A Public Image Ruined Beyond Redemption
The media’s coverage of the Fatty Arbuckle scandal caused irreversible damage to his public image. It did not matter that the prosecution’s case against Fatty eventually fizzled. It turned out that San Francisco’s District Attorney, an ambitious man with plans to run for California governor, had pressured witnesses into lying. The defense also obtained a letter from the state’s star witness, Virginia Rappe’s friend who had had first leveled accusations of assault, in which she admitted that she had planned to extort money from the Hollywood superstar.
In the trial, the state produced little credible evidence. Medical experts demonstrated that Rappe’s bladder had been ruptured by an internal inflammation, not by an external force. The jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of acquittal, and a mistrial was declared. A second trial again ended in a 10-2 deadlock in favor of a not guilty verdict. At the conclusion of a third trial, the jury took just six minutes to return a unanimous verdict of not guilty. Fatty Arbuckle was exonerated, but his reputation never recovered. His public image was destroyed, and so was his career.