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Can there be life after acquittal for celebrities?

Act 2 can be hard to do, even after an acquittal. Many people believe celebrities get away with heinous crimes thanks to their money and...

By Derrik J. Lang

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Act 2 can be hard to do, even after an acquittal.

Many people believe celebrities get away with heinous crimes thanks to their money and fame. So celebs who hear the words "not guilty" can still fall into a career limbo more difficult to escape than a cluster of paparazzi.

Michael Jackson, acquitted of all charges in his child-molestation trial, could learn something from his celebrity brethren's post-trial tribulations — going all the way back to 1922, when Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was acquitted.

After two hung juries, a third cleared Arbuckle of raping and murdering actress Virginia Rappe. Despite the verdict, he was seen as an archetype of Hollywood immorality and never regained fame.

"There is such a thing as bad publicity," psychologist Joyce Brothers told The Associated Press.

Hollywood playboy Errol Flynn's wild ways caught up to him when two teenagers accused the then 33-year-old actor of statutory rape in 1942. Unlike Arbuckle, Flynn didn't become a scapegoat for Hollywood decadence. The American Boys Club for the Defense of Errol Flynn, which included future conservative columnist William F. Buckley Jr. among its members, was founded to organize support for the actor.

"As a celebrity, you get a certain number of free passes," said Brothers. "You're actually in a better position if you're a celebrity because people care."

Flynn was cleared — increasing his lothario reputation rather than killing his career. Although his alcohol abuse and hard partying never wavered, he went on to appear in such films as "William Tell" and "The Sun Also Rises."

His autobiography "My Wicked, Wicked Ways" was published shortly after his death in 1959.

Seven decades after Arbuckle, O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murdering his wife and her friend in a trial that gripped the nation for most of 1994. He later lost a civil trial and was ordered to pay a $33.5 million settlement.

Before the murders, the former football player graced the C-list, appearing in two "Naked Gun" films and starring in the HBO series "1st & Ten" and the failed NBC pilot "Frogmen." He also was a Hertz pitchman and an NBC sportscaster. Following the Trial of the Century, Simpson has been unable to make another go at sportscasting or acting.

Last year, Simpson attempted to drum up interest in a "Punk'd" knockoff called "Juiced" but failed.