The line between famous and infamous is very thin, and it can be crossed at any time if the wrong intention or accidental gesture winds up with someone hurt.
They say celebrities are just ‘regular people’. Well, they too, can commit crimes just like the rest of us and suffer the consequences. Or do they?
Some charges get dropped without real justice, sometimes unfairly because of the criminal’s status. Other times, though, these celebs do serve time and pay for their actions accordingly.
Here are a few celebrity crimes that might make you wonder why these stars’ names aren’t always naturally associated with their felonies…
1. Mark Wahlberg
Charged With Attempted Murder!
He’s a well-known actor, with a reputation for playing the tough guy in most of his movies. Before acting, and his lesser-known days as a rapper, Mark Wahlberg was labeled a criminal. He was addicted to cocaine at 13 years-old, dropped out of school at 14, and had a civil action filed against him at just 15 due to a racially motivated crime.
Wahlberg was accused of harassing African-American students two separate times, by throwing rocks at them and shouting out racial slurs. He had gotten himself in trouble at least two dozen times with the Boston Police Department, but the worst had not even happened yet.
When he was 16, Wahlberg beat a middle-aged Vietnamese man and knocked him out in the middle of the street. Later that day, he attacked another Asian man with a metal hook, which left the victim blind in one eye.
The now-actor was charged with attempt at murder, but he only pled guilty to assault. It ended with him being sentenced to two years in prison, but served a mere 45 days. Even more, Wahlberg went on to apply for a full pardon from the state of Massachusetts for his past crimes, but he never went through with it.
2. Will Smith
Charged With Aggravated Assault!
This A-list actor has delighted us with his charismatic performances. He’s a leading man in Hollywood, but there’s one thing he probably doesn’t enjoy talking about.
Back in 1989 in Philadelphia, Will Smith got into an argument with a record promoter by the name of William Hendricks. The actor told his bodyguard to beat up Hendricks, which ended up being so brutal, that the man was left nearly blind in one eye due to a fracture to his eye orbit.
Smith was convicted with aggravated assault, reckless endangering of another person, and criminal conspiracy. However, the charges were later dropped, even though the actor spent a night in a cell where other cell-mates were constantly waking him up for autographs.
Smith calls it the worst night of his life, and maintains his innocence to this day, stating in 2005 that his friend beat up Hendricks while he was just there, and had no involvement.
3. Snoop Dogg
Charged With Murder!
One of the most famous rappers in the world has a suspicious back story. He has plenty of financial & professional rewards and has quite a brand name, but things were not always so glamorous for Snoop Dogg.
In his school years, the artist was often in trouble with the law on accounts of drug trafficking, particularly cocaine, and even spent six months in jail. It has even become known that he sold marijuana to an old high school classmate who has later become famous herself: Cameron Diaz.
However, drug charges aren’t the worst. Back in 1993, Snoop Dogg along with his bodyguard, was convicted with the murder of Philip Woldemariam, shooting the man who was a rival gang member at the time. The bodyguard escaped the charges instantly by claiming it was self-defense, but the rapper was only acquitted three years later, in 1996.
4. Matthew Broderick
Charged With Causing Death by Dangerous Driving!
Our beloved Matthew Broderick has a dark spot in his past that is unfortunately marked with blood. Back in 1987, Broderick and his girlfriend at the time, Jennifer Grey, were on vacation in Ireland. Due to the fact that they were supposed to drive on the left side of the road, the actor accidentally took a turn into the wrong lane. That led to a major collision with another car that left two people dead.
Anna Gallagher and her mother died instantly on impact while Broderick and Grey suffered injuries.
The actor was charged with causing death by dangerous driving and was faced with around five years in prison. However, nothing of the sort happened. Broderick got off the charges with just $175 worth of fine and a reduced charge of careless driving. The victims’ family called it a true “travesty of justice”, and it’s difficult to disagree.
5. Vanilla Ice
Charged With Battery!
Ever since 1991, Vanilla Ice has been in trouble with the law. The first time he was arrested was on a firearm charge after threatening a homeless man with a gun. Later on, in 2001, he was arrested for assault after attacking his wife.
Ice pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and admitted to pulling out some of her hair in the incident. As a consequence, he was sentenced to probation and family therapy sessions. However, it didn’t seem like it had done much.
In 2008, Vanilla Ice was once again charged with battery after being accused of hitting his wife, but he was released a day later after she confirmed that he only shoved her. He was also demanded to stay away from his wife from that point on, but that case was also dropped.
Charged With Attempted Murder!
Troubles began early for this rapper. When he was just 12 years-old, Jay-Z shot his drug-addicted older brother in the shoulder after his sibling stole his ring. It bred the lyrics of You Must Love Me where he talks about how he “saw the devil in your eyes/high off more than weed, confused, I just closed my young eyes and squeezed”.
Jay-Z was never convicted for the shooting, but admitted in 2010 that he was scared that his life was over at that point.
However, a 1999 incident was more than a crime of youth and confusion. Jay-Z was charged with stabbing Lance “Un” Riviera in the stomach during an altercation outside a nightclub. The rapper pled guilty to misdemeanor and got away with just three years’ probation.
7. Tim Allen
Charged With Drug Trafficking!
Before he became an actor, Tim Allen faced serious charges regarding drug trafficking. In 1978, he was caught with over 650 grams of cocaine on him at the airport. Allen pled guilty to drug trafficking and initially received a life sentence. However, he requested to have it reduced in exchange for the names of other drug dealers in his niche. It worked.
After serving just two years and four months, Allen was paroled. Since then, his only problem with the law has been a DUI incident in 1997, which he once again evaded with just one-year probation. It’s tough to imagine this family-friendly actor in such a harsh setting, right?
8. Marilyn Manson
Charged With Criminal Sexual Conduct!
Known for his crazy antics, Marilyn Manson was considered to have definitely crossed the line in 2001. The rocker apparently spat on a security guard and pulled his head up against his bare crotch during a concert, which ended him with a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.
While the performer was known to shock his audience, it was another matter entirely to involve an unwilling participant. Manson faced one account of assault and battery, along with criminal sexual conduct. The felony could’ve ended with the rocker to up to two years in prison, but got off with a $4,000 fine.
In 2021, many of Manson’s ex partners and other women publicly stated that they were physically, sexually and emotionally abused by the rock star, but he has denied the allegations and not been charged with any crime thus far.
9. R. Kelly
Charged With Child Pornography, Sex Trafficking & More!
Since the 1990s, R. Kelly has made headlines with sexual abuse accusations that he hasn’t escaped to this very day. The singer was arrested and indicted on 21 counts of child pornography in 2002.
Kelly was accused of making a sex tape with a 12-year-old girl, who he was supposed to introduce into the world of stardom. However, the identity of the girl was never confirmed during the case and the fact that her testimony was lacking favored Kelly’s case.
The singer himself did not testify. The defense claimed that due to the quality of the tape, the jury could not even recognize the girl if she was standing in the room, they claimed that both Kelly and the girl could be models or prostitutes who resemble them, and that it was the jury’s duty to find the man innocent. The singer was found to be not guilty, and was acquitted in 2008.
However, fast-forward to 2019, and the docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, detailed allegations of sexual abuse by several women. By 2021, Kelly was found guilty on nine counts including racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery, sex trafficking, and a violation of the Mann Act. He was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment by a Brooklyn court.
10. Sid Vicious
Charged With Murder!
Sid Vicious, bassist of the Sex Pistols, had become an icon throughout his life, even though he was well-known for being addicted to heroin. In 1978, Sid and his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, were living in a hotel room when the base player called the front desk and said that “something” happened to his girlfriend.
It turned out that Spungen was dead, stabbed several times in the stomach. Sid was arrested and accused of murder that day.
However, three months later, the base player was found dead of a heroin overdose, so the New York Police Department closed the case before the man was officially prosecuted for this major crime.
A movie in 2009 called Who Killed Nancy? fought the idea that Sid stabbed his girlfriend, claiming that he was passed out when she was killed, and around $24,000 were stolen from their room at the time. However, even his former bandmates have spoken of Sid’s fall into the grip of heroin and how it likely led to the murder of his girlfriend while under the influence of drugs. The case remains a mystery until this very day.
11. Mel Gibson
Arrested For DUI & Has a Restraining Order!
As a director, actor, producer, and screenwriter, Mel Gibson’s name is dominant in Hollywood. But his name doesn’t pop up frequently due to his role in Mad Max or for directing Hacksaw Bridge. Instead, we find this celebrity’s name appearing in headlines because of controversial comments, an arrest, and a restraining order.
In 1995, Gibson attended a party with Winona Ryder where he made several references to World War II’s concentration camps, asking her if she had been an “oven-dodger” and was Jewish. Later, other comments were made on the AIDS movement. Only a decade later, Gibson used similar words after being pulled over for driving while under the influence. During his arrest, he screamed anti-Semitic slurs about the Jewish community.
Furthering the common slander on the quadruple threat’s name, Mel Gibson has been accused of domestic violence by his past lover, Oksana Grigorieva. Although it’s just an accusation, there was a restraining order put in place by Oksana against the actor.
12. O.J. Simpson
Arrested For Burglary, Drugs & Kidnapping!
This football star is famously known for being the main suspect in the murder trial of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown-Simpson, and friend Ronald Goldman, but was found not guilty (the glove found on the scene just didn’t fit, obviously).
Unlike his football career, O.J. Simpson’s criminal record was not as stellar. Looking beyond the murder trial, Simpson has a characteristic for bad relationships. In 2000, his girlfriend Christie Prody called 911 dispatch on multiple occasions over their relationship; one of the calls being about him breaking in.
Within the early 2000s, he was notable for getting into trouble with a rumored drug-ring, vehicle burglary, and warranted for cruising on his boat through a manatee area.
These incidents all led up to the final play of his arrest in 2007 for carrying a deadly weapon during a big burglary heist in Las Vegas. The following year, Simpson was ultimately charged for robbery and kidnapping and was sentenced to 33 years in prison with a minimum of nine years without parole. He was released in 2017.
13. Mike Tyson
Charged For Assaults, Drugs & DUIs!
Another athlete who fell into the life of crime is Mike Tyson, the all-star boxer from Brooklyn, New York. Although he’s most famously known for biting off the ear of his opponent in a boxing match, Mike has done much more than such a gruesome attack.
As a child, he was involved with theft cases like pick-pocketing and robbery. Years later when Tyson was 25, he was charged with an account of rape, criminal deviant behavior and confinement by Desiree Washington. Desiree was a candidate in the Miss Black America Pageant, and the attack was made in her own hotel room.
The wrestler was sentenced to 10 years, but managed to get out within only three years. Falling back in line with old habits, it was then when he bit the ear off of his opponent in 1997. Years later, he was charged again with multiple assaults, ties with drugs, and DUIs.
14. Charlie Sheen
Sued For Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence & More!
This Two and a Half Men actor has had more than enough of his fair share of negative headlines. Charlie Sheen has a history of drugs, but also a history of rehab. This constant battle between drugs and sobriety has led to more incidents of criminal activity.
In 1994, Sheen was sued for the physical assault of a young college student who refused sex with him. Furthering the physical assault timeline he had, he also beat his ex-girlfriend Brittany Ashland by allegedly taking her by the hair and throwing her head against the stone floor.
Just two years after this assault, Sheen was hospitalized for a cocaine overdose. Domestic violence had then occurred again in 2009 with his third wife, and was even said to have held a knife to her throat.
After being sued over and over again, the actor’s most terrifying account was that he supposedly put an unloaded gun to his ex-fiancé’s head, and continuously pulled the trigger on her.
15. Chris Brown
Charged With Assaults on Rihanna, Drake & More!
Although he’s one of the best-selling male artists in the world, Chris Brown is no stranger to criminal behavior. The singer’s most well-known offense was with none other than popular star and girlfriend at the time, Rihanna.
The argument in 2009 began between the two artists, where Chris said Rihanna allegedly “tried to kick me”, which followed with him punching her with a closed fist. In his documentary from 2017, he went on to say that he still doesn’t know why he reacted the way he did.
Continuing down the list of Chris Brown’s offenses, he has also committed several assaults. In 2012, one of these assaults even involved Drake in a club brawl, while the other assault involved his bodyguard. The following year, Brown was also charged with a hit-and-run.
Brown didn’t get away with these assaults – the artist was ordered jail time and probation time. However, the singer would constantly break his probation, earning him a prolonged probation and community service time.
16. Robert Downey Jr.
Arrested For Drug Paraphernalia!
Best known for his Marvel Studios role as Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. has been involved with drug use since he was a child. When he was just six years old, his father had him try marijuana. This was only the beginning of a long journey with drug abuse, which even led him to time in jail.
RDJ was able to secure several roles in shows and movies, thanks to his dad’s history as a film director, becoming a blooming star on the rise in Hollywood – all until he was found with the possession of hardcore drugs including heroin and cocaine.
Junior was continuously arrested, making trips to and from jail and serving up to a year in prison during one of the arrests. However, he turned towards sobriety in 2003 and never looked back.
His career restarted again when our first celebrity offender on the list, Mel Gibson, invited Robert Downey Jr. to work on his movie, The Singing Detective.
17. Bill Cosby
Charged With 60 Sexual Assaults!
We’re all familiar with the headlines Bill Cosby has made, but perhaps not the extent of his horrible crimes. The comedian is most well known for his work on The Bill Cosby Show (humbly named after himself), and the cartoon, Fat Albert. These family shows were a great success, until allegations and rumors began to fly in 2018.
Cosby was one of the first celebrities to be mentioned in the #MeToo movement, allowing for women and men alike to speak up about attacks on their sexual freedoms.
This conviction began with Andrea Constand, a worker at Temple University. Not only had Cosby drugged her, but he also molested her. She was just the beginning of a string of women confessing their past traumas involving Bill Cosby, as 60 other women spoke up about his actions.
Cosby served two years of his jail time, and was just released this year on June 30th, 2021.
18. Courtney Love
Alleged Account of Murder, Kidnapping & Burglary!
This famed ex-lover of Kurt Cobain has potentially the craziest stories on our list, which also involves two other well-known celebrities. Cobain and Love’s daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, was once married to Isaiah Silva. Isaiah Silva was said to be a fan of Kurt Cobain’s music, so Frances gifted him a prized guitar from her dad’s collections— a guitar said to be worth several millions of dollars.
The couple split in 2016, the same year of this triple alleged attack. In this attack, not only was Courtney Love involved, but also Britney Spears’ previous manager Sam Lufti, and even the Thirteen Reasons Why actor Ross Butler.
Several other celebrity names were mentioned in this conspiracy, as they devised a plan to not only kidnap, break in, and assault, but even murder for the guitar. There were claims that the three, plus a chauffeur, hacked into Isaiah Silva’s phone to send messages that could present him as depressed or suicidal.
Isaiah then said the chauffeur, Ross Butler, and Sam Lufti broke into his house and assaulted him, keeping him hostage until he signed a legal agreement for the guitar. That same month, Isaiah filed for a restraining order against the ex-manager, Lufti.
19. Matthew McConaughey
Arrested For “Disturbing the Peace”!
Alright, alright, alright— we’ve all heard this suave Texan’s story about being arrested while high and playing the bongos naked, but it’s time for McConaughey to tell it himself. This telling of the tale is just an excerpt from his own memoir he wrote called, Greenlights.
It was 1999, and the actor was closing down on a 32-hour party-bender and headed home. As his final hoorah of the night, he cozied up in, well, nothing, smoked a bowl of marijuana, and whipped out his bongos. He began to bang away on the drums, following along to Afro-Cuban beats blaring on the speakers which he wrote, “was time for a jam session”.
Mellowed out by the beats, two police officers were knocking on his door until they decided to barge in. What they didn’t expect to see was a red-eyed Matthew McConaughey at 2:30am, jamming out on some bongos in his birthday suit. After being arrested as bare as can be, the case was closed and the actor only had to pay a $50 fine.
We can’t say this is the worst of celebrity crimes on our list, but it still comes as a shock that the beloved Matthew was even once arrested!
Charged For Carrying a Concealed Weapon!
Yet another famous person who broke the law…The popular rapper and occasional actor, Eminem, has quite an interesting criminal record and we’re not just talking about his song Criminal.
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One of his most intriguing headlines began with a physical fight with a man named John Guerra. The argument occurred outside a club after John allegedly kissed Eminem’s then-wife, Kim. Eminem then hit Guerra across the face with a pistol, which Eminem mentioned in court was a “concealed weapon”, and later pleaded guilty.
This earned the rapper some form of punishment – two years of probation, and John Guerra a whopping $100,000.
21. Lil’ Kim
Charged With Perjury and Conspiracy!
The Grammy-winning artist, Lil’ Kim, has a rather clean record, but is most notable for her year and a day sentence. This incredibly specific amount of time was due to perjury of herself, and two other accounts of perjury.
In 2001, Kimberly Jones was part of a shootout between her and her friends and an opposing rap group which was sparked by heated comments laced within songs.
This vicious act took the rapper to court, where she chose to lie in order to protect her friends who were involved. Had she not lied, Lil’ Kim’s sentence could have perhaps been shorter.
The rapper was released in 2006, and reflects upon the situation by stating, “I can tell you this is by far the toughest thing I have ever had to go through. I testified falsely during the grand jury and in trial. At the time, I thought it was the right thing to do, but now I know I was wrong.”
22. Tupac Shakur
Arrested For Sexual Assault, Involved in Gang Violence!
Although he’s one of the most grieved rap artists, Tupac Shakur has been greatly involved with crime since an early age. His career took flight in the early 90s, getting involved with other artists such as P. Diddy and Notorious B.I.G.
It was in 1994 when Tupac was going to the studio —while he was still being tried for a sexual assault case— to record a song with the fellow two artists, but was shot five times by three men in the lobby. He survived, went to court the next day for the sexual assault, and was put into jail right after.
Years after his jail time was served, Tupac later joined Suge Knight’s Deathrow Records where he accompanied him to a Mike Tyson fight. In the lobby, a fight erupted between the men of Deathrow Records (which is associated with “The Bloods” gang) and a man who was part of their rival gang, The Crips.
Later that night, Suge Knight was driving with Tupac in the passenger seat, when a Cadillac pulled up right beside their car and shot Tupac four times and grazed Knight once. Tupac died in the hospital six days later.
Clearly, there’s a big, dark stain on these stars’ image that really shouldn’t be erased by their celebrity status. It may seem unfair how some of these celebrities didn’t pay the just price for their unethical crimes. They may be in the past, but that doesn’t take away from the severity and devastating consequences of their actions.
What other celebrity criminals do you know of? Which ones shocked you the most? Tell us in the comments below…
This article was originally published in May 2016.