Virginia Rappe And Fatty Arbuckle Scandal: What Really Happened?

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Virginia Rappe and Fatty Arbuckle
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Public figures often suffer a great loss whenever an accusation is made about them that often results in a very messy scandal. In a good number of cases, they never get to reclaim their fame even if they are eventually exonerated and declared not guilty. Fatty Arbuckle, a very popular comedian in the 1920s was one of the unlucky celebrities to be dealt this hard blow which he never recovered from. His connection to Virginia Rappe’s murder turned out to be one of the trending headlines on tabloids back then. What actually triggered the Virginia Rappe and Fatty Arbuckle scandal? Find the details in this article.

What Really Happened Between Virginia Rappe And Fatty Arbuckle?

The comedian Roscoe Arbuckle popularly known as Fatty Arbuckle because of his size was among the high profile celebrities back in the 1920s. He was also named among the highest-earning actors in the world and he is notable for signing a deal worth about a million-dollar with Paramount Pictures in 1920. However, in 1921, tragedy struck as Fatty Arbuckle was accused of the rape and murder of Virginia Rappe.

Fatty’s alleged victim, Virginia was an up and coming entertainer who was aspiring to build an acting and modeling career which prompted her move to San Francisco from her home town of Chicago, Illinois. However, Virginia allowed the party life in San Francisco to get the best of her as she was practically partying all the time. The events that led to her death began when Virginia allegedly attended a party at St. Francis Hotel on the 5th of September, 1921 which was hosted by Fatty.

However, many conflicting reports were given about the events that led to the death of Virginia. Some have it that the young lady who had the habit of partying wildly drank so much that she started having difficulty breathing. At this point, it was alleged that she started to tear her clothes off as she was feeling very uncomfortable. And although she was alleged to be in obvious pain, Virginia did not go to the hospital until after a couple of days by which time it was too late and she died from a ruptured bladder.

On the other hand, Virginia’s friend Bambina Maude Delmont- who had been arrested in the past for prostitution and blackmailing people, accused Fatty Arbuckle of her death. She said that the comedian had been with Virginia in his hotel room and he had forced himself on her. His heavyweight made her choke and that was why she was ripping her clothes off at the party. She also alleged that Fatty’s sexual assault on her triggered Virginia’s bladder to burst. This accusation eventually gained a lot of attention and led to one of the most publicized cases of murder scandal in history.

Fatty Arbuckle’s Trial and Acquittal

The alleged accusation that the popular comedian sexually assaulted and killed Virginia Rappe gained a lot of publicity. Tabloids reported various versions of the story and for Fatty Arbuckle, it meant his trial might not technically be a free and fair one.

Virginia Rappe and Fatty Arbuckle
Arbuckle with his lawyers at his trial image source

Arbuckle who was arrested on September 17th, 1921 was in jail for about 3 weeks before he was granted bail. Shortly after that, his trial commenced on November 14th, 1921. This trial was on till December 4th, 1921 when the jury declared a mistrial after a rigorous 44 hours of deliberating on the facts the 60 witnesses presented in court.

A second trial kicked off on January 11, 1922, with the same defense and prosecution team but a new jury. The cross-examination of witnesses went on through for a couple of weeks, however, Arbuckle did not appear to testify. After the process was concluded, the jury went in for another long deliberation that took about 40 hours and once again, a mistrial was declared on February 3rd, 1922.

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Spectators of the entire process pointed out that Fatty Arbuckle not taking the stand during the second trial was an acceptance of his guilt. He was therefore brought in as a witness during the third trial which commenced on March 13th, 1922. This time, it was made clear that Virginia’s death was not as a result of Arbuckle’s harassment rather, she died due to health-related problems as she had suffered from various sexually transmitted diseases. This time around, it didn’t take the jury too long to come up with a unanimous verdict that Fatty Arbuckle was not guilty. This verdict was passed on April 12th, 1922, after 6 minutes of deliberations.

Although Fatty Arbuckle’s name was eventually cleared, the damage done to his career was beyond repairs. He never reclaimed his lost glory as a celebrity comedian or actor and though he tried to make a brief comeback, he did not live long so see it come to fruition. Arbuckle suffered a heart attack in his sleep and died on June 29th, 1933.