The Celebrities and Wealthy Who Got Away Lightly With Their Crimes

One rule for them, another for us.

Josie Klakström
Apr 9 · 7 min read

The phrase “too rich to jail” is being bandied around more these days, since white-collar crime numbers have begun to rise. According to The New Republic, there’s not been a better time to take up a career in fraud and corruption. Numerous celebrities and affluent members of society have got away with some serious and stupid crimes over the years and have received very little punishment.

Felicity Huffman

Best known for her role in Desperate Housewives, Huffman was charged by the FBI and Attorney’s Office for her involvement in the college entrance exam scandal. The actress paid $15,000 for her daughter’s SAT exam to be taken by someone else to ensure her better grades to get into Carnegie Mellon University’s theatre course.

Felicity Huffman and husband William H. Macy via latimes.com

She was released on $250,000 bail and appeared in court in March 2019 where she pleaded guilty to fraud. She was fined $30,000, given 250 hours of community service and spent just 11 days in jail for her crimes.

Robert H. Richards IV

Richards who’s the heir to the du Pont family’s estimated $14 billion, was arrested in 2009 for repeatedly sexually assaulting his three-year-old daughter. The billionaire offered to take a polygraph test to clear his name but he failed the exam and eventually confessed to the charges.

Robert H. Richards IV via USA Today

He should have received a sentence of potentially 30 years in prison, but his lawyers were able to change the charge to fourth-degree rape, and he was given eight years in prison. However, the court believed he wouldn’t “fare well” in prison, so his sentence was suspended and he was freed on probation.

In 2014, Richard’s ex-wife sued him for damages after claiming that he’d also been assaulting their son. The case was settled confidentially.

Lil Wayne

The rapper has a long arrest record and has been in trouble with the law on numerous occasions.

In 2007, he was arrested in New York City following a performance. Police discovered him and another man smoking marijuana near one of the tour buses. After he was taken into custody, police found a .40 calibre pistol near the rapper. The gun was registered to Lil Wayne’s manager. He was charged with criminal possession of a weapon and marijuana and was incarcerated for eight months.

Lil Wayne with President Donald Trump via Twitter

After this stint in jail, Lil Wayne rocketed to stardom. He appeared at the Grammys, recorded multiple tracks and by 2008, he was worth around $22 million.

The list of Lil Wayne’s arrests for weapons and drugs is long. He is barred from owning a gun due to his prior weapons charges, yet he still has one.

In December last year, Lil Wayne (birth name Dwayne Michael Carter Jr.) was arrested after a search of his private jet uncovered a gold-plated gun in his luggage. The 38-year-old already has a weapon’s charge dating back to 2009 in New York and could have faced up to 10 years in prison if prosecuted. Instead, he was pardoned by former President Donald Trump in January, on his last day in office.

S. Curtis “Curt” Johnson

The billionaire whose family owned the household products company, SC Johnson, was arrested in March 2011 for molestation. Faced with a potential 40-year sentence for repeatedly assaulting his teenage stepdaughter, the businessman who was worth an estimated $4.2 billion in 2019 only received three months in prison and a fine of $6,000.

S. Curtis “Curt” Johnson via journaltimes.com

Alongside the short prison term and the fine that hardly made a dent in his fortune, Johnson also didn’t have to register as a sex offender.

Mark Wahlberg

In 1988, 17-year-old (already famous) Mark Wahlberg attacked two men. The first he beat so severely, the man was knocked unconscious. That same night, he attacked another man, Hoa Trinh, and blinded him in one eye. Wahlberg was charged with attempted murder but spent just 45 days in jail.

This was not Wahlberg’s first violent episode. A year earlier, he and his friends chased three children while throwing rocks at them and shouting profanities. The next day, he verbally attacked another group of black children at the beach, which encouraged other white men to join in the abuse and rocking throwing. He was charged with violating the civil rights of his victims. The case was settled the month after.

Mark Wahlberg via CBS News

In 2014, Wahlberg requested a pardon for the attempted murder. The reason? He wanted a concessionaire’s license for his restaurant business, and to work closely with local law enforcement helping children who are deemed vulnerable. The prosecution argued, “Wahlberg has never acknowledged the racial nature of his crimes”. The pardon was denied.

Justin Bieber

The young singer is another who has managed to get out of charges in the past. In 2014, the 19-year-old was arrested when he was caught drag-racing a rented Lamborghini Gallardo in Miami Beach, Florida.

The officer who arrested Bieber reported that he smelled alcohol on the teenager’s breath and was concerned with Bieber’s continuous searching in his pockets, so he cuffed and arrested him.

Justin Bieber via Miami Beach Police Department

When breathalysed, Bieber blew a .014 and .011, which were under the Florida limit for driving while intoxicated. However, the urine sample taken from the popstar showed recent Xanax and marijuana use.

Justin Bieber was charged with resisting arrest, driving under the influence and driving with an expired licence.

The state agreed to drop the DUI charge if he pleaded guilty to careless driving and resisting arrest. He paid a $500 fine and took part in 12 hours of anger management.

R. Kelly

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the singer. In 2002, a tape of R.Kelly (birth name Robert Sylvester Kelly) having sex with an underage girl surfaced. He was charged with 14 counts of child pornography, but a jury acquitted him. The defence lawyers argued that the girl was unidentifiable despite multiple prosecution witnesses identifying the girl.

As we’ve all read, R. Kelly’s past is full of indecent acts against women and children, and let’s not forget the alleged cultmany of his female fans found themselves in.

R. Kelly via theguardian.com

Fortunately, R. Kelly is now in a long, ongoing court battle with more recent charges of 20 counts in four separate indictments, including child pornography charges and sex trafficking.

Lindsay Lohan

In the United States, it’s reported that one person every 50 minutes dies from drink driving incidents. Though this number has fallen by a third in 30 years, that’s still 10,000 lives a year.

Lindsay Lohan was in and out of jail many times but has never been given a harsh sentence despite her continuous alcohol and drug issues.

Lindsay Lohan via usmagazine.com

In May 2007, the 20-year-old was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and possession of cocaine. Two months later, she was arrested again for the same crime, plus driving with a suspended licence. For this, she was sentenced to take part in an alcohol education program, some community service, one day in jail, and three years’ probation.

Her time in jail amounted to 84 minutes, due to overcrowding.

She is not the first to be given a short sentence for drink driving. In 2006, Nicole Ritchie spent 82 minutes incarcerated after witnesses reported her Mercedes-Benz SUV driving the wrong way down a freeway in Burbank, Los Angeles.

Matthew Broderick

These incidents don’t just happen on American turf. In 1987, Matthew Broderick and Jennifer Grey caused a car crash in Ireland, while crossing into the wrong lane. They hit a Volvo which contained a mother and daughter, who both died on impact.

Matthew Broderick and Jennifer Grey via people.com

According to Irish law, the sentence for causing death by dangerous driving was at least 18 months in prison at the time, yet Matthew Broderick, who was in control of the vehicle, was convicted of the lesser charge of careless driving and only fined £100. Family members called the verdict “a travesty of justice”. Broderick later went on to appear in a multi-million-dollar Honda commercial, that aired during the Super Bowl.

Granted, monsters like Harvey Weinstein have finally been given the justice they deserve but, in a world where red flags are more obvious, shouldn’t more celebrities be accountable for their crimes?

Celebrities are not the only people to get away with criminal acts, but their business is the most public. Money and contacts go a long way when trying to stay out of prison. Something that mere mortals can often only dream of. The fundamental question is will celebrities ever be treated the same as us when they can pay off the right people and hire top lawyers?

I won’t hold my breath.

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Josie Klakström

Written by

Josie is a freelance journalist who writes about true crime, lifestyle and marketing.

The True Crime Edition

A publication that delves into fascinating cases, the psychology behind criminals and the history of finding them.

Josie Klakström

Written by

Josie is a freelance journalist who writes about true crime, lifestyle and marketing.

The True Crime Edition

A publication that delves into fascinating cases, the psychology behind criminals and the history of finding them.

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