Friday, June 08, 2007

Paris Hilton - Political Prisoner?

Alright, I have no sympathy for Paris Hilton. I think that she has spent a life of absolute debauchery brought upon by her extreme wealth, where nothing has ever been asked of her, only that she have a pulse. By her good looks and her money, she has become, to some, a celebrity. To me, she represents much that is lamentable about our society and its love of wealth and celebrity, and our willingness to lionize people for pretty much no reason at all.

When these otherwise worthless people commit crimes and get treated better than my clients, by virtue of their wealth or celebrity, it pisses me off. First of all, it gives us Public Defenders a bad rap - people assume that the reason we can't get them the same results as the Paris Hiltons in the world is because they don't have the money to hire a high priced group of lawyers like she can, and they're stuck with worthless lawyers like us. In reality, the reason they don't get the same deals as the celebrities is because they don't have enough money to hire the publicists that the celebrities do. You think many of those lawyers know the ins and outs of the criminal justice system better than those of us in court every day do? Not a chance. Some do, but not most.

That being said, Paris is clearly bearing the brunt of the backlash to her ephemeral celebrity status, the fact that she's well known for being well known, and being vacuous at that. I disagree with those who contend that no one gets long jail sentences like she did (long?) for driving on a suspended license and violating probation. I haven't done misdemeanors in over a decade, but when I did them, people regularly got long sentences - longer than this - for driving without a license while on probation for DUI. It was not unusual at all, and the fact that Paris got her 45 days was, frankly, not a huge surprise.

The area that she was mistreated was in the judge going out of his way to ensure that she spent her time in county jail, rather than on house arrest or, more likely, in a city jail (ie - private jail, or a much more cush jail). Like I said, I haven't done misdemeanors in a while, but when I did, I almost never saw a judge deny someone city jail when they requested it. I have even seen judges allow it for felonies, although most local jails will not accept felons in most situations. The jails cost about $100 per day, although they have deals for longer stays, and sometimes will waive some costs for poorer people (although that's rare). The stays are usually not that long, but I had a client do it for 90 days or so in a possession of marijuana for sale case (a felony). I have even appeared in front of this judge before and never heard him expressly deny someone city jail if they requested it (although I don't remember anyone requesting it).

However, the judge went out of his way to ensure that nothing of the sort would happen in this case. He (rightly) reckoned that if she was allowed to go to a city jail, it would have almost no deterrent effect on her, and it would be a drop in the bucket financially. But, the only reason that he knew this was because of who she was. If she was some other wealthy (but unknown) person who appeared in court on a case, he would probably have let her do the city jail, or house arrest.

And most certainly, if the person in this case was not Paris Hilton, the Judge would have never known that she had been released early (something that happens all the time in Los Angeles County due to overcrowding or other reasons). The fact that she was well known and an international firestorm took place when she was released alerted him to this fact that happens every day in his court. I could almost guarantee you that if you look up all of the booking numbers of people sentenced to jail for similar sentences by this judge on this day for similar offenses (and he handles almost no other kind of case), you would find that many of them have also been released by now as well. The judge probably has no clue about this, nor would he ever care or find out, because none of those people are Paris Hilton.

So, I think, on balance, that Paris got screwed. I have no sympathy for her, and it's probably time she got the short end of the stick for once, considering that she has gotten the long end of the stick her whole life. However, it's nice that I can point to all of our clients in the future when hey complain about me and say "hey, it could be worse, you could have Paris Hilton's lawyers, look what they did for her!"

UPDATE - I've already found 2 instances of women sentenced at the same courthouse the day after Paris who did dramatically less time in jail than Paris is slated to do. Poor Paris.


CS Legal said...

I routinely practice in Div 60, Suaer's court. And you and I finally agree. Let me tell you this:

1. 45 days for violating prob is something he gives out routinely. His last name is well deserved and his personality is just that. So no big issue there.

2. Never have i seen him impose that sentence and specifically order they serve 45 days and with no home arrest. He knows full well they will serve 10%.

3. As you mentioned, he doesnt know when these average joes are released after 10% and doesnt care. If you analyze his similar sentences as you pointed out you will find he has never made a stink about any other such similar sentence and release.

In short, your 100%. As someone who is in that court weekly, she is being screwed, since at most my clients would have served 3-4 days...if not just being processed and released within hours.

Unfortunately, the public and even some attorneys, think she is being given special treatment, when in fact if they knew L.A., the 10% routine, and this court, they would now she is being unfairly treated.

PD Dude said...

Hey CS
Assuming you're a defense lawyer (which I am going to assume, but may not be true), why do you only FINALLY agree with me? If you're a CA, then I totally understand.

cs legal said...


Well I can assure u I am not a CA or a DA. We are anonymous here brother so it would be silly for me to claim to be anything than what I am (though of course I can understand ur questioning of the same given that the anonymity can work both ways).

What I meant was that I finally completely agree with you given my previous two comments to your recent posts. I will admit that I have not read the remainder of your blog at all, so it is likely we agree on far more. However, the last 3 posts/topics have a common thread I think regarding fairness, justice, equality, privilege etc....

I happen to be a defense attorney that hates political correctness, is libertarian and one who hates inequality and injustice period. So when I see something like the Duke case, or to a lesser extent Paris, I want to point out the problems and injustice...not keep on referring to their wealth, privilege or race.

Bottom line is that whats unfair is unfair and I prefer to focus on that case by case...not delving into political/social debates about poverty, money and social class.

The Paris situation (although certainly far from the worst injustice) is not fair or right if you know LA the courts, and even this judge. People's (and legal commentators) reaction to her plight only proves to me that people in this country are great at one thing... dumping on groups when they have a chance. They dump on the poor, on the rich, the famous...the middle class...whatever. No one seems to stand up anymore on true principal and call things as they see em without reference or care to which particular group someone belongs to. They are only interested in protecting whichever group "they" belong to and mock and revel in the misery and injustice of others. Such is the case with Hilton by many of those who decry what the system does do the poor and the "average joe"... but they dont care at all when it happens to a group they dont particularly care about.

penelope said...

i'm a PD here in LA, and i think her lawyer may have screwed her. but really, what else would we expect from most private criminal defense lawyers? she was sentenced to a higher fine or more community service than the average person given a wet reckless. we don't know if she could've been given a dry or a speed ex if he just pushed it a little more. and if he just stayed quiet instead of coming up with that plan to get her out for a medical reason, she probably would have gotten her 10%. all judges know about 10%. all prosecutors know about 10%. that's why the sentences are inflated (e.g., 90 CJ for prostitution.) who was rocky delgadillo trying to kid? and if anyone got special treatment, i'd say it would be mrs. delgadillo.

CS Legal said...

Well Penelope...agree with you on most everything...sans the private defense attorney jab, of course. ;)

Anonymous said...

>>if he just stayed quiet instead of coming up with that plan to get her out for a medical reason

I thought that early release for medical reasons begins and ends with the Sheriff. How would he have access to advocate to the Sheriff?

CS Legal said...

Even if she was not released based on the medical issues, there would be an uproar about letting her out after only 10%. Most lay observers would think she was getting special treatment instead of being released like everyone else. So I disagree with Peneple's comment on that.

Even if her release had nothing to do with medical, there would be a stink, the judge would get wind and hall her back into court as he did. Again, that (along with the specific orders regarding her jail time)is where the real unfairness lies as it wouldn't of happened to a regular defendant.

Anonymous said...

HA-HA! I watched Paris Hilton political ad video at
She's witty =))