21 Celebrities Who Ruined Innocent Lives
For most folks, a celebrity encounter is an exciting experience. It’s a chance to nab an autograph, snap a selfie, or make small talk that you’ll be able to brag about at parties for years to come. But for others, a chance run-in with a star resulted in pain, loss, and in some cases, lifelong regret. While the celebs in these situations benefited from the shield of fame and fortune, the normal folks suffered in their shadows. Here are are some regular joes who probably wish they’d never rubbed elbows with Hollywood’s elite.
1.Ashley Greene’s neighbors
When the West Hollywood condo of Twilight actress Ashley Greene caught on fire in 2013, most tabloid headlines focused on the death of her dog, Marlo. While that is certainly tragic, the less reported angle of the story was the effect the fire had on Greene’s neighbors. The building’s doorman, Adrian Mayorga, along with several other tenants, reportedly sued Greene for property damage and health problems associated with the fire, which was caused by an unattended candle in her home, according to TMZ.
It seems the neighborhood’s beef with the actress began before the blaze. According to TMZ, residents claimed Greene was a nuisance who threw loud parties and was constantly disruptive. On top of all of that, some tenants griped that Greene failed to reach out to them to apologize or take responsibility for the fire, though her landlord said she was welcome back.
In 2016, TMZ reported that Greene reached a settlement with the doorman for an undisclosed amount.
2.Roman Polanski’s sexual assault victim
In 1977, Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski allegedly gave champagne and a Quaalude to then-13-year-old Samantha Gailey at actor Jack Nicholson’s house. He then allegedly engaged in various deviant acts, only one of which he ever pleaded guilty to—unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Before sentencing, Polanski fled to Paris, then Switzerland, and finally Poland, avoiding extradition to the States, while Gailey, now known as Samantha Geimer, battled the spotlight in the States for decades.
Though many have called for Polanski’s to return to the States and serve time behind bars, Geimer said she moved beyond the incident long ago and believed her attacker had been punished adequately. “I don’t really have any hard feelings toward him, or any sympathy, either,” she wrote in an Op/Ed piece in the Los Angeles Times in 2008. “He is a stranger to me.”
Geimer said the worst actors in the whole situation were the court officials, public figures, and press who used her case for their own gains. In 2013, Geimer decided it was time to take back her story, authoring a book titled, The Girl: A Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski. “[His] arrest was, in a sense, my arrest. Because I am that thirteen-year-old girl,” she writes in an excerpt. “Ask yourself this: Would you like the craziest thing that ever happened to you as a teenager broadcast and then dissected over and over on television, in the blogosphere? Right. I didn’t think so.”
3.Matthew Broderick’s car accident victims
In 1987, a car that Matthew Broderick was driving in Ireland crashed head-on with another car, killing two people: Anna Gallagher, 30; and her mother, Margaret Doherty, 63. According to The Los Angeles Times, Broderick spent about a month in the hospital for various injuries, but ultimately walked away from the accident with a $175 fine. The initial charge of reckless driving was reduced to careless driving. At the time, the husband of Gallagher referred to the verdict as a “travesty of justice.”
Fifteen years after the crash, The New York Post reported that Broderick was planning to meet with the family members of the accident victims, who seemed ready to forgive and move on. “He didn’t kill my mother and sister deliberately,” Martin Doherty told the the Post. “There were strong feelings at the time, but I have since forgiven him and feel no anger toward him.” Added a spokesperson for Broderick, “Matthew is willing to meet up with them. There is no ill will—not any sort of anger. The family is seeking some sort of closure.”
4.Lance Armstrong’s personal assistant
Mike Anderson worked for years as Lance Armstrong’s personal assistant, bike mechanic, and general gopher under the agreement that after Armstrong was finished competing, he and Armstrong would partner to open a bike shop. But Anderson’s dream became a waking nightmare after Armstrong fired him for allegedly questioning a no-questions-asked policy regarding the champion cyclist’s controversial performance tactics.
Telling his story in a piece for Outside Magazine, Anderson said Armstrong backed out of the bike shop agreement after he refused to sign a nondisclosure agreement. That agreement supposedly would have made Anderson financially responsible for a large sum if he “mentioned ever having worked for Armstrong.” Anderson claims the cycling icon went on the offensive, allegedly launching a media and legal blitz against Anderson in a supposed attempt to ruin his reputation. Things got so vicious, Anderson said he had to flee to New Zealand to start his life over. Yep, you read that right, this guy supposedly had to move his family to the other side of the world to try to shake off the stink from his association with Armstrong.
5.Bill Cosby’s accusers
More than 50 women have accused Bill Cosby of drugging and/or sexually assaulting them. Accuser Andrea Constand, who received a settlement from Cosby in 2006, was the first accuser to file a civil suit against “America’s Dad” after authorities declined to press criminal charges, citing a lack of credible evidence. The civil suit was settled out of court and sealed to the public, but despite the secrecy, Constand’s case became a tipping point. More and more women, from different walks of life and different time periods, began coming forward with very similar stories of abuse. Additional lawsuits followed.
In December 2015, after reinvestigating the case and considering new evidence, a court in Montgomery County, Pa. charged Cosby with sexual assault in the case of Constand, marking the first time he has been charged with a crime.
Cosby has denied any wrongdoing. “[He] said “that any sexual relations were consensual,” reported The New York Times. “He has responded to the seven women suing him in federal court in Massachusetts by, in turn, suing them for defamation. He is also suing [Constand], her mother and her lawyers, seeking the return of money from the 2006 confidential financial settlement. He says they broke the agreement by, among other things, voluntarily cooperating with the Montgomery County prosecutors.
6.Britney Spears’ first ex-husband
Britney Spears has done a lot of wacky things in her career, but fans were flabbergasted when she flew her high school friend, Jason Alexander, in a private jet to Las Vegas and asked him to marry her. “She was like, ‘Well, let’s get married.’ And I was like, ‘Sure. You know, let’s do this,'” he told ABC News. The nuptials were annulled just 55 hours after the couple said “I do.” According to ABC News, the annulment said Spears “”lacked understanding of her actions, to the extent that she was incapable of agreeing to the marriage.” To which Alexander replied: “bulls***.”
Bull or not, Alexander—who claimed he was in love with Spears at the time—clearly got a raw deal. Not only did he make national headlines for the couple’s bizarreo wedding, he had to fly back home to Louisiana in coach.
7.The passenger in Nick Hogan’s DUI accident
Iraq war veteran John Graziano suffered permanent brain damage after wrestler Hulk Hogan’s son, Nick Hogan (real name Nick Bollea), crashed his Toyota Supra into a tree while allegedly driving under the influence in Florida in 2007. Graziano, who was a passenger, suffered injuries that left him in a “minimally conscious state,” according to the Tampa Bay Times. Bollea served 166 days in jail. Graziano will likely need round-the-clock care for the rest of his life.
In 2010, Bollea and Hulk Hogan (real name Terry Bollea) reached a confidential financial settlement with Graziano’s attorneys. “John is going to be provided appropriate care for the remainder of his life.” said attorney Kimberly Kohn.
8.O.J. Simpson’s “theoretical” victims
Though O.J. Simpson was acquitted in criminal court of the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman, O.J. did lose a civil suit brought by the Goldman family, which resulted in Simpson owing $33.5 million dollars. Speaking to CNBC 20 years after the criminal trial, Goldman’s sister, Kim, said the civil suit was a victory in that a jury found O.J. liable for the murders, but the family had endured a decades-long battle to get Simpson to fork over any of the money. With interest, that award totaled more than $40 million dollars by 2014. “We’ve collected less than one percent of that,” Kim said.
The Goldmans did receive a relatively small portion of their award after a bankruptcy judge gave them the rights to a ghost-authored book about the murders, which was titled, If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer. Though O.J. claims he was not involved in the writing of the book, he was paid for it and even conducted a promotional interview in which he recounted a hypothetical narrative of the murder, reported The New York Times in 2007.
So, just to recap, the family that lost their son in a gruesome murder and only received a small semblance of justice through a financial settlement is being paid through the profits from a book promoted by the man who claims he didn’t do the crimes but fantasizes about what it would have been like if he did. That’s unconscionable. Case closed.
9.The Jenny Jones Show murder victim
In 1995, a man named Jonathan Schmitz appeared on The Jenny Jones Show to meet his secret admirer. To his complete shock, Schmitz’s admirer wound up being a man named Scott Amedure. To everyone else’s shock, Schmitz shot and killed Amedure three days after the taping of the episode, which was not aired. Schmitz, who blamed The Jenny Jones Show for his actions in his 911 call, was sentenced to 25-50 years in prison on second-degree murder charges, according to CNN.
The family of Amedure filed a wrongful death lawsuit against The Jenny Jones Show and was awarded over $25 million in 1999, reported CNN. The case was thrown out in 2003 by a Michigan court of appeals. The family appealed the decision to the Supreme Court but was denied in 2004, according to People.
10.The Dancing with the Stars meme target
Dancing with the Stars’ Val Chmerkovskiy was sued in early 2016 by a 16-year-old girl with Down syndrome who claimed the professional dancer published and popularized a meme that made fun of her weight and shamed her parents. According to People, the meme featured a photo of the girl, who was 9 or 10 years old at the time, drinking soda with the caption, “Letting your kid become obese should be considered child abuse.” The little girl’s family said it discovered the mean meme when her sibling saw it on Chmerkovskiy’s Facebook page. He has since deleted the post, but the family claims the dancer helped the image go viral.
The girl and her family are suing for “defamation, emotional distress and invasion of privacy.” People reported. The family is seeking $6 million each from Chmerkovskiy and CBS and $600,000 from the original photographer, who reportedly took the picture at a baseball game in 2008 without the family’s knowledge.
Chmerkovskiy’s responded to mass criticism on his Facebook (via People): “I have no desire to discriminate or shame, I just think people should have a little more knowledge and take more responsibility when it comes to their children’s diet,” he said. When news of the lawsuit broke in January 2016, Chmerkovskiy responded with another dismissive Facebook meme. This one read, “Worry about your character, not your reputation. Your character is who you are. Your reputation is who people think you are.”
Unless, of course, people think you are a fat girl with bad parents because a celebrity told them so.
11.Justin Bieber’s neighbors
What’s it like to live next door to Justin Bieber? If you answered “horrible, terrifying and life-ruining,” you’d be 100 percent correct. At least that’s what two former neighbors claimed in a 2015 lawsuit. Jeffrey and Suzanne Schwartz alleged the “Sorry” singer and his bodyguards “repeatedly harassed them and their family, vandalized their house with eggs and threatened them with anti-Semitic remarks,” according to CNN. Equally awful were allegations that Bieber spat in Jeffrey’s face after Jeffrey told the pop prince he was driving his Ferrari too fast through the streets of their gated community in Calabasas, Calif.
As one might surmise from the suit, the Schwartzes have a pretty rough history with Bieber. In 2014, Bieber pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor vandalism charge stemming from an incident in which he allegedly threw a dozen eggs at the Schwartz’s mansion, according to CNN. He was ordered to pay $80,900 restitution, stay 100 yards away from the family, and was sentenced to two years’ probation. The lawsuit alleged that the Schwartz family was subjected to “constant harassment” by Bieber’s “entourage, fans and the media” after the story broke.
Bieber sold his mansion to another media-friendly celebrity, Khloe Kardashian, in 2014, which, based on what we’ve seen on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, could be the worst thing to happen to the Schwartz family yet.
12.Mike Tyson sexually assaults pageant contestant
He since has rehabilitated his career and image, but in the early 1990s, Mike Tyson was convicted of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old pageant contestant in Indianapolis. The New York Daily News wrote that “Tyson overpowered and raped her in his hotel room on July 19 during the Indiana Black Expo.” Tyson’s defense was that he was publically known to be a crude womanizer, and the accuser “must have known” that he was interested in having sex with her, according to the report. Ten witnesses for the defense, however, testified that Tyson groped contestants and made bawdy comments during a dance rehearsal.
Tyson served three years in prison and settled a lawsuit by survivor Desiree Washington in 1995. Despite Tyson’s documented history of brutality against women, two of the jurors in his criminal trial came forward in ’92 and said they believe Washington lied, motivated by money. This LA Times profile of Washington in ’95 paints the story of a woman who was broken emotionally, also noting that her parents separated and sold her childhood home after pressures mounted during the Tyson trial.
13.Racer Kevin Ward Jr. hit and killed by Tony Stewart’s car
Tony Stewart announced his retirement from NASCAR in January 2016 at age 44 as one of the most successful stock car drivers in history. He also owns a reputation for being one of racing’s most emotional personalities, and it was alleged that Stewart’s passion contributed to one of the darkest incidents in racing history.
Racing at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York in August 2014, Stewart struck and killed fellow driver Kevin Ward Jr., who had exited his car after a spinout and was walking among cars on the track. Witnesses say Ward, who was 20 years old, had motioned at Stewart after the spinout, apparently angry for having been knocked out of the race. An autopsy ruled Ward died of blunt force trauma.
No charges were filed by law enforcement, and Stewart denied any intent to harm Ward, saying he only saw Ward when it was too late. SB Nation reports that Ward’s family holds Stewart responsible and sued him in civil court. As of this writing, the case remains ongoing but in July 2016, a judge ruled Stewart bears direct responsibility for any potential insurance settlements stemming from charges pressed by Ward family.
Even before Ward died, Stewart had a reputation for letting his passionate nature get the better of him. Still, Stewart left NASCAR having recorded three Sprint Cup Series championships, victories in 49 individual races and 309 top-ten finishes since his rookie season on 1999. In stepping away from NASCAR, Stewart said he remains passionate about racing, and would continue to compete in sprint car events, which use cars that have more powerful engines and run on shorter oval tracks. Events like the one in which Ward died.
14.Phil Spector murders actress Lana Clarkson
As one of the most influential figures in entertainment history, Phil Spector became famous in the 1960s for creating the Wall of Sound and producing legendary pop music acts such as the Ronettes, the Crystals, the Righteous Brothers, and the Beatles, including John Lennon and George Harrison as individuals. His influence, music experts have said, carries well beyond those collaborations.
After spending many decades away from public scrutiny, Spector became infamous for the death of actress Lana Clarkson in 2003. Authorities found Clarkson dead at Spector’s mansion in Alhambra, Calif. She was slumped in a chair in the foyer having sustained a fatal gunshot wound through the roof of her mouth. She was 40 years old. After a mistrial, in 2009 he was sentenced to the maximum 19 years-to-life for Clarkson’s murder. He is eligible for parole in 2028, when he would be 88 years old.
Prosecutor Truc Do called Spector “a very dangerous man” who had “a history of playing Russian roulette with women—six women. Lana just happened to be the sixth.”
In reading a statement on behalf of her family, Clarkson’s mother said, “All of our plans together are destroyed. Now, I can only visit her at the cemetery.”
15.Vince Neil kills friend in head-on DUI crash
As lead singer of metal legends Motley Crue, Vince Neil was getting national attention after the band played the US Festival in 1983 and opened for Ozzy Osbourne on tour, when Neil’s reckless personal actions took one life and threatened to ruin many others. In December 1984, the Los Angeles Times reported, Neil caused an automobile accident that claimed the life of his friend Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley of the band Hanoi Rocks, and severely injured two others in the second car involved. Neil, who was charged with vehicular manslaughter and DUI, served only a portion of the 30-day sentence given in 1985. He also paid a total of $3 million to the victims, saying later that, “I bought my way out of jail.”
With Dingley in the passenger seat, Neil was driving home from a liquor store in Redondo Beach, Calif. when he collided head-on with a Volkswagen. Driver Daniel Smithers, 20, and passenger Lisa Hogan, 18, sustained severe head injuries. Investigators said Neil, who sustained only minor injuries, had a blood-alcohol count of .17 (.10 was the legal limit), according to the Times.
Neil’s reputation recovered, Motley Crue’s popularity skyrocketed, and the band made it a point to come out publicly against driving while drunk. Neil, however, has had other brushes with the law involving drinking and driving.
16.Families of actors killed while filming Twilight Zone
John Landis, the director responsible for films such as Blues Brothers, Animal House, Trading Places and Coming to America, nearly had his career ended at its height in 1982 when star Vic Morrow and two child actors were killed in an accident while filming the Twilight Zone movie. A helicopter careened out of control after a special-effects mishap, crushing one actor and decapitating the others.
A jury found Landis and other filmmakers not guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 1987, though Landis admitted on the stand that he violated labor laws when he illegally hired child actors, 7-year-old Myca Dinh Lee and 6-year-old Renee Chen, according to the Los Angeles Times. Further, a book about the trial alleged Landis to be reckless and dangerous on the set, and that prosecutors messed up by not charging Landis and others with violating child labor laws.
Landis also paid $2 million to each of the children’s families to settle civil actions, the Los Angeles Times reported not long after the criminal trial ended. Morrow’s children, who included actor Jennifer Jason Leigh, agreed to an earlier settlement shortly after the accident. Morrow was also known for starring in the TV series Combat!, along with roles in the Bad News Bears and Blackboard Jungle.
17.Laura Bush teenaged classmate killed in car collision
She was a 17-year-old called Laura Welch in November 1963, when she was driving with her friend and ran a stop sign near Midland, Texas, crashing into the car of classmate Michael Douglas. He was thrown from his car and pronounced dead of a broken neck at a nearby hospital. Welch and friend Judy Dykes, escaped with minor injuries.
Bush did not speak much on the record about the incident until publishing a memoir in 2010, Spoken From The Heart. Bush wrote with obvious remorse, though she didn’t take full responsibility for Douglas’ death, even with years to reflect. The New York Times reported on Bush’s book, noting: “Mrs. Bush concedes that she and her friend were chatting when she ran the stop sign. But she also suggests a host of factors beyond her control played a role — the pitch-black road, an unusually dangerous intersection, the small size of the stop sign, and the car the victim was driving.”
She became George W. Bush’s wife in 1977, and country’s first lady when he was elected president of the United States in 2000.
18.Brandy Norwood blames herself for fatal car wreck
In 2006, performer Brandy Norwood was involved in a multiple-car wreck on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles that killed a mother of two. At the time, TMZ reported that Norwood blamed herself at the scene of the crash, saying: “She got upset, talking about how it was all her fault … she didn’t stop, kept saying how she hit the lady.”
While the California Highway Patrol recommended that prosecutors bring charges based on how Norwood was driving, E News reported, it did not happen. Norwood did settle civil suits related to the crash, including one with the family of Awatef Aboudihaj, a wife and mother of two. Her boys, Mrwan and Kareem Mohamed, who were 15 years old and 11 at the time of the crash, made a full physical recovery from their injuries.
19.Two men killed in fight involving Ray Lewis
Retired NFL star Ray Lewis remains the only person convicted in relation to the deaths in January 2000 of two men killed during a fight outside of an Atlanta nightclub. Originally charged with two counts of murder, Lewis copped a plea bargain for obstruction of justice for his role in the knifing deaths of Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker. In exchange for testifying against two of his friends also involved in the fight, Lewis received one year of probation, the Baltimore Sun reported. His employer, the NFL, fined Lewis $250,000 but he was not suspended from any Baltimore Ravens games. His friends Joseph Sweeting and Reginald Oakley, saying they acted in self-defense, were found not guilty.
Lewis maintains he was only trying to break up a fight, though he admitted to lying to police and making false statements about the incident after he fled the scene. Witness testimony at the trial said Lewis told other passengers in a getaway limo to “keep their mouths shut,” according to USA Today.
In 2004, Lewis settled a civil suit for at least $1 million, though he later called it not an admission of guilt, but an expression of love and sympathy. For the most part, Lewis rehabilitated his reputation and put together a Hall of Fame-caliber career until retiring in 2013. Cindy Lollar-Owens, Richard Lollar’s aunt, told USA Today in 2013 that “Lewis’ pending retirement prompted her Thursday to visit the funeral home, ‘because that’s where my nephew retired.'”
20.Patriots’ Aaron Hernandez guilty of Odin Lloyd murder
Odin Lloyd was killed because he knew too much about previous killings by Aaron Hernandez, prosecutors said, and that’s why a jury gave former NFL star a life sentence without parole for orchestrating and covering up Lloyd’s murder. Hernandez said he took no “pleasure” in Odin’s death, yet could be seen smiling at the victim’s mother while on trial.
Hernandez was a rising star with the New England Patriots, having caught 18 touchdowns in 38 career games between 2010 and 2012. In June 2013, police brought in Hernandez for questioning after finding Lloyd’s body less than a mile from Hernandez’s home in Massachusetts. Lloyd was his fiancee’s sister’s boyfriend and had knowledge of other crimes that prosecutors say Hernandez allegedly committed, including the double homicide in 2012 of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, for which Hernandez is under indictment. Hernandez’s illegal activity reportedly has continued while in prison.
Family members described Lloyd as a “funny guy” and one who never treated others with disrespect. Lloyd, 27, also was a landscaper and semipro football player for the Boston Bandits.
21.Charlie Sheen’s HIV disclosure
It is easy to consider the harm he has done to himself over the years, but what about all of the others that actor Charlie Sheen has put in harm’s way because of his own reckless actions? Sheen did a noble thing in November 2015 when he revealed himself to be HIV positive on NBC’s Today show. Sheen said he had been living with an HIV diagnosis for about four years, and had paid upward of $10 million in hush money to various alleged blackmailers in order to keep it a secret from the public. However, he also kept the secret from many of his sexual partners, and while Sheen has maintained that precautions were taken, for him to keep partners in the dark about his own status was dangerous to them and damning to Sheen’s character.
Radar Online reports that a woman who claims to be Sheen’s madam said he could have put as many as 20 prostitutes at risk because of his behavior. The madam says she has been in contact with several panic-stricken sex workers uncertain about their health status thanks to Sheen. “He didn’t tell me, and he put me at serious legal liability in doing what he did,” the anonymous madam told Radar, alleging that Sheen lied about disclosing he had HIV to his partners. “He could have privately called and told the partners that he had HIV or he could have told me at some point and given me the opportunity to make an educated decision from a point of full disclosure as to whether or not I wanted to do business with him!”
It should also be noted that Sheen reportedly preferred wearing lambskin condoms, according to ex-girlfriend Bree Olson. Lambskin condoms, while good for helping to prevent pregnancy, are notoriously much less reliable than latex in the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.