Top 10 Shocking Political Arrests

Top 10 Shocking Political Arrests
Script written by George Pacheco

Even politicians can't avoid the long arm of the law. From Oliver North, to John Edwards, to Anthony Weiner, these arrests dominated the news. Watchmojo counts down the top most shocking political arrests.

Special thanks to our user Freemantle_uk for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at http://WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%2010%20Politicans%20Who%20Went%20to%20Prison

Script written by George Pacheco

Top 10 Shocking Political Arrests

These public servants got caught in the act. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Shocking Political Arrests.

For this list, we’re ranking the most memorable instances where American political figures were arrested for, charged with or pleaded guilty to crimes. To be clear, they don’t necessarily have to have been taken into custody or spent any time behind bars, and we are including house arrests.

#10: Oliver North

We begin our list back in the 1980s, specifically with the Iran-Contra scandal that rocked Ronald Reagan’s presidency late in the decade. Oliver North had served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and was a member of the National Security Council during this time; he was accused of having helped move funds illegally obtained through arms dealing with Iran to right-wing Nicaraguan rebels known as the Contras. North was convicted of obstructing Congress, destroying documents and accepting bribes, but had all of the charges against him dismissed two years later.

#9: John N. Mitchell

We’re taking a few steps back from the ‘80s with our next entry before we get closer to the modern political spectrum: a decade back, in fact, to Watergate and the 1970s. John Newton Mitchell was the Attorney General during the Nixon administration, and he’d helped direct the former President’s campaign for office back in 1968. Mitchell’s close ties with the President didn’t stop him from being brought up on charges for his involvement with the Watergate break-in and cover-up, however, and he was found guilty of perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

#8: Larry Craig

This former Idaho Senator served decades of his career in the American Senate and the House of Representatives. But it was a different sort of “service” that got Larry Craig in hot political water, when he was arrested in a Minnesota airport bathroom in 2007. Police had set up a sting in response to customer complaints about sexual activity in the restrooms, and the resulting report by the arresting officer became well known for the phrase “a wide stance”: Craig claimed it was his “wide stance” that had caused him to inadvertently touch the man in the neighboring stall. Ultimately, the Republican Senator pled guilty to a lesser charge and ended his political career.

#7: John Edwards

John Edwards was a handsome and likeable North Carolina senator and one-time candidate for POTUS. However, he had an extramarital relationship with a woman on his campaign, which – aside from producing a child – also led to his indictment on charges that he used campaign funds to hide the affair. Worse yet, by the time the scandal made headlines, his wife was fighting the breast cancer that would ultimately take her life. In 2011, a federal grand jury in North Carolina officially hit Edwards with charges of conspiracy, accepting illegal campaign contributions and making false statements, effectively ending any chance he might’ve had to once again mount a serious bid for President.

#6: Salvatore DiMasi

Salvatore DiMasi is the first New England politician on this list, but he won’t be the last. DiMasi received the longest federal sentence of all time for an official elected in Massachusetts for his role in a corruption scandal that rocked the state’s House of Representatives. DiMasi was sentenced to prison for accepting lucrative kickback dollars associated with the local office of a software company named Cognos. DiMasi had assisted the company in obtaining lucrative contracts with the state in exchange for this money, and his subsequent resignation made him the third straight Massachusetts House Speaker to leave the office for ethical or legal reasons.

#5: Rod Blagojevich

When Barack Obama left his Illinois Senate seat vacant after ascending to the presidency, that State’s governor, Rod Blagojevich, had an idea. This not-so-brilliant plan was part of the reason why Blagojevich was indicted in the winter of 2008 on a slew of corruption charges: he essentially attempted to essentially sell Obama’s senate seat to the highest bidder. This wasn’t the only crime of which Blagojevich was accused, however, as the indictment also included charges of extortion, accepting bribes and wire fraud. This incredible fall from grace finally led Blagojevich to be impeached by the state’s General Assembly in January 2009.

#4: Anthony Weiner

Former New York Congressman and onetime mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner has become something of a household name on the late night talk show circuit, and not just because of his unfortunate name: it all began in 2011 when Weiner accidentally posted a suggestive photo of himself to Twitter. Things became far less funny, however, once Weiner was forced to admit he’d been similarly conversing with several women for some time and resigned from Congress. Though he attempted a political comeback, he was eventually charged with transferring obscene material to a minor. Weiner began serving prison time in November 2017, and had to register as a sex offender.

#3: Paul Manafort & Rick Gates

Paul Manafort is Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, and Rick Gates is a longtime business partner of Manafort’s, and both men were under active investigation by federal prosecutors and special counsel Robert Mueller in 2017. While under house arrest, the pair had to defend themselves against accusations that include conspiracy against the United States and federal money laundering. Prosecutors allege that Gates and Manafort lied about their financial dealings with a Russia-affiliated political party in Ukraine, and they considered the fact that each of the men possesses multiple passports and bank accounts to be a potential flight risk.

#2: Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy was a mainstay in the U.S. Senate, a lifelong Massachusetts Democrat who hoped to one day follow his older brother John to the Presidency. Kennedy’s dreams of the country’s highest office were effectively dashed on Friday, July 18th, 1969, on a night that’s since been labeled “The Chappaquiddick Incident.” Kennedy pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident after he crashed his car into the water off Chappaquiddick Island, Martha’s Vineyard. The accident killed his evening companion, Mary Jo Kopechne, while Kennedy escaped with only a two month suspended sentence. He did later run for President, but his reputation was irreparably damaged.

Before we name our number one pick, here is an honorable, or in this case, dishonorable mention!
- R. Budd Dwyer
- Ray Nagin
- Kwame Kilpatrick

#1: Buddy Cianci

We’ve seen politicians removed from office after a scandal, but the case of Vincent “Buddy” Cianci Jr. is one of the few where the accused actually got his job BACK after being arrested. Cianci was the former mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, who was arrested for assaulting contractor Raymond DeLeo, whom Buddy suspected was sleeping with his wife. Cianci resigned in 1984, but amazingly enough, later won reelection, before again being indicted for conspiracy, fraud, racketeering, extortion and witness tampering. The beloved “Buddy” hosted radio and television shows after his prison release in 2007, and ran again for mayor in 2014 (although unsuccessfully this time), before succumbing to colon cancer in 2016.