liquor store. He got in a serious wreck, causing brain damage and significant injury to the people in the other car, and killing Nicholas Dingley of Hanoi Rocks. He had to pay millions to the victims of this crash, spent time in jail, had to do 200 hours of community service and five years on probation. Of course, having killed someone due to a stupid choice did nothing to negatively impact this front-man and the ascent of the band.
3. Roman Polanski
Director Roman Polanski‘s professional career more than just speak for itself. The man has been winning awards for his work since the 1960’s and continues to experience success to this day. Of course, his career will forever be tainted because he is a s*xual predator. In 1977, he was arrested for five charges after he forced himself on a 13-year-old girl who he had drugged. Samantha Gailey (now Geimer) was modeling for a Vogue photo shoot being taken by Polanski, when he fed her champagne and a quaalude, before taking advantage of her, ignoring her consistent pleas for him to stop.
Polanski was charged with a number of crimes, but took a plea deal for unlawful s*xual intercourse. He was in prison for a little over a month with pending psychiatric evaluation. During this period, Polanski learned that the trial judge would disregard the plea deal and toss him in prison, possibly for over a decade.
He fled to Europe, continued making movies, and while everyone knows he was a criminal, many in France, where he spent much of his time after fleeing, have downplayed his guilt and the severity of his crime. Of course, most of Hollywood still seems to love the guy. His s*xual misconduct may have kept him in Europe, but for all intents and purposes, he was a free man for the last several decades and continued to build his name as a director.
2. Mike Tyson
There were several years in the mid and late 1980’s where Iron Mike Tyson was considered the greatest boxer of all time. He was tearing people significantly larger than himself to pieces in the ring and managed to hold every Heavyweight Championship belt for WBC, WBA, and IBF (major boxing promotions, for the non-sports fans out there) at age 20, holding them for a couple of years. His first professional loss came in his 38th fight, in 1990 to Buster Douglas, a heavy underdog, who won the fight by utilizing an efficient jab, and frankly, in part due to Tyson’s own poor performance that night.
Tyson won his next four fights, but had his career put on hold because he did something incredibly stupid and despicable. He raped Desiree Washington, a young beauty queen, and served three years in prison. While many people forgot what his crime was, they know he did something. Furthermore, his conviction actually wasn’t what destroyed his career, as he reentered the world of boxing in 1995, winning his first four fights and regaining his WBA and WBC belts, before dropping consecutive fights to Evander Holyfield.
His show business career is still going on, despite being somewhat slow now. These days, he’s known for being that former boxer who has a ridiculous voice, says preposterously stupid things, and of course, for being an overall train wreck. It is interesting to note that many sports enthusiasts think that Tyson’s conviction was a mishandled case on the part of his defense and that he was actually innocent, but that is a discussion for another day.
1. Don King
If you’re not a boxing fan, this may not be a familiar name. Don King, known for his flashy outfits, outrageous hair, and boxing promotions, has killed two people. In 1957, he killed a man named Hillary Brown, while Brown was trying to rob him. He was not convicted for this crime, as it was considered a justifiable homicide; essentially, self-defense. Years later, however, King had an employee at his illegal bookmaking business in Cleveland who owed him $600. He stomped this person to death and spent a few years in prison. After he got out, he started his promoting career and the rest is history. He’s now worth over $150 million. The city of Cleveland also named a stretch of road after King near where he murdered this person.
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