Celebrities & Criminal Justice: A Conversation with Retired LAPD Detective Jack Struble
By Jordan Schaul | Scapegoat Strength
As we await the verdict in the civil case between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, I’ve reflected on the OJ Simpson criminal case as well as other high-profile trials involving public figures that have been aired live over the past thirty years. Undoubtedly, famous people are granted the benefit of the doubt. They often receive lighter sentences than the general public and in instances where average citizens would be arrested, they are often given warnings and released from custody.
I asked my friend and retired LAPD Detective Jack Stuble to respond to a few questions about celebrities and the criminal justice system to get a perspective on how public figures are treated by law enforcement and before trial if prosecuted. Detective Jack and I host true crime social audio events on Clubhouse every Thursday at 7:00 PM (PDT)
Jordan: Do public figures get charged as frequently as the general public Furthermore if you recognize an assailant do you think an unconscious bias influences an attempt at restraint and ultimately influences a charge.
Jack: Let's take Los Angeles, for example. The district attorney's office has had problems getting convictions on celebrity cases, with OJ Simpson as an example. They try but haven't been that successful. Now, go to Nevada, and they'll throw a celebrity in jail as they did to OJ. I believe there is a bias toward not filing on them in Los Angeles because of the district attorney's track record. They can't get a conviction in this town. They'll look at the circumstances, and unless the crime was public and caught on video, it's hard to prove. Then, they will look at the court of popular opinion and decide.
I've seen it before, and it will always be that way. Like in the circumstance of Johnny Depp, they could write it off as "Mutual Combat" and not file. The only incident I can recall where the district attorney's office received a conviction on a celebrity case was when Winona Ryder was arrested for shoplifting over $1,000 worth of clothing from a department store in Beverly Hills. It was her first arrest, and the prosecutor offered her a plea deal, and Mark Geragos, her lawyer, refused to take it. She was convicted.
Jordan: Because these public figures may be as litigious as anyone else and media attention may follow an arrest, are celebrities inclined to be issued 'warnings' rather than be charged with misdemeanors offenses and arrested/booked? Furthermore, they may try to press charges against law enforcement more readily, I presume?
Jack: What will happen is that the LAPD, if they have an option, will take a crime report, naming the celebrity as either the victim or suspect. They will interview all the witnesses and victims. Then, while being unbiased, write up a thorough investigative report and present it to the district attorney's office. That way, it takes it out of the hands of the police and plants it squarely on the shoulders of the district attorney's office. That's one way not to arrest a celebrity. Then, unless the crime is so heinous that there is probable cause, the cops will submit a filing to the district attorney's office.
Jordan: This may be dumb questions, but is there ever an example where more uniformed officers than usual might respond to a domestic violence call with a celebrity? Can dispatchers request a "special response" from officers on the clock and in a jurisdiction regarding a call?
Jack: The uniformed cops are the first responders. The call goes into the communications center, and a dispatcher will send special notes advising who the suspect or victim is. That happens a lot with celebrities. Once the cops arrive, the call is handled like every other domestic violence call, or whatever the nature of the call is. The cops will generally ask for a supervisor before talking to the celebrity. It serves as a witness; remember that cops wear body cameras that serve as a record.
Jordan: If the media shows up at the scene of a crime or purported domestic disturbance concerning a public figure, are there any protocols that you might follow to reduce potential hazards or respect the assailants' rights?
Jack: The media does show up on those calls because someone calls them. Unless it's a public place, they aren't allowed to interfere with the cops' jobs. In L.A., the media will keep their distance because they'll get arrested for interference.