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Top 10 Famous People Who Killed Someone And Got A Slap On The Wrist
Sometimes, it seems like the rich and famous can get away with anything. It almost seems like, if someone is rich enough, they can kill someone, get convicted, and only have to pay a fine.
It seems like it because it actually happens.
Some celebrities have literally killed people and gotten away with it. We don’t just mean people like O.J. Simpson who had to convince a court that they were innocent. These people were taken to trial and found guilty by a jury of their peers—and not a single one of them spent more than a month in prison.
10 Matthew Broderick
In 1987, at the height of Ferris Bueller fever, Matthew Broderick was driving down the streets of Northern Ireland—on the wrong side of the road. Broderick was speeding into oncoming traffic when he smashed his car head-on into another vehicle, killing the people inside: 63-year-old Margaret Doherty and her 28-year-old daughter, Anna Gallagher.
Nobody’s entirely clear on why he was driving into oncoming traffic, including Broderick himself. He wasn’t drunk, but he has no memory of what happened. “I don’t remember the day,” Broderick said afterward. “I don’t remember even getting up in the morning. I don’t remember making my bed. What I first remember is waking up in the hospital with a very strange feeling going on in my leg.”
Broderick was arrested but was easily able to pay his bail. Sober or not, he was on the wrong side of the road and so the accident was clearly his fault. He was taken to court, charged with reckless driving, and found guilty of causing the deaths of two people.
Which, when you’re Matthew Broderick, means you have to pay a $175 fine.
9 Rebecca Gayheart
$2,800 Fine And 750 Hours Of Community Service
You might remember Rebecca Gayheart from her role on Beverly Hills, 90210 as Luke Perry’s love interest. Or, if you weren’t a 90210 fan, you might remember her from her other big moment—running over and killing a nine-year-old child in Los Angeles on June 13, 2001.
Gayheart was driving and talking on her cell phone when the car in front of her stopped to let a little boy, Jorge Cruz Jr., cross the road. Gayheart, though, wasn’t big on patience. When the car in front of her stopped, she went onto the wrong side of the road to pass the car and ran right over the little boy.
Gayheart pleaded “no contest” to being responsible for a child’s death. But all she got was probation, a $2,800 fine, and 750 hours of community service. The child’s family tried to push for a bit more and filed a wrongful death suit, but Gayheart settled that one out of court.
It probably cost her a bit of money, but she could afford it. And for killing a nine-year-old child, an out-of-court settlement is a small price to pay.
8 Marvin Gay Sr.
You probably already know that Marvin Gaye met his end in Los Angeles at age 44 when his father shot him three times in the chest after a spat on April 1, 1984. You might not realize what happened next, though—because Marvin Gay Sr. didn’t spend a day in jail.
Marvin Gay Sr. pleaded “no contest” to manslaughter charges and didn’t show a lot of remorse. When the police asked him if he loved his son, Gay Sr. just said, “Let’s say I didn’t dislike him.”
Despite all that, Gay only got a suspended sentence. That’s a sentence—usually meant for minor crimes—that means the judge has decided to delay sending you to prison. Usually, you go on probation and, as long you behave, you never go to jail.
Gay got a suspended sentence partly because he had a brain tumor and the judge figured he’d be dead soon anyway. Gay, though, lived for 15 more years, all of it out of prison. He didn’t die until he was 84.
7 Ted Kennedy
Senator Ted Kennedy, the youngest brother of JFK, drowned a 28-year-old woman in 1969. He’d taken her on a drive down Chappaquiddick Island, drove his car off a bridge, and left his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, to die in the waters below.
Kennedy claimed that he drove off the bridge because he took a wrong turn, which is one hell of a wrong turn. Either way, he managed to swim out and she didn’t. Kopechne drowned, and the ever-heroic Kennedy, instead of calling the cops, immediately started covering his tracks.
Kennedy rushed back to his hotel and changed his clothes. Then he found the innkeeper and yelled at him about the noise next door while repeatedly asking what time it was, trying to set up an alibi. Kennedy didn’t call the police or admit to what he’d done until the police found Kopechne’s body.
Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and got a suspended sentence, which he served entirely through probation. After Mary Jo Kopechne was buried, Kennedy went right back to work as a US senator.
6 Donte Stallworth
24 Days In Jail
NFL wide receiver Donte Stallworth once got drunk and ran over a man with his car in Miami. In March 2009, he had gone to a friend’s party and had been up until 5:30 AM drinking. After a short nap, he got in his car, drunk out of his mind, and ran someone over.
“I had driven drunk before. It’s that feeling of having it under control,” Stallworth later said, explaining why he had gotten behind the wheel. He would quickly realize, though, that he wasn’t the drunk driving expert he’d imagined. His senses blurred, he didn’t notice 59-year-old Mario Reyes running across the street to catch a bus. Stallworth ran Reyes over and killed him.
Stallworth called the police and took full responsibility for what he’d done. “I was driving under the influence and should not have been. Anything after that doesn’t matter,” he said. “If I wasn’t on that road, it wouldn’t have happened, and if I wasn’t driving under the influence, I wouldn’t have been on that road.”
Stallworth pleaded guilty to manslaughter and got the full brunt of the law for killing a man: 30 days in prison and 1,000 hours of community service. For good behavior, though, he was let go six days early and spent less than a month behind bars.
5 William S. Burroughs
While in Mexico in 1951, author William S. Burroughs killed his 28-year-old wife, Joan. The two were at a party, drinking heavily, when Burroughs announced, “It’s time for our William Tell act!” His giggling wife put a shot glass on her head, and Burroughs told a crowd to gather and watch. He was going to shoot the glass off her head.
Reportedly, Burroughs was a great shot—when he was sober. Drunk out of his mind, though, he was a bit clumsier. He missed the glass and shot his wife in the face while a group of their friends watched.
Even though there were several witnesses, Burroughs told the courts that he’d just been holding the gun when it had gone off all by itself. His story completely contradicted that of every person who had been there. Yet Burroughs managed to get a suspended sentence and only spent two years on probation.
Apparently, the memory stuck with him. One of Burroughs’s friends, George Laughead, claims that, high on cocaine at a party years later, Burroughs yelled out a piece of advice to his friends: “Shoot the bitch, and write a book! That’s what I did.”
4 Adlai Stevenson
Adlai Stevenson was very nearly the president of the United States. He was the Democratic candidate in 1952 and 1956, though he lost to Dwight Eisenhower both times. And, when he was 12 years old, he shot and killed a 15-year-old girl.
In December 1912, Stevenson’s family had friends over for a party at their home in Bloomington, Illinois. While there, a boy who was in the military academy was showing off how he’d learned to do the manual of arms. Stevenson was impressed. He wanted to be just like the other boy. So Stevenson grabbed the rifle and tried to do it himself.
Stevenson didn’t realize, though, that this gun was loaded. When he tried to copy what he’d seen the bigger boy do, the gun went off, shooting his 15-year-old cousin Ruth Merwin in the forehead and killing her on the spot.
At least, that’s the official story. According to one witness, though, that’s just the story his parents told to keep him safe. They say that young Adlai had grabbed the gun and pointed it at his cousin. Thinking that it was just a game, Stevenson pulled the trigger.
3 Laura Bush
First Lady Laura Bush accidentally killed one of her friends in Midland, Texas, when she was 17 years old. In 1963, she was driving to a movie theater and, apparently, was in a hurry. She was driving well over the speed limit, went through a stop sign, and plowed right into a classmate’s car.
The two cars skidded out of control. “In those awful seconds, the car door must have been flung open by the impact and my body rose in the air until gravity took over and I was pulled, hard and fast, back to Earth,” Laura Bush recalled. “The whole time, I was praying that the person in the other car was alive. In my mind, I was calling ‘Please, God. Please, God,’ over and over and over again.”
The other person, Michael Dutton Douglas, died in the accident. Laura Bush, though, came out of it without getting charges filed against her.
In December 2006, pop singer Brandy caused a massive pileup on a Los Angeles freeway and ended someone’s life. The car in front of her stopped, and Brandy, apparently not paying attention, didn’t hit the brake. She smashed into the car from behind and sent it into the car in front of it.
Awatef Aboudihaj, the 38-year-old driver in front of Brandy, died from her injuries in the accident. Brandy didn’t get charged because there was a dispute over who was really at fault. But the other drivers involved took her to civil court.
Brandy never legally admitted that she was to blame. But she paid $600,000 to the Aboudihaj family to get them to drop their case. She settled with the other families out of court, too.
“The whole experience did completely change my life,” Brandy said about it later, “and I can say that I think I’m a better person from it.” So it’s okay. She learned a valuable life lesson.
1 Vince Neil
$2.6 Million Fine
On December 8, 1984, Vince Neil, the lead singer of Motley Crue, was driving to the liquor store with his friend Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley, the drummer of Hanoi Rocks, in the passenger seat. Neil was already drunk and smashed into another car, killing Dingley and leaving the people in the other car with severe brain damage.
Neil was sentenced to 30 days in jail for killing someone and severely crippling two other people while driving drunk. But he got out within 15 days. He also had to pay $2.6 million in restitution.
Even Neil thinks he got off too easy. “I wrote a $2.5 million check for vehicular manslaughter when Razzle died. I should have gone to prison. I definitely deserved to go to prison. But I did 30 days in jail and got laid and drank beer because that’s the power of cash,” he said. “That’s f—ed up.”