Just because someone is famous doesn’t mean they will never feel the long arm of the law. They quite often get a tougher time in court because, as a public figure, they should “know a lot better.” We hear of celebs getting a slap on the wrist, when the general public believes they should have landed a much tougher sentence. Yet in these rare and shocking cases, the following celebrities on this list have been accused of heinous crimes that they did not commit. Some even had to serve time in jail despite their innocence…
10. Snoop Dogg
Rapper Snoog Dogg, born Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr., and his bodyguard, McKinley Lee, were accused in 1993 of first and second degree murder. The rapper was 21-years-old when he stood accused of conspiracy to commit assault in connection with the death of gang member Philip Woldemariam.
Prosecutors believed Woldermariam was killed in cold blood. They claimed he was shot in the back after trying to flee a confrontation between himself, Snoop Dogg and his bodyguard. They further accused Snoop Dogg of conspiracy and that he tried to dispose of the getaway vehicle. The defense argued that Woldemariam was visibly reaching for a gun in his waistband when the bodyguard fired from the passenger seat of the car. They spoke of Woldemariam’s reputation as a hotheaded gang member and he was angered that Snoop Dogg was in his territory.
Jurors spent six days deliberating before the judge read out the not-guilty verdict. Family of Snoop Dogg yelled out, “Thank you, Jesus!” in the courtroom. Snoop Dogg left court smiling with his 2-year-old son, Corde, in his arms. He told reporters waiting outside, “They made the right decision, you know what I’m saying? This has been an ordeal that has affected our lives for the past 2 1/2 years. I was just trying to figure out if I was going to be here to raise my son.” District Attorney Bobby Grace, adding that prosecutors will release a statement after the jury reaches a decision on the remaining two counts.
9. David Copperfield
Famous magician David Copperfield was at the centre of a 2-year long rape case in between 2007-2009. In 2007, a 23-year-old model and former Miss Washington contestant claimed she had met Copperfield at one of his performances in southeastern Washington, and that after the show he had invited her to his private island in the Bahamas for the summer.
She then claimed when she arrived at the island, Copperfield, who was addressed in court under his real name – David Kotkin, repeatedly sexually assaulted her, even at one point holding her head under water until she gave in to his advances. His defense team denied all allegations, labeling the lawsuit “extortion for money, plain and simple.”
During the trial, the jury heard that Copperfield’s accuser had previously made separate false sexual assault allegations against another man only the month before. His accuser also faced potential charges for prostitution and giving a misleading statement. She had been angered by a man she had previously met in a nightclub, who refused to pay her $2,000 for sex.
Copperfield heard the verdict that he was free to go, he then told Oprah Winfrey later in an interview, “I was the victim.”
8. Warren Sapp
Warren Sapp is a former NFL player who played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders. He’s a Hall of Famer and multiple award winner, who retired in 2007 and moved on to work as an analyst for the NFL network. Then in 2010, his world was turned upside down when he was arrested for domestic battery in South Florida, and was promptly dropped from covering the Super Bowl that year.
Sapp was staying at the Shore Club Hotel, where he was partying with the victim and her friends. When she became tired, she asked for his room key so she could rest in his bed for awhile. The victim was allegedly then woken by Sap a few hours later who started an argument that resulted in her swollen knee and bruises to the neck. She claimed Sapp had choked her and pushed her down on a couch.
Sapp told investigators this was not in truth – he had allowed the woman to stay in his room, but when he asked her to leave a few hours later, she had refused to get off the couch, he tried to help her up and she fell on her own leg. Then just over a month later, the woman dropped all the charges against him. Sapp claimed his accuser was offended that he wouldn’t spend the night with her and had been asked to leave his hotel room.
7. Courtney Love
Hole singer Courtney Love lost her husband, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, to suicide in 1994. On April 8th, an electrician entered Cobain’s home at Lake Washington Boulevard and found his body on the floor with a shotgun under his chin. Cobain had written a suicide note addressed to his childhood imaginary friend “Boddah” stating he had not: “felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music, along with really writing… for too many years now.” An autopsy report found large amounts of heroin and diazepam in his system. They ruled he had died four days earlier on April 4th.
Then in 2014, a new documentary by Benjamin Statler, named Soaked In Bleach, re-told the story of the investigation of Cobain’s death through the eyes of a private detective Courtney Love had hired, after her husband went missing. They strongly claimed that Courtney Love was responsible for the death of her husband.
Love then sent the following letter to the makers of the film via her own legal team:
“We demand that you immediately cease and desist from infringing on Ms. Cobain’s rights in any manner whatsoever, including but not limited to completely halting the Film’s planned exhibition and promotion.
“The Film falsely presents a widely and repeatedly debunked conspiracy theory that accuses Ms. Cobain of orchestrating the death of her husband Kurt Cobain. A false accusation of criminal behavior is defamatory per se under California Civil Code Section 45a, which entitles Ms. Cobain to both actual and presumed damages.”
The producers of Soaked In Bleach made their own statement through the website Deadline.com:
“Courtney Love’s uninformed accusations and efforts to discredit the film are totally off base. The film examines the well documented facts surrounding the death of Kurt Cobain and it questions much of what the public has been told about those events. Most of the opinions and theories presented in the film come directly from facts gathered by Tom Grant, the private investigator Courtney Love hired the week before Kurt’s body was discovered. Tom quickly became suspicious and tape recorded all his conversations with Courtney and others in the days leading up to and after Kurt’s death. The film uses those recordings to reenact Tom’s encounters with Courtney Love and others in Kurt’s inner circle. It also presents the views of Norm Stamper, Seattle’s Police Chief at the time, and Dr. Cyril Wecht, a leading forensic pathologist, who both question whether Kurt could have committed suicide.
“Courtney Love and her lawyers clearly don’t like that the film presents a compelling case for re-opening the investigation into Kurt’s death. They should respect the First Amendment and let people decide for themselves.”
6. Tucker Carlson
Political commentator Tucker Carlson has worked for CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. In the summer of 2001, he was falsely accused of rape, and he believed his career to be over.
He wrote in his 2003 biography, Politicans, Partisans, and Parasites: My Adventures In Cable News:
“I had just gotten off the “Crossfire” set when one of our producers handed me a stack of mail. On the way to the elevator, I glanced at it. On top of the pile was a registered letter from a law firm. It got my attention immediately. I’ve never had a pleasant letter from a lawyer.
“This one was worse than most. It was written by an attorney in Indiana named Paul M. Blanton who wanted to let me know that his client, a woman named *Elizabeth Jansen, was planning to file criminal sex charges against me in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. “Ms. has informed me that she was raped by you,” Blanton wrote. “If you should have any questions or concerns about any of the aforementioned, please do not hesitate to contact me.”
Carlson had never been to Kentucky, and immediately denied all charges – he even passed a lie detector test to help prove his innocence. It was later proven that the woman, Ms. Elizabeth Jansen, who had accused him of the crime, was in fact his long-term stalker, who would often send him cards and key chains in the mail signed by “your biggest fan.” She was found to be mentally unstable and all charges were swiftly dropped.
5. Dewey Bozella
American boxer Dewey Bozella, born 1959, spent 26-years in Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York, for a crime he did not commit. In 1977, 92-year-old Emma Crapser was murdered in her Poughkeepsie, New York apartment. Police reported that the elderly lady had walked in on 18-year-old Bozella who burgled her home, and he killed her. He was denied parole on four occasions after persistently refusing to admit to the crime.
During his sentence, Bozella contacted the Innocence Project, who agreed to examine the case against him. What the Innocence Project then discovered was that Bozella had been framed. He was released on October 28th, 2009.
During his 26-year sentence, he began boxing to stay in shape and to channel his frustrations. He eventually became the light heavyweight champion of the prison and when he was released he continued boxing. In 2011, he earned an ESPY Arthur Ashe Courage Award and said in his acceptance speech, “I didn’t merely want to survive, I wanted to thrive. Boxing awakened me…. My vision became clear. I vowed to save children, teaching boxing and share my story. Hopefully I can save others. My purpose now is to help all children understand how truly valuable life is.”
4. Brian Banks
In 2002, NFL and Atlanta Falcons star, Brian Banks, was accused of rape by one of his former classmates. Wanetta Gibson alleged that when she and Banks were 17-years-old, at their school, he had dragged her into a stairwell and raped her. Banks faced up to 41-years in prison but he accepted a plea deal for five years in prison and registering as a sex offender. Gibson and her mother then went on to sue the high school, claiming it was not a “safe environment” and they received a further $1.5 million in compensation.
Banks served his time, then in 2011, he contacted Gibson through Facebook and she agreed to meet with him in person. During their conversation together, Gibson admitted she fabricated the whole story and refused to tell prosecutors so she wouldn’t have to return the compensation money. She wasn’t aware that Banks was recording the entire confession. In 2012, prosecutors were able to overturn Banks’ conviction and Gibson was sued by Long Beach Unified School District to recoup the money they paid in damages.
Banks is now a spokesperson for the Innocence Project and is currently working on a documentary about his story.
3. Keanu Reeves
Canadian actor Keanu Reeves, who won fans worldwide for his role as Neo in The Matrix, was falsely accused in 2009 of raping and impregnating one of his fans. Karen Sala sued Reeves in court for child support, asking for $150,000 per month in child support and $3 million a month in spousal support.
During the trial, she bizarrely claimed that Reeves had hypnotised her and dressed as her ex-husband in order to impregnate her unwillingly. Reeves persistently claimed his innocence and told the court he had never met the woman in his life. Ultimately a DNA test proved that Reeves was not the father of Sala’s child. He told US Magazine, “I had to go to court. It was horrible. I didn’t do it. I’m not the dad.”
2. O.J. Simpson
On June 12th 1994, American football player O.J. Simpson was accused of stabbing to death his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, alongside a waiter friend of hers, named Ronald Goldman. What began for O.J. Simpson as routine questioning, soon turned into a charge for two counts of first-degree murder.
When he was required to turn himself in by 11 am on the morning of Friday June 17th, he panicked and fled Los Angeles in his Ford Bronco, resulting in the most infamous police chase of all time after 95 million viewers tuned in to watch live. Followed by an entire fleet of patrol cars, Simpson eventually surrendered to the police around nine hours later.
The trial gradually revealed the dangers that arise when a court case is subjected to too much public attention. From his first hearing which began on January 4, 1995, the case was plagued with controversy and delay. Over 300 potential jurors had to be interviewed to determine how easily their decision could be swayed by the press or Simpson’s celebrity.
The trial took nearly ten months, until on October 3rd, 1995, the jury decided Simpson was “not guilty” and he was free to go. That was until 2008, when he was involved in the armed robbery of sports memorabilia at a Las Vegas casino. He was sentenced to a maximum 33 years in Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada, where he still remains to this day.
1. Michael Jackson
In 1993, Michael Jackson, known as the King of Pop, was accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy named Jordan Chandler. His father, a dentist named Evan Chandler, demanded payment from Jackson as damages, but this was refused. Evan was recorded on tape saying, “If I go through with this, I win big-time. There’s no way I lose. I will get everything I want and they will be destroyed forever. Michael’s career will be over.” Jordan’s own mother even declared that there had been no wrongdoing on Jackson’s part – but her husband still pushed ahead with charges.
Jackson’s home was raided by the police and the media storm had begun. Emotionally strained by the charges, Jackson settled with the family out of court for $22 million. A legal document signed by Jackson admitted no wrongdoing and no liability, which was signed by the Chandler’s and their family lawyer with no contest.
Then in 2002, Jackson allowed a documentary camera crew into his home, the program directed by Martin Bashir was broadcast in 2003 as Living with Michael Jackson. One particular scene sparked controversy, where Jackson can be seen holding hands with a young boy. After the documentary aired, the LAPD conducted a thorough investigation. The mother of the young boy who appeared in the documentary, told investigators that Jackson had behaved improperly with her son, and in November 2003 he was charged with seven counts of child molestation and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent.
The People v. Jackson trial began on January 31, 2005, in Santa Maria, California, and lasted five months, until the end of May. The credibility of all the witnesses was questioned when private investigator, Paul Baressi, had taped conversations that revealed Philippe Lamarque, who was a potential witness, would say we saw Jackson touch Macaulay Culkin’s crotch outside of his shorts for a $100,000 payment, but if he was paid $500,000, he would say in court that the hand was on the inside of the shorts. On June 13, 2005, Jackson was acquitted on all counts.