After only three days behind bars, Paris Hilton traded a 12-by-8-foot cell for her 2,700-square-foot Hollywood Hills home when she was released early Thursday because of an unspecified medical condition. The move drew fire from prosecutors and court officials and sparked public debate about celebrity justice.
Hilton was to be under home confinement, wearing an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet, for the remaining 40 days of her sentence for violating probation in a reckless driving case.
The celebrity inmate was sent home from the L.A. County jail’s Lynwood lockup shortly after 2 a.m. in a stunning reduction to her original 45-day sentence.
No details were available on the nature of Hilton’s medical condition.
The syndicated television show “Entertainment Tonight,” citing sources close to Hilton’s family, said on its Web site that Hilton had developed a rash, while celebrity Web site TMZ.com, citing unidentified law enforcement sources, said her problem was psychological.
Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore refused to answer questions about whether it was physical or psychological.
“I can’t specifically talk about the medical situation other than to say that yes, it played a part in this,” Whitmore said at an early morning news conference outside the jail.
Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo said he was ”concerned that the judicial process may have been improperly circumvented” and directed his office to open an inquiry.
‘You're dealing with a spoiled brat’At least three members of the five-member county Board of Supervisers challenged the early release. One, Yvonne Burke, called for an investigation. Another, Mike Antonovich, called it “a mockery of due process.”
“You’re dealing with a spoiled brat, acting out to get her way instead of serving her time as was adjudicated by the courts,” he said.
The decision to release Hilton was made by Sheriff Lee Baca, according to the Probation Department. A deputy at the sheriff’s information bureau said there would be no comment.
Delgadillo, whose office prosecuted Hilton, issued a statement saying he was “not advised of this action” and would have opposed it on legal grounds.
“I have directed my criminal branch to immediately explore all possible legal options to ensure that the law is being applied equally and justly in this case.”
Although Whitmore said the judge in the case, Michael Sauer, had been consulted, the court statement said the sheriff’s department acted alone.
“Sauer ... indicated to the sheriff’s department that he would not change his order absent a written application supported by substantial facts,” the court said. “No application was made.”
Hours after leaving jail, Hilton issued a statement through her lawyer saying, “I have learned a great deal from this ordeal and hope that others have learned from my mistakes.”
Some radio talk show hosts seized on Hilton’s early release as proof of preferential treatment based on her celebrity status, a point of view echoed by the head of the union representing county sheriff’s deputies.
New York civil rights activist The Rev. Al Sharpton said Hilton’s home confinement “gives all of the appearances of economic and racial favoritism that is constantly cited by poor people and people of color.”
Served three days, credited for five
Hilton’s sentence was first cut from 45 to 23 days because of “good behavior.” When she chose to serve her time under house arrest, the sentence reverted to the original 45 days. Although she spent only three days in jail, she was credited for five because she checked in late Sunday and left early Thursday, leaving her with 40 days.
On Sunday night, after a surprise red-carpet appearance at the MTV Movie Awards, Hilton surrendered to authorities with little fanfare.
“I am trying to be strong right now,” she told reporters at the time. “I’m ready to face my sentence. Even though this is a really hard time, I have my family, my friends and my fans to support me, and that’s really helpful.”
Hilton was housed in the “special needs” unit of the 13-year-old jail, separate from most of its 2,200 inmates. The unit contains 12 two-person cells reserved for police officers, public officials, celebrities and other high-profile inmates. Hilton didn’t have a cellmate.
Like other inmates in the special-needs area, Hilton took meals in her cell and was allowed outside for at least an hour each day to shower, watch TV in the day room, participate in outdoor recreation or talk on the telephone.
When Hilton was sentenced May 4, Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer ruled she would not be allowed any work release, furloughs or use of an alternative jail or electronic monitoring in lieu of jail.
Whitmore said Thursday that Sauer “was consulted and he was advised” about her early release.
The 26-year-old hotel heiress’ path to jail began Sept. 7, when she failed a sobriety test after police saw her weaving down a Hollywood street in her Mercedes. She pleaded no contest to reckless driving and was sentenced to 36 months’ probation, alcohol education and $1,500 in fines.
On Jan. 15, she was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol. Informed that her license was suspended, Hilton signed a document acknowledging she was not to drive. Then, on Feb. 27, she was pulled over a third time, which led to her three-day incarceration.
Her new lockup is a four-bedroom, three-bathroom, Spanish-style home on .14 acres above the Sunset Strip.