Even famous people break the law. Many celebrities have gone to jail over the years, including comedian Tim Allen, domestic guru Martha Stewart, and actor Kiefer Sutherland. A good chunk of these stars committed minor offenses involving DUI charges or financial crimes. They serve rather short sentences and are often (but not always) able to pick up their lives where they left off. Society can be very forgiving when it comes to those who do their time and repent their crimes.
Then there are the celebrities whose criminal activities are on an entirely different level, necessitating several years in prison. They’ve committed crimes that are so bad, it’s next to impossible for fans to forget what they did. The men and women in this list have been involved in sex crimes, trafficked huge amounts of drugs, and even committed murder. Some admit that they broke the law, while others continue to maintain their innocence. Either way, they’re stuck behind bars for a very long time.
It’s unclear what they will do when they’re released from prison. Some may die while serving out their sentences, while others may disappear from public scrutiny. Regardless, their legacies are forever linked to their poor choices in judgment.
Bill Cosby – Sexual Assault
Bill Cosby was accused of sexual assault many times over the years and even settled with one accuser in 2006, according to Biography. Still, most fans didn’t have any ill will toward the star afterward. His behavior stayed somewhat under the radar until comedian Hannibal Buress mentioned in a 2014 stand-up routine that the former “Cosby Show” star was known for raping women. Before long, a string of women began revealing that the actor forced himself upon them without their consent. Supermodel Janice Dickinson told “Entertainment Tonight” that he plied her with wine and a pill before assaulting her. It went downhill from there.
In 2016, a Pennsylvania judge decreed that there was enough evidence for a criminal trial, for which the jury deadlocked in June 2017, resulting in a mistrial. There was a retrial in 2018, and Cosby was found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, receiving a three- to 10-year sentence for assaulting a Philadelphia woman in 2004. Cosby has denied all the allegations. In 2019, he claimed in an interview that he would rather stay in prison for a decade then admit to something he didn’t do.
Suge Knight – Voluntary Manslaughter
Hip-hop star Marion Hugh “Suge” Knight Jr. was the CEO of Death Row Records, and in January 2015, he had an altercation with a man named Cle “Bone” Sloan, who worked on the biopic “Straight Outta Compton,” according to The Cinemaholic. The fight got so intense that Knight ended up grazing Sloan with his vehicle and running over a man named Terry Carter, who died from his injuries. Knight initially claimed his actions were in self-defence and that he was being chased by two armed men.
Three years later, Knight entered a plea deal and was sentenced to 22 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter and six years for a third strike violation, which totalled 28 years behind bars. He has been serving time at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego County, California, since 2018 and isn’t eligible for parole until 2037.
Jared Fogle – Sex With Minors and Child Pornography
You probably remember a man named Jared Fogle from the Subway sandwich commercials. When he was just 20 years old, he weighed over 400 pounds. He decided to change his life in 1998 by exercising and eating two sandwiches from Subway every day. He lost more than half of his body weight in less than one year, according to the Los Angeles Times. He then appeared in a Men’s Health article and soon became a spokesman for Subway, appearing in his first commercial for the sandwich shop in 2000. He had parlayed his weight loss into an income-earning gig.
A few years later, things took a very dark turn. During a plea deal with authorities in 2015, he confessed to receiving child pornography and having sex with minors, according to NPR. He was involved in interstate travel to pay for sex and possessed 400 videos of illicit pornography. Even worse, many of the videos were sent to him by the head of his charity, according to prosecutors in the case against him. Fogle was sentenced to over 15 years in prison and won’t be eligible for parole until he’s served at least 13 years. Fogle was also reportedly ordered to pay restitution to 14 minors that he assaulted, to the tune of $1.4 million.
Michael Jace – Murder
Michael Jace, who you may know for the television police drama “The Shield,” shot his wife in front of their two children in their Los Angeles home in 2014. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the murder, reported CNN. The motive for the killing appeared to be jealousy. His wife, April Jace, wanted a divorce, and the 53-year-old actor was convinced she was dating another man.
When April returned to their home on May 19, 2014, Jace shot her several times while their sons, ages eight and five, looked on. He called 911 and his father-in-law after the incident and admitted to the crime. Jace had a history of violent behaviour: A friend of his first wife revealed in a sworn statement during a 2005 custody case that he had choked and hit his wife and slammed her against the wall.
Harvey Weinstein – Multiple Sex Crimes
Film mogul Harvey Weinstein is in prison based on the allegations of just two people, Miriam Haley and Jessica Mann, even though dozens of women (a whopping 87, according to USA Today) spoke out about the sexual abuse they experienced at his hands over the years. Weinstein was arrested in New York and charged with rape, committing a criminal sex act, sexual abuse, and sexual misconduct, in 2018, according to Biography. Investigators in California and London were also targeting the producer for sex crimes.
Before he went to trial, Weinstein posted $1 million bail and was ordered to wear an ankle monitor. He was later indicted on charges of rape in the first and third degrees, a first-degree criminal sexual act, and other felony sex charges. The entire time, Weinstein refuted the charges and indicated that the women were willing participants in his sexual conquests. Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison and is a registered sex offender.
R.Kelly – Child Pornography
Rapper R. Kelly was arrested by the feds on July 11, 2019, in Chicago. He and a few associates allegedly recruited young girls for sexual encounters, isolated them from their families, and controlled them so they wouldn’t seek help, according to the Chicago Tribune. An indictment was filed in a U.S. District Court in New York City, and Chicago prosecutors also issued an indictment claiming Kelly paid off witnesses and victims in a 2008 child pornography trial.
The singer faces up to 20 years in prison for the New York case and possibly decades more for the Chicago case. He’s also facing additional criminal charges related to sexual abuse filed in Cook County, Illinois. Trial dates in New York were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kelly is currently in a Chicago federal jail and has been having a hard time in lockup. He was attacked by Latin King gang member Jeremiah Shane Farmer in August 2020. Farmer beat the star up while he was in bed, and Kelly reportedly sustained a serious concussion during the incident.
Shannon Richardson – Conspiracy to Murder
In 2013, actress Shannon Guess Richardson, known for her role on “The Walking Dead,” pleaded guilty to developing, producing, possessing, and transferring a toxin with the intent to use it as a weapon, according to the Texarkana Gazette. She mailed threatening, poison-laced letters to then-president Barack Obama and two other people. Richardson bought supplies for the plot using a credit card and account under her husband’s name, and she made the poison ricin using castor beans in the home she shared with her husband and four children. She was also pregnant while making the concoction.
She mailed the letters to Obama, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, and a man named Michael Glaze, who was employed by Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The FBI collected and examined all of the correspondence. Richardson wrote about gun control in the letters and tried to set up her husband for the crime by planting evidence in his car and lunchbox. Despite her attempt to frame him, she was arrested in 2013 and eventually given an 18-year sentence.
Richardson is serving time in a federal prison in Forth Worth, Texas, and could be released in 2029. She is not eligible for parole.