Celebrities Who Were Cleared Of Serious Charges

They may be rich, beautiful, and famous, but celebrities are human, too — and that means they get into trouble just like the rest of us. In fact, plenty of famous faces have extensive rap sheets, but not every case is clear-cut. In fact, an alarming number of incarcerations are later determined to be wrongful convictions — more than 2,200 cases between 1989 and 2017 — according to the National Registry of Exonerations, and some of your favorite celebrities are a part of those troubling statistics. Though some stars were cleared of their charges early on, there are others that served some seriously hard time before they were freed from their handcuffs. 

From cases involving potential racial bias, false confessions, and corrupt investigations, to scenarios concerning stars being at the wrong place at the wrong time, let's take a closer look at some celebrities who got locked up for horrendous crimes but were later cleared of serious charges. 

Jane Fonda's mysterious pills

Jane Fonda was thrown in the slammer for alleged drug smuggling in 1970. According to the Daily Mail, she was flying home to the United States after speaking at an anti-Vietnam war fundraiser in Canada and was carrying vitamins labeled "b," "l," and "d" (signifying the pills she'd take for breakfast, lunch and dinner) in her bag. That apparently looked suspicious to customs officials, who alerted the authorities. Fonda's luggage was seized by police and the actress-turned-activist was reportedly taken to jail on drug smuggling charges. 

"I told them what [the vitamins] were, but they said they were getting orders from the White House — that would be the Nixon White House," Fonda wrote in an essay. "I think they hoped this 'scandal' would ... ruin my respectability." She was released from jail on bond, and months later, after the mysterious pills had been tested, the charges against Fonda were dropped. Although a sad situation, Fonda appears to have taken that moment in stride. In 2009, she even modeled merchandise featuring her iconic mugshot.

A rape charge sidelines Brian Banks

Brian Banks was a standout high school football star and NFL hopeful in 2002, but a rape charge from a classmate punted the teen's future. According to the Los Angeles Times, "Banks had a choice: He could take the he said-she said case to trial and, if convicted, risk being sentenced to 41 years to life in prison. Or, as his lawyer advised, he could accept a plea deal." Banks chose the latter, pleading no contest to forcibly raping a fellow student at summer school. He served five long years behind bars. Meanwhile, his accuser also won a $1.5 million settlement against the school district. 

In 2012, Banks was exonerated of the crime after his accuser reached out to him to "make amends" and admitted that she fabricated the rape story, reported the Times. While Banks won't be able to get back the grueling years he spent in prison, his pro football dreams did come true. In 2013, he signed with the Atlanta Falcons, and he later took a front office job with the NFL. The woman who accused him was ordered by the court to pay $2.6 million to the school district she sued in connection with the case.

Dewey Bozella's wrongful murder conviction

Boxer Dewey Bozella was finally exonerated and released from prison in 2009, after spending a whopping 26 years behind bars. He was imprisoned as a teenager following the 1977 death of a 92-year-old woman who was reportedly beaten, bound, and suffocated after coming home from bingo. According to The New York Times, Bozella was first convicted of the crime in 1983, but that "verdict was overturned after a court ruled that black people had been unlawfully struck from the jury." The boxer's freedom was short-lived. He was convicted of the crime again at a retrial in 1990 after two men, both of whom repeatedly changed their stories and had sketchy criminal histories, testified against him.

In 2009, a judge ruled that Bozella had been wrongfully convicted, determining "prosecutors did not turn over to the defense crucial evidence, including a neighbor's account of hearing rustling in the alleyway near a window where the police had found the fingerprint of a man named Donald Wise who had been convicted of killing an elderly woman in similar fashion" in the same neighborhood, reported The New York Times. According to the Innocence Project, there was no evidence linking Bozella to the murder. In 2015, the 55-year-old boxer was awarded $7.5 million for the wrongful conviction.

Murder was the case Snoop Dogg defeated

The Snoop Dogg who fans know and love today is a far cry from the person he was when the self-proclaimed gang-banger made his debut on Dr. Dre's The Chronic in 1992. These days, when the D-O-double-G isn't cooking up recipes with Martha Stewart, he's likely coaching a youth football team, but believe it or not, this beloved entertainer was put on trial for murder in 1993.

According to The Washington Post, just months before the release of his debut album, Doggystyle, Snoop and his then-bodyguard were involved in a heated confrontation with a group of gang members in California that resulted in the death of 20-year-old Phillip Woldemariam. Witnesses told police Snoop was driving with his bodyguard, McKinley Lee, when they encountered the group, which included Woldemariam. Though witness reports were conflicting, the Post reported that Woldemariam "had a gun in his waistband at the time of the shooting" and one of Woldermariam's friends "reluctantly testified" that he saw him "lift his shirt as if to go for his gun just before getting shot" by Lee. 

Snoop (real name Calvin Broadus Jr.) and Lee were charged with first and second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit assault, but in 1996, both men were acquitted. According to defense attorney Donald Re (via the Los Angeles Times), "The biggest mistake that police made in this case was they closed their eyes to the truth."

Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle's crushing scandal

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's career as one of Hollywood's most beloved silent film stars came crashing down in 1921, when he was accused of murder. According to BBC News, Arbuckle was at a gathering in a hotel suite when he and actress Virginia Rappe wound up in a bedroom together. Moments later, guests heard screams and rushed in to find Rappe lying on the bed, writhing in pain. This is where it gets tricky. Arbuckle claimed Rappe had merely fallen off the bed, but the actress uttered some damning words: "He did this to me."

Rappe reportedly died from peritonitis caused by a ruptured bladder, but according to the BBC, Arbuckle was convicted in the press, "portrayed as a fat brute who had pinned down his prey, rupturing her bladder." An acquaintance of Rappe claimed Arbuckle raped the actress, though a medical examination found no evidence of assault. The film star was tried three times. "The first two cases ended in hung juries," reported the BBC. Rappe's pal didn't testify but did admit to "plotting to extort money from [Arbuckle] ... And it emerged in court that the prosecution had used intimidation to force several witnesses to testify against Arbuckle." He was acquitted in 1922, found guilty "only of drinking bootleg alcohol." 

Arbuckle's career never recovered. He spent the remaining years of his life working behind the scenes under a new name before dying of a heart attack at age 46.

Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter's murder charge KO

Race relations are always a touchy subject, and they were seemingly at the heart of boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter's murder case. According to The New York Times, Carter was "convicted twice on the same charges of shooting two men and a woman in a Paterson, N.J. tavern in 1966. But both jury verdicts were overturned on different grounds of prosecutorial misconduct." Carter was put away, in large part, thanks to the testimonies of two career criminals who later claimed "detectives had pressured them into falsely identifying" Carter and who were "secretly promised leniency" for their own crimes if they cooperated in the case. Carter's conviction was overturned in 1976 after those witnesses recanted their stories. The boxer was freed on bail as a new trial got underway. 

Alas, one of the aforementioned witnesses "recanted his recantation," the Times reported, and Carter went back to jail until 1985, when the conviction was overturned again "on constitutional grounds." A judge ruled that prosecutors withheld importance evidence and introduced a "racial revenge theory" without evidence. The case reportedly made its way to the Supreme Court as the prosecution tried to reinstate the conviction, but the case was finally dismissed in 1988. By then, Carter had served 19 years in prison. After his release, he spent the rest of his life working as a motivational speaker and prison reform activist.

J. Lo got caught in the mix

Turns out love actually does cost a thing, and in the case of Jennifer Lopez, it almost cost the A-lister her freedom. While working on her debut album, On The Six, Lopez sparked a romance with Bad Boy producer Sean "P Diddy" Combs, who proved to be much more of a bad boy than "Jenny from the Block" could handle. 

In 1999, Lopez and Combs, along with Bad Boy protégé Shyne, were reportedly at a club in New York when a scuffle broke out, gunfire erupted, and three people were wounded. According to The Washington Post, Lopez and Combs fled the scene but were apprehended by police minutes later after their vehicle "ran at least one red light." Cops found a stolen gun in the vehicle and arrested both Combs and Lopez for criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of stolen property. Lopez reportedly spent only 14 hours in jail, but that short stay was horrific for her. "She was crying all over the place, in the squadroom," said a law enforcement source (via the New York Daily News). "She was just upset about the whole thing." 

Lopez and Combs were eventually cleared of all charges, but Shyne (real name Jamal Barrow) wasn't so lucky. He was convicted of the shooting and sentenced to ten years in prison. He served nearly nine years and was then deported to his native Belize in 2009, reported Rolling Stone.