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.