Friday, June 8

Bailing Paris: Sheriff Lee Baca

Sometimes when you win, you really lose. At least that seems to be the theme for Paris Hilton, who was released from jail yesterday for a mysterious mental medical condition. She was released after serving three days of a 23-day sentence.

With more public outcry than most mass murderers, media and concerned citizens made her the poster child for "buying freedom." Suddenly, without warning, the publicity beast she has gracefully embraced for more than a decade turned to bite her back.

The decision to free Hilton prompted attorney L.A. city attorney Rocky Delgadillo to file a petition questioning whether Sheriff Lee Baca should be held in contempt of court for releasing Hilton, led to media coverage that largely mocked the Hilton heiress, and convinced Rev. Al Sharpton to organize a march protest. Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer then ordered Hilton to report to court today at 9 a.m.

"There are any number of cases of people who handled being incarcerated badly and even have health conditions that are not released," Sharpton told The Associated Press. "But I think that it gives a very bad signal when Ms. Hilton is treated any differently than any other parole violator in their county or in this country."

While I have a hard time believing this a blatant case of racism (maybe), I do lean toward the John Gibson take: "Was it because she's white? Maybe just a bit, but more likely it happened because she's rich and her parents can make lawyers and shrinks work round the clock to move mountains."

For my part, I'm less interested in what is really non-news and more interested in the publicity beast that once appeared to be tamed by Hilton. As hard as it might be for some people to see it, she may have been happy to be released, but she did not do the bailing. Sheriff Baca did that. (As if the Los Angeles County Police Department didn't have enough public relations problems.)

No matter, it seems. Most people want to have the privileged head of Hilton, regardless of her role in the release. She may have had a hand in it or not. If she did, she did herself a great disservice.

Hilton's sometimes odd popularity was always fueled by her ability to woo a majority of the public (not the media, the public), which is why people petitioned for her not to go to jail in the first place.

The result of her release, however, unless publicist Elliot Mintz can master some major spin (he often does), could erode her credibility to the point where her brand of being strangely famous forever turns into unpleasantly infamous. It will be interesting to see who remains a friend after the popularity polls begin to dip over trying to bilk the system (whether she had a direct hand in it or not).

Ah publicity ... sure you can use it to be released from jail early, but this get out of jail card is not like Monoply. It's almost never given for free.



Rich on 6/8/07, 10:56 AM said...

"Paris Hilton was taken from her home in handcuffs this morning, put in a sheriff's squad car and is now on her way to a court hearing that could end with her return to jail." — The Associated Press' lead line.

"Los Angeles government officials are being bombarded with e-mail from Americans enraged by the early jail release of Paris Hilton. A sampling of correspondence received this morning by members of the city's ruling Board of Supervisors can be found below." — The Smoking Gun, which also published some of these e-mails.

While perhaps it wasn't right that she be released in the first place, one has to wonder how far down the road we have gone to make every court room appearance a public spectacle. Worse, the handcuffs smack as a public relations ploy by Los Angeles Sheriff's Department to save face over a very bad decision to begin with, followed by their initial refusal to comply with the judge's orders to bring her to court (according to the TMZ).

Rich on 6/8/07, 1:05 PM said...

"Paris Hilton was escorted from a courtroom screaming and crying on Friday after a judge sent her back to jail to serve out her entire 45-day sentence for a parole violation in a reckless driving case.

'It's not right!' shouted the weeping Hilton. 'Mom!' she called out to her mother in the audience." — The Associated Press

While it might not be popular to say, the err this time lands squarely on the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department for releasing her to begin with. Thursday's decision to let her serve the sentence at home because of a medical complaint (and resulted in national outrage and accusations of favorable treatment), best belongs with the department that teases someone, anyone, with freedom.

Rich on 6/10/07, 2:25 PM said...

Famous Last Words:

"Today I told my attorneys not to appeal the judge's decision. While I greatly appreciate the Sheriff's concern for my health and welfare, after meeting with doctors I intend to serve my time as ordered by the judge.

This is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. During the past several days, I have had a lot of time to reflect and have already learned a bitter, but important lesson from this experience.

As I have said before, I hope others will learn from my mistake. I have also had time to read the mail from my fans. I very much appreciate all of their good wishes and hope they will keep their letters coming.

I must also say that I was shocked to see all of the attention devoted to the amount of time I would spend in jail for what I had done by the media, public and city officials. I would hope going forward that the public and the media will focus on more important things, like the men and women serving our country in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world." — Paris Hilton from the jailhouse (as seen on the TMZ).


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