Celebrity Cases Don’t Reflect Domestic Violence Laws’ Reality
It’s an unfortunate truth in America—both celebrities and the very rich often get away with crimes the average person would be locked away for.
The Huffington Post recently sought to answer the question “Why Do Famous Men Keep Getting Away With Violence Against Women?” The piece rode the wake of the recent release of the biopic Straight Outta Compton, which focused on the rise of rap group N.W.A.
Though the film was a box office success, it also raised scrutiny over the history of one of the group’s most famous members, rapper and producer Dr. Dre. Huffington Post journalist Zeba Blay pointed out how the wildly successful public figure had escaped the attention of popular media for many years over allegations of violence against women.
Dr. Dre, who recently sold his company Beats Electronics to Apple for $3 billion, has something of a dark past. In 1992, he physically assaulted music journalist Dee Barnes—a brutal attack that earned him only probation and community service. His ex-wife has also accused him of many instances of domestic violence, but no legal charges have been filed.
The article also mentions Sean Penn, an Academy Award winning actor who continues to enjoy attention in the public sphere. This is all despite his shocking criminal record, which includes many instances of assault and battery. Most infamously, the actor reportedly tortured Madonna during their relationship for 9 hours in 1987. Reports say Penn tied her to a chair, beat her with a baseball bat, and forced her to perform humiliating sexual acts.
Zeba Blay lists a number of famous men who have escaped both public criticism and/or standard criminal punishments despite alleged and admitted violence towards women, including John Lennon, Eminem, Charlie Sheen, Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery, and Bill Murray. Though the details surrounding each case vary widely, Blay points out that all of them emerged from domestic violence accusations with their careers—and freedom—intact.
Celebrity Cases Do Not Mirror Real Life Punishments
This well-documented blind spot of the criminal justice system might lead you to believe that domestic violence charges are not taken seriously by criminal courts, but nothing could be further from the truth. Celebrities and their handlers can afford to pay their way out of the system, and often are able to settle cases quietly outside of the court. The average American is not so fortunate. The vast majority of men and women accused of domestic violence face harsh criminal punishments and tarnished reputations.
Our own state of Illinois takes domestic violence charges very seriously. For example, domestic battery can result in imprisonment for up to one year. As is the case for many of the male celebrities mentioned above, if you have a past history of domestic abuse, your charge can be upgraded to a felony. The standard punishment can include 1 to 3 years imprisonment, although the prosecutor in some cases may request a harsher punishment.
A more serious charge, aggravated battery, is a class 2 felony—punishable by 3 to 7 years of imprisonment. Those convicted, even if they are sentenced to probation, must serve a minimum of 60 days in prison. If you are convicted of domestic battery and you have prior convictions of this charge, the minimum punishment enforced by law is 3 years imprison. That means even if you receive a probationary punishment, you will still have to serve additional prison time.
What it boils down to is this: if you’ve been accused of domestic violence charges, don’t assume the law will go easy on you. Contact an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney with a successful track record in this area today, because the sooner you start crafting your defense, the more likely you are to receive a positive outcome.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.