1. The Crazy Story Behind The Most Infamous Sex Tape Of The '90s
Perhaps the most infamous stolen celebrity item in the history of the world is the Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee sex tape.
The chronicling of Anderson's and Lee's sexual activities while on their honeymoon peaked the public's interest back in the late '90s. It generated millions of dollars and can still be found online today.
Tommy Lee, the Motley Crue drummer that was a rock megastar at the time, and the sexy, blonde Baywatch actress Pamela Anderson wed in early 1995, and soon after their sexual activities could be watched by anyone who owned a working computer or VCR.
The story of the stolen tape
The newlywed couple hired many people to renovate their Malibu mansion, but often complained by how poorly done the work was. Electrician Rand Gauthier was so fed up he was willing to forget about the money they had owed him.
When he and a general contractor came back to pick up their tools at the couple's mansion, Lee pointed a gun and yelled at them to get off their property.
"I was never really that popular with people, " Gauthier recalled. "But I had never been held at gunpoint. It screwed with my head."
That was the last straw for Gauthier, who now would stop at nothing to seek revenge.
"He wanted the drummer to feel vulnerable, to realize that he was just a human being, not an invincible rock god, even if he had sold 20 million records by the age of 32," Rolling Stone reported.
So he stole the giant safe he knew was in their garage, which contained Lee's guns and Anderson's jewelry. But there was something even more precious in that box - a homemade sex tape.
It was a win-win situation because he thought he would get rich by selling it and also accomplish his main goal - damaging Lee's inflated ego.
In the eyes of the public, this wasn't just your regular porno, it was getting a sneak peak into the lives of one of the hottest celebrity couples of the '90s.
The release of the sex tape
Internet Entertainment Group pioneered the American internet pornography industry, and was one of the few distributors to accept the sex tape without the famous duo's consent.
The home video, which is approximately an hour long and features only eight minutes of the couple having sex, took two years to go viral.
It's estimated that the tape made $77 million in less than a year! Most people paid to watch the video online. Club Love, an early internet porn site, made the most money by streaming the sex tape for five-straight hours.
During that time, the porn business was booming, and almost every home could afford a VCR, so other people made money by selling copies of the tape out of the trunk of their cars.
When the sex tape was widely circulated enough and everyone in Hollywood had a chance to see it, Anderson and Lee finally noticed that their safe was stolen. They hired a private investigator to look into it and find the perpetrator.
They sued the distribution company and won $1.5 million in damages. However, they were unable to stop the distribution, so they signed over the copyright to Club Love.
"Our servers were rocked. It was insanity. We had thousands of sales a day, every day, for months," said Jonathan Silverstein, who was working as the company's director of sales and marketing at the time.
"It's the greatest tape I have ever seen in my life," Howard Stern, American radio and television personality, said in late 1997. "What's cool about it is that, like, you get to live their lives with them."
Gauthier's plan to tarnish Lee's image did not go accordingly, and he didn’t get rich off it either.
"I made his career, is what happened," Gauthier said.
Pamela Anderson is in her 50s now, but back in the day she was a Playboy model and a major sex symbol. This sex tape didn't really tarnish her public image, but it was embarrassing for her.
"I've never seen it. I made not one dollar. It was stolen property," Anderson told host Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens. "I don't want to talk about my vagina anymore or my public sex — anything."
As for rock star Tommy Lee, people called him an “asshole” more than they did before, but he became even more famous than he originally was.
The famous duo got divorced in 1998 after Anderson accused Lee of abuse towards her and her two sons.
This sex tape caused a huge shift in the way people consumed tabloid celebrity news and how celebrity news sites reported on them. It also changed the porno industry.
It led to the creation of sites like TMZ and RedTube. It also helped people to make a name for themselves, such as Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, whose popularity was boosted after their sexual activities were exposed online.
All in all, there’s so much pornographic content online that we don’t think much about the Pamela and Tommy sex tape now, but its history will never be wiped away from the internet, or the minds of those who heard or watched it in the '90s.
But this next celebrity was making headlines for very different, darker reasons
2. The True Story Behind The Child Abuse Allegations That Cost Michael Jackson Over $20 Million
Every celebrity has a side of themselves that they don’t share with the public, but in the summer of 1993, it seemed like Michael Jackson had split into two entirely different people.
There was the King of Pop, the 12-time Grammy-winning artist behind albums like Thriller and Bad, who had given an incredible performance at Super Bowl XXVII just months earlier.
But there was also “Wacko Jacko,” the version of Jackson’s personality that sold millions of tabloids filled with lurid stories about his personal life.
Tabloid readers obsessed over whether or not Jackson was bleaching his skin (he probably was), if he had cosmetic surgery (he admitted to two nose jobs and a surgery adding a chin dimple), and why he seemed to be losing so much weight (Jackson’s closest friends and family say he struggled with anorexia).
But the most popular stories were the truly bizarre, like the wild claim that Jackson slept in a hyperbaric chamber designed to keep him looking youthful. Of course, the strangest story of all turned out to be 100 percent true: on the weekends, Jackson invited children to visit him at his $17 million mansion dubbed “Neverland Ranch” in Santa Ynez, California.
The massive property was Jackson’s home, but also his private amusement park where he invited a number of children he called his friends. He let them ride on his Ferris wheel, watch movies in his private theater, and - according to a number of parents - invited children for sleepovers, even sleeping in the same room with them.
Jackson became so close with one of those children, Jordan Chandler, that he invited him on his Dangerous World Tour, and was often photographed in public with Jordan and his family.
So it made national headlines when Jordan and his father, Evan, accused Jackson of sexual abuse, saying the singer had inappropriately touched the boy.
The public was shocked by news that police raided Neverland Ranch in late August, discovering nude photographs of children, which did not qualify as child pornography. Police also questioned 30 children who had stayed at Jackson’s home, including child star Macauley Culkin, but none accused the singer of being a child molester.
While police never found enough evidence against Jackson to press charges, the singer was dragged into a pair of messy civil court cases.
Before the details of Jordan’s allegations came to light, Jackson declared his innocence in an emotional televised statement from Neverland Ranch. A poll taken by the TV show A Current Affair at the time found that 75% of American believed Jackson was innocent.
As the trial began, the media dissected every single piece of evidence revealed by the sensational lawsuit.
Jackson was forced to literally bare all, as one of the key pieces of evidence was Jordan’s description of the singer’s genitals. While the Los Angeles County District Attorney and the county sheriff’s photographer say strip search photos of Jackson matched the boy’s description, the jurors weren’t convinced.
Lisa Marie Presley (the granddaughter of Elvis Presley) had been dating Jackson for a year when the allegations broke, and their relationship became another subject of gossip and rumors. She described how the stress from the news stories took its toll on the singer’s health, and how his addiction to prescription drugs only got worse.
"I believed he didn't do anything wrong and that he was wrongly accused and yes I started falling for him,” she said in an interview. “I wanted to save him. I felt that I could do it."
Meanwhile, Jackson’s estranged sister, La Toya, claimed she had evidence that her brother was a pedophile, and would sell the information to $500,000. While her claim caused yet another media uproar, reporters found that her “evidence” was untrue, and La Toya later confessed she had been forced to make the claims by her abusive husband.
Back in court, Jackson’s attorney portrayed Jordan’s father Evan as an extortionist. Joan, Jordan’s mother and the parent who had custody of him, never believed her ex-husband’s allegations. It was also revealed in court that Evan was behind on his child support payments, and spent months negotiating a settlement with Jackson before reporting his son’s alleged abuse to police.
In the end, Jackson was never indicted for any crime, and no charges were filed against him by police. But Jackson did settle out of court with Evan Chandler for $22 million. Even if Jackson wasn’t guilty, the huge settlement helped cement the popular belief that he was hiding something.
Jordan never took the stand himself during the trial, and Jackson’s trial lawyer Thomas Meserau still insists he had witnesses who could prove that the boy was lying.
Jackson and Presley married soon after the trial ended, leading to even more tabloid stories as writers claimed that their marriage was a publicity stunt to repair Jackson’s image. The couple’s divorce just two years later seemed to confirm the narrative, except that Presley told Oprah Winfrey in 2010 she and Jackson tried “getting back together and breaking up.” She also insisted that her marriage to Michael was "a married couple's life ... that was sexually active."
Jackson would be dogged by child abuse allegations for the rest of his life, but neither the LA County Police or the Department of Children and Family Services ever found any evidence of abuse by the singer.
The negative publicity effectively ended Jackson’s career, and even his early death can be connected to the embarrassing court case.
Jackson lost 10 pounds during the trial, and began mixing the painkillers Valium, Xanax and Ativan while coping with the stress from the court case. Prescription drug abuse - and the tabloid press’s obsession with him - would remain a constant in Jackson’s life until his death in 2009.
Unlike the King of Pop's scandal, the other biggest music scandal of the decade probably wouldn't even make the news if it happened today...
3. Girl You Know It's (Not) True: Milli Vanilli Get Their Grammy Taken Away
If you were a music lover in the late '80s, then chances are the story behind Milli Vanilli is one that’s pretty familiar to you.
Formed in Germany by producer Frank Farlan in 1988, Milli Vanilli consisted of Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, two models who had only dabbled in singing careers. The two released their international debut album, Girl You Know It’s True, in 1989, and the album quickly skyrocketed to international success, hitting the #1 spot on Billboard’s Top 200 chart and going platinum a whopping SIX times.
The album was a genuine sensation thanks to it's title track and songs like “Baby Don’t Forget My Number,” and “Blame It On The Rain,” and Milli Vanilli soon found themselves touring the globe. This all culminated in a Grammy win for Best New Artist. However, things started to get weird when they found themselves being featured on TV.
MTV executive Beth McCarthy-Miller commented that people were starting to become suspicious of the duo when they revealed their thick accents and limited English skills during interviews, but the worst was actually yet to come.
During a performance broadcast by MTV at the Lake Compounce theme park in Bristol, Connecticut, it was revealed that they were lip-syncing to their songs when the recording of the album’s title track jammed, and the “Girl you know it’s…” line kept repeating over and over.
The duo attempted to keep dancing for a few more moments, but then both ran offstage. However, according to people in attendance at the show, the audience seemed to neither notice nor care about the lip-syncing.
However, Milli Vanilli weren’t doing themselves any favors perception-wise. In an interview for Time magazine in 1990, Pilatus referred to himself as “the new Elvis” and asserted that the duo were more musically talented than artists like Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and Mick Jagger.
Things behind the scenes weren’t much better. Unlike on their Europe-only debut album All or Nothing, the production notes for Girl You Know It’s True listed the performances and lyrics as being solely those of Morvan and Pilatus, which people were quickly beginning to suspect was not the case.
This came to a head when singer Charles Shaw became angered at the lack of credit he received, and revealed that he was one of three singers who were actually contracted to record all of Milli Vanilli’s songs. Morvan and Pilatus were just lip-syncing along in the videos and live performances.
Frank Farlan, still the band’s producer, ultimately paid Shaw $150,000 to retract his statements, but at this point this did little to change the public’s perception of the group or the legitimacy of their music. Between the media outcry and Morvan and Pilatus’s demands that they be given more chances to sing themselves on the next record, Farlan ultimately revealed to the press in November 1990 that the duo did not sing whatsoever on the records.
The reaction to this was borderline nuclear. Within four days, the band’s Grammy award was retracted, the first time in history this had ever happened.
Not only that, but both the duo and their record label received a whopping 27 lawsuits, filed from various U.S. fraud prevention laws.
A settlement was ultimately agreed upon to many of these suits, and nearly 10 million people were eligible to receive refunds for either buying Milli Vanilli albums or attending their live performances.
As a result of all of this negative press, everyone involved with the group went their separate ways. Farlan continued to work in the music industry, but never produced another hit album. Meanwhile, singers Brad Howell and John Davis, the other two real voices behind Milli Vanilli’s songs, released an album under the moniker The Real Milli Vanilli, only to soon rename themselves to Try ‘N’ B. The album, The Moment of Truth, was never released in the United States, and had little chart momentum in Europe.
As for Morvan and Pilatus, things became a bit more of a roller coaster. Morvan found some solid success as a DJ in Los Angeles, and the two soon recorded a new album as Rob & Fab, but the album failed to find any success. They were soon commissioned to record a Milli Vanilli comeback album, this time using their real voices, which became the album Back and In Attack, released in 1998.
However, during the recording of the album, Rob Pilatus began to struggle with his personal life. He turned to hard drugs and a life of crime, committing several assaults and robberies that found him sentenced to three months in jail and six months in a drug rehabilitation clinic. Farlan paid for the entire process, but on the eve of the album’s promotional tour in April 1998, Pilatus was found dead of an overdose in a Frankfurt hotel room.
His death was ruled as accidental, though many at the time speculated that it may have been a suicide, due to both his tumultuous personal life and the embarrassment faced by the band. In any case, it was the end of Milli Vanilli.
Fab Morvan continues to perform and to offer public speaking appearances.
Milli Vanilli became one of the decade's most infamous scandals, but at least their "lies" didn't almost topple the government...
4. The Political Scandal That Puts Even Today's News To Shame
Scandals and politics go together like peanut butter and jelly, and we like to sink our teeth into them just as much as the sandwiches. The '90s, specifically the Clinton administration, had its share of scandals, but one stands above all the rest: The Lewinsky Affair.
Bill Clinton, depending on who you talk to, was a fairly successful president who navigated his way through troubled waters for 8 years. At his peak he had a 73% approval rating, and left office with 65% of Americans saying he had done a good job, higher than any other president since Harry Truman. Even so, stories of his sexual misadventures dogged him throughout his presidency, and long after.
Allegations of sexual assault and harassment should be enough to sink any political candidate, but Clinton actually thrived under them. He was charming, relatable and the economy was beginning to take a nose dive. All those things combined led to a Clinton victory over George H.W. Bush, a rare defeat of an incumbent president.
Ironically enough, it wasn't Clinton's sexual history that would get him in to trouble, it was his loose connection with the truth. Hard to believe that a politician might almost lose his job, and go to jail, because of a lie rather than sexual assault - but that's the world we live in.
We probably wouldn't know about any of the allegations if it wasn't for a woman named Paula Jones. She was the first woman to accuse then President Clinton of improper behavior, although the encounter she described happened while he was Governor of Arkansas.
In 1991 Jones worked for the state and was present at a conference that Governor Clinton attended. She alleges that at a certain point a state police officer approached her, and informed her that Clinton wished to speak with her. She was escorted to a hotel room where she met Clinton. After the door closed he removed his pants and exposed himself, propositioning Jones for sex.
"I'm not that kind of girl," she claims to have responded before leaving the room. She says Clinton advised her to "keep it between themselves" before she left.
She did not.
In 1994 Jones went public with the allegations and launched a lawsuit against now President Clinton. The case slowly made its way through the courts, and was eventually settled in 1998. Clinton was forced to testify under oath about the incident, and was asked several questions about his sexual history. He denied any wrongdoing and the case was eventually dismissed. By that point however, the damage had been done.
One of the questions related to a 22-year-old White House intern named Monica Lewinsky, a name the world was about to hear a lot of.
Lewinsky worked closely with Clinton until being relocated to the Pentagon. There she met a woman named Linda Tripp, who would be come a close friend of the young Lewinsky. It was Tripp that Lewinsky confided in, spilling all sorts of details about her affair with the president. She wouldn't have known it at the time, but Tripp was recording the conversations.
During one stage of the Jones case Lewinsky was asked about her relationship with Clinton. She denied any inappropriate behavior and urged Tripp to do the same. Instead, Tripp released her recorded tapes to Independant Investigator Kenneth Star.
Star was investigating the Clinton administration over yet another scandal, but, with proof of a White House Intern perjuring herself, quickly changed the focus of his investigation.
In January of 1998 the story about the Lewinsky tapes broke, but in bizarre fashion. The initial story was that Newsweek was sitting on a report about the president's affair. This appears to be true, since their investigative reporter was contacted by one of Tripp's agents. The Washington Post eventually printed a story dictating the sordid details of Lewinsky and Clinton. The adminstration quickly responded, denying any and all allegations.
Still the rumors swirled, and Clinton was forced to make a public statement along side his wife Hillary Clinton. It's one of the most enduring moments of his presidency, and one he probably wants back.
"I'm going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," he said to the press.
Hillary herself took to the airwaves in support of her husband. Claiming a "vast right-wing conspiracy" was trying to pull her husband down.
The story persisted for months, with talk show hosts and radio personalities arguing "if he did it" and if his lie actually broke any laws. Lewinsky herself refused to comment about it and would not testify about the affair.
In July of 1998 everything changed.
Devil In A Blue Dress
Lewinsky received immunity from the Starr investigation in exchange for testimony concerning her relationship with the president. She also agreed to handover a semen-stained blue dress that Tripp had convinced her to keep.
With hard evidence in hand, Clinton had no choice but to confess.
In August of 1998, he offered taped testimony to a grand jury where he engaged in an "improper physical relationship" with Lewinsky. Later that night he gave a televised statement to the nation admitting the same thing.
During the Jones case Clinton had denied having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky, but the blue dress clearly proved otherwise. Starr decided that his past statement was perjury and thus an impeachable offense.
In the late '90s Clinton's Democratic party was the minority in both Senate and the House of Representatives. After Starr recommended impeachment the opposing Republican party quickly passed legislation to impeach the president. Clinton became just the second president ever impeached, with Andrew Jackson being the first, 130 years earlier.
What followed was a 21-day Senate trial where Clinton was eventually acquitted, and allowed to remain president. All Democrats and 10 Republicans voted to acquit on charges of perjury. He was also acquitted on obstruction of justice charges.
At the center of the case became the definition of the word "sex" which also led to another memorable claim by Clinton: "That depends on what your definition of the word 'is' is."
Ultimately, since Clinton only received oral sex, and the law, as written, stated that sexual intercourse involved the touching of genitals, breasts, thighs or anus, Clinton didn't in fact have sex, and thus, didn't lie.
Two months after the Senate failed to convict him, Clinton was held in civil contempt of court and ordered to pay $90,000 to the court. He was also banned from practicing law in Arkansas for 5 years.
Even so, he finished his term with most people approving of the job he did. Over time opinion seems to have soured on Clinton, and the scandal played a large role in his wife's eventual campaign for president.
But Clinton wasn't the only one to have a sexual indiscretion land him in some pretty hot water...
5. Pee-wee Herman's Scandalous Night At The Movies
The character Pee-wee Herman was intended for kids and was a complete necessity in the '80s. But when the actor behind the bow tie was arrested in 1991, the whole country quickly realized he wasn’t as wholesome as he seemed.
Paul Reubens made a name for himself as a comedy icon, but his role as Pee-wee Herman was one that could not be topped by any of his other characters. It didn’t seem to matter that Pee-wee wasn’t real, everyone just assumed they were one and the same. That was, until Reubens was arrested in 1991 for indecent exposure.
But how did this all happen? Well, on Friday, July 26 1991, Reubens entered an adult theater. They were showing a triple bill of the X-rated films Catalina Five-O Tiger Shark, Nurse Nancy, and Turn Up The Heat when the sting operation took place. The authorities arrested three men in the theater for violating Florida State Statute 800.03: Exposure of Sexual Organs.
Apparently he may have been able to walk away with only a $219 fine, but because he decided to reveal who he was to the cops, things took a worse turn.
According to an Entertainment Weekly article published shortly after the event, Rubens “quietly told the detectives his famous pseudonym and, according to the police, made a novel, Pee-wee-esque attempt at a buy-off.”
Apparently he offered to make an appearance at a children’s charity event as Pee-wee Herman if the officers would drop the charges, but they didn’t go for it. He was lucky they didn’t charge him with bribery, but apparently the department spokesman said that ”the deputies did not feel at that time that they had enough probable cause” to make the charge.
Even if he hadn’t mentioned his job to the cops, he still would have had it rough. His arrest was found out by the media the very next day, and the details were published alongside his mugshot. The whole ordeal caused quite the controversy, and people everywhere started to think about the famous character differently.
Reubens was forced to come out and deny the accusations, saying that he “never exposed himself or engaged in any other improper activities,” but then quickly retreated from the public eye. His career took a hit as the entire country seemed to turn on him at once. The reruns of his television show, Pee-wee’s Playhouse, were removed from television, Disney stopped using the narration he had done for a backstage tour, and stores removed the Pee-wee Herman dolls from the shelves. Everything that he had previously been so proud of was now tainted and ruined.
He stepped out of the spotlight while waiting for the trial to begin, with his management saying that he was “on an extended vacation.” His publicist, Richard Grant, said that “Paul, who is emotionally devastated by the embarrassment of the situation, is currently in seclusion with friends and eagerly anticipating his complete vindication.”
Reubens’s celebrity friends were quick to defend him. Valeria Golino played Pee-wee Herman’s girlfriend on the show said that ‘Paul Reubens is why I am in America. He is a gifted and sensitive man with a great sense of humor. I find it very hypocritical. They have these porno movies…and they put police in the theaters? I don’t understand this. I don’t care if he did it or not — he’s a great guy.”
Actress Annette Funicello didn’t understand why the world was being so hard on him. “What is the big deal? He has given so much pleasure to little kids, and what they’re doing to him is sad. I like him a lot. If I were able to call him now, I would say, ‘So many people are on your side. We love you. Just hang in there — it will blow over. These things do.”
Others hoped that it would help him evolve. Randal Kleiser was the director of Big Top Pee-wee and he said, “in a way, fate may have stepped in to help him change his direction. People forget that the original Pee-wee Herman used to put mirrors on his shoes and look up girls’ dresses. He has a wonderful sense of humor, and I think what he’s probably going to do now is re-invent himself the way that David Bowie and Madonna do from time to time.”
As for the public, audiences were divided on how to react to the incident. When polled by Entertainment Weekly, 40% of readers thought that Reubens was getting a “raw deal from the media”. More than half of those surveyed believed that Reubens was treated unfairly by the sheriff’s department, and 49% would still let their children watch TV shows or movies starring Pee-wee Herman.
While the case would cause his career to stumble, he managed to make his way back into the popular media. It hadn’t been his first time dealing with authorities, and it wouldn’t be his last.
In 1971 he was arrested for marijuana possession and placed on a two year probation. In 1983 he was arrested for loitering and prowling at another adult theater, but the charges were dropped.
After successfully surviving the indecent exposure charges, Reubens found himself in trouble with the law again in 2001 when a search of his home revealed images that were categorized as child pornography. He claimed they were just part of his “historical art photography collection,” but he was still registered as a sex offender and fined $100.
How does Paul Reubens feel about all of this? Well, he feels like he was wrongfully accused in both cases. Reubens is convinced that had he not pled “no contest” the trial would have revealed that he was innocent.
In an interview in 2010 he said, “Had we gone to trial, we had ready an expert from the Masters and Johnson Institute who was going to testify that in 30 years of research on masturbation, the institute had never found one person who masturbated with his or her non-dominant hand,” Reubens revealed. “I’m right-handed, and the police report said I was (masturbating) with my left hand. That would have been the end of the case right there, proof it couldn’t have been me.”
As for the child pornography charges, he said that “the police had been given a false tip in an alleged sting operation and came to my house. They thought the wrong thing, and they were there for the wrong reason, and when that became clear, they should have left. Or they should have taken all my computers like they did but spent three minutes looking through them and realized they were wrong. … The state eventually realized I had nothing offensive, but the city attorney decided to put me through three years of hell anyway.”
He has tried to move on from these incidents, but they have followed him throughout his life. Luckily for him he has a positive attitude about it. “Much as I like to pretend it’s not there or imagine most people know nothing about that one, it’s there. It’s always going to be a footnote. But you know what? At this point the footnote is neither here nor there for me. It has no effect on me. I’m cool with it.”
Paul Reubens might not be happy with how his trial went, but at least it's never been considered "The Trial of the Century"
6. The True Story Behind "The Trial Of The Century"
In one of the biggest scandals of the '90s, O.J. Simpson went from hero, to zero, somehow back up to hero, all while being on trial for a double murder.
Now, the scandal wasn’t really the murder (even though that’s a big deal), but moreso the fact that Simpson walked away a free man, despite damning evidence against him.
Simpson started out as a football player, setting NCAA and NFL records with ease, and doing his best to inspire black youth across the country.
"I'm going to take the challenge of helping black kids in every way I can," he said. "I believe I can do as much for my own people in my own way as a Tommie Smith, a Jim Brown, or a Jackie Robinson may choose to do in another way. That's part of the image I want, too."
The image he ended up with, however, was historical for a different reason.
Marriage to Nicole Brown
In 1985, Simpson married Nicole Simpson, a small-town waitress. The couple seemed like the ideal match: a football superstar with the young, blonde bombshell. Together, they had two kids, Justin and Sydney. However, their marriage was far from perfect.
In 1989, O.J. Simpson plead no contest to spousal battery after he and his wife got in an argument at a New Year's Eve party. Nicole claimed O.J. threatened to kill her.
"We had a fight," O.J. Simpson said. "We were both guilty. No one was hurt. It was no big deal, and we got on with our life."
Three years later, Nicole Brown Simpson filed for divorce. Two years after that, she was found dead.
The Murders and The Chase
On June 12, 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman, were found stabbed to death outside her home. All evidence pointed to O.J. Simpson as the killer, and a warrant for his arrest was issued. Simpson tried to flee, which led to one of the most iconic car chases of all time.
Simpson was in the back of a white Ford Bronco while ex-NFL player, Al Cowlings, drove. The pursuit was broadcast on live television, and is credited with being the "birth of reality television."
Simpson was found in possession of a gun, his passport, a disguise, and $9,000. However, he remained adamant that he was "absolutely, positively, 100 percent not guilty". That lie was just the beginning of what would be "The Trial Of The Century".
Simpson plead not guilty to both murders, and he was held without bail. A jury was compiled, which was difficult considering the amount of media coverage surrounding the case. The prosecution, lead by Marcia Clark, chose not to seek the death penalty for the murders, but rather a life sentence.
The trial of O.J. Simpson was unlike anything the world had ever seen.
Cameras were allowed in the courtroom, and the public had full access through television broadcasting. People were glued to their TVs at all times.
The prosecution consisted of Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark and Deputy District Attorney Christopher A. Darden.
Simpson hired a full team of high-profile lawyers, including F. Lee Bailey, Robert Kardashian, Robert Shapiro, Alan Dershowitz, Johnnie Cochran, Gerald Uelmen (then the dean of law at Santa Clara University), Carl E. Douglas and Shawn Holley.
Simpson's trial began on January 24, 1995, and was must-see reality television. Judge Ito was criticized for not doing enough the regulate the media allowed in the courtroom, and essentially turning it into a wild circus.
"When [it] began, all of the networks were getting these hate-mail letters because people’s soap operas were being interrupted for the Simpson trial," Marcia Clark later revealed "But then what happened was the people who liked soap operas got addicted to the Simpson trial. And they got really upset when the Simpson trial was over, and people would come up to me on the street and say, ‘God, I loved your show.’
During the trial, TIME magazine published a cover story titled "An American Tragedy", with a photo of O.J. Simpson on the cover. The publication faced extreme backlash when it was pointed out that editors had manipulated the photo of Simpson, making his skin appear darker as a way to make him seem more menacing. They were accused of racist editorializing, and later publicly apologized.
We watched as Nicole Brown's blood was found on Simpson's socks. We watched as Brown's and Goldman's blood were found on Simpson's Bronco. We watched as bloody footprints were found at the crime scene, coming from an extremely rare pair of shoes (only 29 were sold in the United States), matching O.J.'s footprints.
His legal team argued there was no way to prove he had ever owned or worn a pair of the shoes, but a photograph from a public event just a year before showed Simpson wearing them.
And of course, we watched as O.J. Simpson tried on a blood-soaked glove that was too small for his hand. His lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, coined the now infamous phrase "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit."
Though the evidence mostly pointed to O.J. Simpson as guilty, the trial ran into major credibility issues when it was uncovered that Mark Fuhrman, the Los Angeles Police Detective leading the case, had racial bias.
Most of the incriminating evidence (the gloves, the socks, and the blood on the Bronco) was found by Fuhrman, and it lead to doubt among the jury.
Fuhrman was charged with perjury after the trial, claiming that he had not used the n-word in over 10 years. This turned out to be a lie. Not only that, but Fuhrman pleaded the Fifth amendment to protect himself against self-incrimination, after being asked "did you plant or manufacture any evidence in this case?"
These allegations against Fuhrman were only heightened, as just four years prior, footage of LAPD officers beating Rodney King was released. Racial tensions were through the roof in Los Angeles, and Fuhrman's history was only making things worse.
Before the jury selection and sequestration took place, an article was published in The New Yorker, reporting that the defense was going to use the "race card" to win their case.
It also detailed that Mark Fuhrman had undergone psychiatric interviews in 1981 and 1982, in which he used racist language and boasted about beating young African-Americans.
As the final jurors were selected, they were asked how much exposure to the case they received from The New Yorker, and were asked their opinions of Mark Fuhrman.
Prosecutor Marcia Clark claimed that people were lying to get onto the O.J. Simpson jury. It was no secret that Clark and her team wanted white jurors on their team, but Clark also wanted a disproportionate number of women, believing they responded to her courtroom style.
She was wrong, however, as simulated jury tests showed that women responded poorly to a hard-edged and hostile prosecutor, like Clark. Each potential juror had to fill out a 75-page questionnaire to ensure they were right for the case.
12 jurors were selected for the trial, with 12 selected as alternates. Over the course of the trial, 10 jurors were dismissed for a range of reasons. By the time the trial was over, only four of the original jurors remained.
In the end, the jury consisted of eight African-Americans, two Hispanics, one half-Caucasian/half Native-American, and one Caucasian. There were 10 women and two men.
YOU get an alibi! And YOU get an alibi! O.J. Simpson claimed he was sleeping at the time of the murder. Then he claimed he was hitting golf balls outside his home.
Then he claimed Rosa Lopez, the neighbor's housekeeper, saw him parked in his car outside his house at the time of the murder.
The last alibi was corroborated by Lopez, but was ultimately pulled apart by the prosecution when it was determined that Lopez could not be sure of the precise time she saw the Bronco outside.
On October 3, 1995, O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of all charges. Tensions were so high, President Bill Clinton had been briefed on how to handle potential riots should the verdict be controversial.
It's estimated that almost $480 million in lost productivity occurred as the verdict was announced, with water usage declining significantly since people were afraid to go to the bathroom and miss it.
Some of the jurors claim they believed Simpson did commit the murders, but that the prosecution failed to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.
O.J. Simpson wrote a pretty telling book, called "If I Did It", in 2006. The entire book was a hypothetical detail-for-detail account of just how he would have murdered Brown and Goldman.
This is an excerpt from the book, referencing the famous moment when he was asked to try on the alleged gloves used in the murder and they didn't fit.
“If I had actually done it… I would have brought my good gloves that day. I would have thought it was shame they shrunk when I left them out on the patio, but I would have brought them just the same. They were my lucky gloves, and I would have needed them cause I was going to stab my slut of a wife… hypothetically.”
"This is a historic case, and I consider this his confession", publisher Judith Regan told The Associated Press.
The Civil Suit
Though Simpson was found not guilty on criminal charges, Ron Goldman's parents filed a civil suit against Simpson for wrongful death. Brown's estate also filed a "survivor suit" against Simpson.
Brown's estate was awarded $12.6 million for Simpson's kids, Justin and Sydney. Both families were awarded $33.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages, thereby finding Simpson "responsible" for the murders.
Simpson may not have gone to prison for murder, but he was sentenced to 33 years in prison for armed robbery and kidnapping.
Simpson robbed two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint along with a friend, but Simpson claims he was just trying to reclaim possessions that were stolen from him.
"It was my stuff. I followed what I thought was the law," the former running back said. "My lawyer told me I couldn't break into a guy's room. I didn't break into anybody's room. I didn't try to muscle guys. The guys had my stuff, even though they claimed they didn't steal it."
O.J. Simpson was finally granted parole in July of 2017, after nine years in prison.
"I've basically spent a conflict-free life,” he said. “I was never a guy who got into fights on the street. I’ve done my time. I’ve done it as well and as respectfully as anybody can. ... I’ve not complained for nine years, all I’ve done is try to be helpful.”