On a short vacation to San Francisco in September 1921,
a small party took place in Roscoe's hotel suite. A young lady named Virginia
Rappé fell ill, having sharp stomach pains. A doctor was called.
Four days later she died of peritonitis.
Arbuckle was arrested on September 11th, and was held over
for manslaughter on flimsy evidence. However, massive negative publicity
was undertaken by the "yellow journalism" press -- repeatedly
making lurid claims, in screaming headlines, that Arbuckle had sexually
abused Rappé to death with (by various accounts) a coke bottle, a
milk bottle, a champagne bottle, and/or a chunk of ice. These factually
unsupported charges caused an incredibly hostile environment
for holding a fair trial, despite overwhelming evidence pointing
to Arbuckle's innocence. Two hung juries resulted. By the time of the the
third trial, most people had calmed down. Voting in the hallway, the third
jury aquiitted Arbuckle in six minutes. Most of that time was spent composing
"Acquittal is not enough for Roscoe Arbuckle. We feel
that a great injustice has been done him. We feel also that it was only
our plain duty to give him this exoneration, under the evidence, for there
was not the slightest proof adduced to connect him in any way with the commission
of a crime. He was manly throughout the case, and told a straightforward
story on the witness stand, which we all believed. The happening at the
hotel was an unfortunate affair for which Arbuckle, so the evidence shows,
was in no way responsible. We wish him success and hope that the American
people will take the judgement of fourteen men and women who have sat listening
for thirty-one days to the evidence, that Roscoe Arbuckle is entirely innocent
and free of all blame."
Nevertheless, the damage was done. Roscoe Arbuckle would
be blacklisted from acting in Hollywood for the next eleven years.
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