10 celebrities who have spent time in prison

By Marilynn McLachlan

Robert Downey Jr. Photo / AP
Robert Downey Jr. Photo / AP

This week fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have each been sentenced to jail for 18 months for evading taxes totalling €200 million (over NZ$320 million).

Here are 10 celebrities who have spent time behind bars.

1. Paul McCartney

Former Beatle, Sir Paul McCartney was caught with 8oz of marijuana at a Tokyo airport in 1980. Travelling with his band Wings, customs officers discovered the drugs in a plastic bag at the top of his suitcase. He was immediately arrested and spent nine days in jail. He didn't speak of the ordeal until 21 years later, saying that "I do not know what possessed me to stick this bloody great bag of grass in my suitcase. Thinking back on it, it almost makes me shudder."

He was deported after nine days and had to pay a £1 million in compensation for the cancellation of concerts.

2. Tim Allen

In 1978, before becoming famous as Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor on Home Improvement, Allen was caught with 650 grams of cocaine in Michigan - which, by law, meant that he could spend the rest of his life in prison. Instead, he did a deal and dobbed in the people who he was associating with at the time and his sentence was reduced to two years.

He later said, "When I went to jail, reality hit so hard that it took my breath away, took my stance away, took my strength away." He said he considered suicide but his inner comic appeared and he began reinventing himself.

3. Frank Sinatra

Most of the celebrities who have seen the inside of a jail cell have done so because of drugs, drunkenness and money issues. Frank Sinatra, however, was arrested in New Jersey in 1938 for an affair with a married woman - an illegal act at the time.

Charged with "adultery and seduction", he spent 16 hours inside before being released on a $1500 bond. The charges were later dropped.

4. Martha Stewart

The Queen of Lifestyle, Martha Stewart, spent five months in jail followed by two years of supervised release for conspiracy, obstruction of an agency proceeding and making false statements to federal investigators in 2004.

In an interview on TODAY last year, she said, "It's hard to say, 'Good comes out of a bad time'. And that saying that 'It only makes you better?' Oh my gosh. Bull. It's terrible. I lost a fortune."

5. Zsa Zsa Gabor

In June 1989, the ex-beauty queen and actress was pulled over in Beverly Hills for a traffic violation. Police officer Paul Kramer discovered that she didn't have a valid driver's license, her vehicle was unregistered and she had an open flask of Jack Daniels in her Rolls-Royce.

Unhappy with the officer, she gave him a slap across the head and subsequently spent three days in jail and was made to do 120 hours of community service. She also paid $13,000 in court costs and had to pay a fine of $12,350.

She was indignant of the trial, saying the jury were not her peers, "It was not my class of people, there was not a producer, a press agent, a director, an actor."

6. Bill Gates


Photo / AFP

He may have made his billions in Microsoft, but Bill Gates has always had a passion for fast cars - and fast driving. When his company was based in New Mexico, he bought himself a Porsche and used to race it in the desert.

He allegedly spent a few hours in jail in 1977 for running a stop sign and driving without a license. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen said that he had to bail Gates out of jail after one midnight escapade, in a Time magazine interview.

7. Jane Fonda

Actress, political activist and fitness guru Jane Fonda was on her way to an anti-war speaking engagement in 1970 when she was detained at Cleveland airport. Customs officers searched her luggage and found three envelopes, named in lipstick B, L and D. Suspecting drug smuggling, she was handcuffed and put behind bars until bail was set.

After many months of every pill being tested in a lab, it was confirmed that the pills were, as Fonda claimed, vitamins, labelled for breakfast, lunch and dinner. She later wrote on her blog that, "I think they hoped this 'scandal' would cause the college speeches to be cancelled and ruin my respectability."

8. Matthew McConaughey

Academy Award winning actor Matthew McConaughey has always walked to the beat of his own drum. In 1999 a neighbour called Texas police complaining about the noise coming from his house. When they arrived, they found McConaughey dancing around naked and playing the bongo drums.

He was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, but these charges were eventually dropped. He did have to pay a $50 fine after pleading guilty for violating noise laws.

He later said in an interview with W magazine that, "I spent nine hours in jail, and five is enough to appreciate it."

9. Christian Slater

A-lister Christian Slater, who shot to fame after his role in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, has had a few brushes with the law. He has been caught out for drunk driving and attempting to board a commercial plane with a gun in his luggage.

In 1997 he was convicted of assaulting his then-girlfriend, Michelle Jonas, and a police officer while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. He served 59 days of a three month sentence.

In an interview with Details he said that prison life wasn't so bad. "Jail was a result of me not taking time for myself," he said. "So I was forced to take some time for myself. It was necessary for me. When you're going down that path, you either kill yourself or you're forced to take time out."

10. Robert Downey Jr.

Talking to a judge in 1999 about his unsuccessful attempts at drug treatment programs, Robert Downey Jr, said "It's like I've got a shotgun in my mouth with my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gun metal."

In 1996 he was arrested for possession of heroin, cocaine and an unloaded gun and while on parole trespassed into a neighbour's property and fell asleep in one of the beds. He was sentenced to three years' probation and compulsory drug testing, but when he failed to show up for one, he was sentenced to four months in jail.

- nzherald.co.nz

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