We often imagine celebrities as glorified, glamorous super-humans, living the life of the rich and famous. They have limitless buying power; access to the best housing, cars, food, and clothing that money can buy. They can travel the world, vacation on private islands and enjoy luxuries that most can only dream of. Their mysterious and affluent lifestyles are the envy of many. We are perpetually curious about their habits- devouring gossip and celebrity updates like they were candy. We are bombarded with news and photos of our favorite stars, and take strange pleasure when we see them fall (admit it, we all know that “bad news” sells).
Despite all of the perks that come with Hollywood success, celebrities are still human beings. Mentally and emotionally, they are pretty much the same as you and me. Sure, they have teams of people surrounding them that can help them through the rough patches, but that does not guarantee their exemption from hard times. The truth is, some A-listers have pretty dark pasts. We know the standard personal problems pretty well: Drug and alcohol addictions, failed relationships, estranged children. The media is pretty focused on outing celebrity secrets, particularly when they are dark and dirty. But what about those celebrities that have to deal with problems that they did not create? I’m talking about criminal relatives, folks. From petty thefts to savage murder, these celebrities have had to endure horrific realities, off-screen. Let’s take a look at 15 celebrities with criminal relatives.
15. Leighton Meester
Leighton Meester might’ve played a high-end fashionista on Gossip Girl, but her real life roots are a little more…humble. Leighton was actually born in a Texan halfway house, just months after her mother was released from prison for trafficking marijuana from Jamaica to the United States. To make matters worse, Leighton had to bring her mother to court to settle a nasty legal battle in 2012. Constance Meester, the matriarch, allegedly took money that was sent for Leighton’s younger brother, who suffers from health problems. The mother then spent the cash on cosmetic surgeries, hair extensions and spa treatments….for herself. Despite Leighton wanting to support her brother, she has filed a restraining order against her estranged mother and claims that she wants her out of her life for good.
14. Lindsay Lohan
Lindsay Lohan practically grew up in public. A child star who made it big as an adored tween in Mean Girls, almost all aspects of Lindsay’s life were broadcast on television and in the tabloids. So, we are very familiar with her deadbeat Dad, Michael. On top of being a sh*tty person, Michael brings to the table a criminal record that is nothing short of disastrous. An initial fraud charge, which he served three years in prison for, escalated when he violated his probation terms. In the years that followed, he was charged with aggravated assault and a DUI. Again, Michael went to prison and his relationship with Lindsay was severely affected. He attempted to get clean and sober, even dabbling in minister training, but alas, Michael couldn’t stay away from the dark side. The latest we heard, he was arrested in connection with a domestic abuse incident involving his ex-girlfriend, Kate Major.
13. Hayden Panettiere
Hayden’s sexy on-screen character, country starlet Juliette on CMT’s Nashville, is no stranger to drama. Sadly, she has some personal issues that transfer into her private life as well. The last year, Hayden has been battling postpartum depression and substance abuse issues- both conditions she has addressed in a lengthy rehab stint last year. Her father, Alan Panettiere, is also no stranger to alcohol-related troubles. In 2008, he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery, after a booze-fueled attack on his then-wife, Lesley. Despite Alan having to complete a 52-week anger management program, Lesley filed for divorce in 2012. Hayden has remained on good terms with both of her parents throughout the ordeal. Her father was ordered to pay $5,000 a month to his ex-wife, and a repayment of $100,000 to his daughter.
12. Woody Harrelson
My personal favorite on-screen baby boy, Woody Harrelson, has notoriously played some pretty heavy characters in his 30+ year career. Perhaps some of his inspiration came from his own father, Charles Harrelson, a convicted murderer who died in prison in 2007. In 1968, Charles Harrelson was hired to murder Alan Berg, a Texan salesman, after a business deal went sour. Harrelson was acquitted of the murder charges in 1970 due to lack of evidence. Then, in 1979, Judge John H. Wood Jr. was murdered outside of his San Antonio home. Harrelson, the main suspect, fled, and was arrested by police two years later. It was at this point that he confessed to the murders, and also claimed to have been involved in John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Despite the morbid history, Woody claimed to have forgiven his father for his actions and was devastated when he passed away.
11. Kellie Pickler
Kellie Pickler, former American Idol contestant and country sweetheart, sure has a lot of personal material to write her songs with. The North Carolina beauty’s parents have quite the criminal resumes. In 2003, her father was arrested and served four years in prison for stabbing a neighbor at the trailer park they lived at. Yikes! To make matters worse, Kellie’s mom was busy writing bad checks and committing prescription medication fraud at around the same time. The star has admitted that her upbringing was quite tumultuous, saying that she didn’t have a good representation of what relationships should be by watching her parents. No kidding! Good thing she is in the country music business, where white trash fights, alcohol abuse and fraud are all relevant topics for hit songs!
10. Demi Moore
Demi Moore is one of Hollywood’s most poised and glamorous ladies, but she has a dark past that involves poverty, crime, and addiction. She was born in a trailer park to a single mother, who was a heavy drinker. Her mother remarried when she was an infant, which brought a whole new level of violence and addiction into the home. Demi was often witness to her mother and step-father’s brutal, booze-fueled fights. When Demi was only 17-years-old, her step-father committed suicide. Demi eventually developed a drug and alcohol habit of her own. She and her mother became estranged, as her mother continued to engage in criminal behavior, adding arson to her repertoire. Demi funded her mother’s rehab programs for a time, but gave up when her mother continuously mocked her publicly, posed nude for a trashy magazine, and continued to drink. She died in 1997 after battling brain cancer. Dark.
9. Dylan McDermott
American Horror Story hottie Dylan McDermott might have one of the most upsetting and heartbreaking stories on this list. When he was just a young pup of 5-years-old, Dylan’s mother was murdered by her then boyfriend John Sponza. Because there were no witnesses and limited evidence at the crime scene, Sponza was not charged and Dylan continued a relationship with him. In 1972, Sponza was found dead in the trunk of a car. In 2011, Dylan contacted the Connecticut police to reopen the file. A new investigation was unleashed, and it was uncovered that Sponza in fact had killed his mother, and the police had done a pretty good job covering his traces. Allegedly, Sponza had “contacts” that helped him get off the hook without any criminal responsibility.
8. Tobey Maguire
Tobey Maguire’s father got in trouble with the law, once. When Tobey was young, his father robbed a bank in broad daylight, in their neighborhood, with no mask or cover of any kind. After his clear rookie mistake, Maguire Senior spent two years in prison for his botched heist. The good news? It really seemed to be a one-off. According to reports, Tobey’s dad was desperate for cash after his sister died and left him with two additional children to care for. Poor guy, he was just trying to help the children! How can we hold that against him? After serving his time, he never got into any troubles with the law again. Lucky for him, money is no longer a problem for the family, and the relationship with his children remained intact!
7. Lily Allan
Lily Allan has long been seen as a rebellious, uncensored bad girl. She has always been candid about her partying ways, and is no stranger to shock value. Funnily enough, she comes from a family of equal….impulsivity? Her father, Keith Allan, has his own collection of bad boy stories. An entertainer himself, Keith has his own celebrity experience as a stand-up comic and actor. In the 1980s, he spent three weeks in prison for damaging a club in London’s Covent Garden district. More recently, he was again sent to the slammer for stealing a car. Keith also had a love child, Lily’s half-brother Kevin, before Lily was born. His son was born of an affair he had with a shop-keeper. Despite the strange and slightly deceptive circumstances, Lily and Kevin have a pretty good relationship.
6. Jackie Chan
With all of the on-screen criminals he’s played, is anyone really surprised that Jackie Chan himself had parents with criminal backgrounds? Jackie’s father Charles was a secret agent working for the French in Hong Kong, before Jackie was born. According to reports, he took a few bullets from Communist soldiers during his years in service. Meanwhile, Jackie’s mom was busy selling opium (no joke) to make some extra cash on the side. She had been left with very little in the aftermath of her first husband’s death. Jackie’s parents met when Charles busted Lee Lee for drug possession, but he took pity on her and released her with no charges. The two became close friends and later married. A few years later, little Jackie was born and the rest is history.
5. Marlon Brando
Now here’s an interesting one. Marlon Brando’s son, Christian, was charged with voluntary manslaughter in 1991. In a drunken stupor, he shot and killed his sister Cheyenne’s boyfriend, Dag Drollet. His defense? Cheyenne had confided in Christian that Dag had been abusive towards her. Christian alleged that he was only trying to scare Dag, and that the two had been fighting over the gun when it accidentally went off, fatally shooting Dag. Despite being sentenced to 10 years in prison, he was released early, after serving only five years behind bars. His early release did not come with too many perks. A mere 12 years after regaining his freedom, Christian succumbed to pneumonia.
4. Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon has a long-held reputation as Hollywood’s sweetheart. Her country girl charm and southern manners have proven that she doesn’t have a dark side. That doesn’t exempt her family members, however, from dabbling in crime. In 2002, Reese’s brother, John, was charged with aggravated burglary and sexual battery. The circumstances? John allegedly entered a neighbor’s home, uninvited, and proceeded to undress and kiss the occupant, who was asleep on her couch. Gross! Not only that, he tried to use the “I was drunk, I don’t remember doing it” card. Super weak. He ended up with a two-year probationary sentence and was instructed to enroll in addiction recovery classes. This is one case of siblings having extremely different characters.
3. Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan’s clan are no strangers to being in the spotlight. Sex (tape) scandals, underage partying, and DUIs make the list of their offenses. But no Hogan has flirted with criminal activity quite like Hulk’s son, Nick. In 2007, in the prime of the Hogan siblings’ celebrity, Nick got himself into a whole whack of trouble when he severely injured his “friend” John Graziano in a car crash. The reckless driving resulted in the permanent disability of his copilot. Because Nick was only 17 at the time, he was lucky to get away with a reduced sentence in prison. He also had a five-year probationary sentence, 500 community service hours, and his driver’s license was revoked for 36 months.
2. Billy Bob Thornton
You would think that Billy Bob would be the “Black Sheep” of his family. It is no secret that he has had a past of drugs, sex, and petty crime. But, no. Believe it or not, his estranged daughter, Amanda, has his record beat. Amanda was sentenced to 20 years in prison for murdering her friend’s one-year-old baby while she was babysitting. She tried to brush off the crime as an accident, but a 3 1/2 inch fracture on the baby’s skull pointed at a deliberate act. Prosecutors ruled out any possibility of the death being accidental. Horrible! Amanda is still in prison, doing her time. Billy Bob did not have much to say when asked about his daughter’s sentence. According to his interviews, the two have been estranged for years and he has zero contact with her.
1. Michael Douglas
Michael Douglas has had his share of acting roles that cast him as a criminal bad boy. In real life his son, Cameron, is the real rebellious one. Cameron has a long rap sheet of drug charges that have led to some pretty lengthy prison sentences. In 2010, the DEA caught him with quite the supply of methamphetamines. This first offense secured him a house arrest sentence. Not letting his status hold him back, Cameron enlisted his girlfriend to help bring him in a supply of heroin, which he intended to use and distribute. He was caught, and this time his sentence wasn’t so light. He was given five years in prison. Another two incidents, while incarcerated, gained him an additional four and a half years to his sentence, and he is currently serving that in solitary confinement. Not good!