Debra J. Saunders
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Looks like Paris Hilton, 26, will not be sporting a new accessory -- an ankle bracelet with a monitoring device. Hilton is heading back to the Los Angeles County jail to serve the remainder of her 45-day sentence.

On Friday, Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer overruled the sheriff department's decision to allow the hotel heiress to complete a 45-day sentence in her 2,700-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bathroom Spanish-style home. It seems the judge did not buy that Hilton had an undisclosed medical reason that did not keep her from driving (without a license) or perpetually partying, pouting and posing before paparazzi. Angy Angelenos were asking: If she can party so hearty, how can she be too fragile for jail?

Hilton's legal woes began on Sept. 7, when she was pulled over on alcohol-related charges and her license was suspended. Hilton pleaded no contest to reckless driving and was sentenced to 36 months of probation, alcohol education and a $1,500 fine. The celebrity scofflaw later was caught twice driving without a license. Hilton's lame excuse: She said that her aides never told her she could not drive, and she never read the form an officer made her sign stipulating that she could not drive.

A clearly not amused Sauer sentenced Hilton to 45 days in jail. Mother Kathy Hilton denounced the sentence as a "waste of taxpayer money."

Funny, the Hiltons are loaded, but they never managed to hire a retainer who could convince them that it is not smart to let the world know that you think you are too rich to have to live by the rules. Judges, especially, bristle at that attitude.

And as if just to prove that the family doesn't get it, Hilton did not show enough respect to show up at court Friday morning. The judge had to send sheriffs to fetch her.

So the poor little rich girl was put in a cell.

The usual stable of cable legal experts argue that Hilton did not got a tougher sentence because she is a celebrity. They argue that it is common for illegal drivers to get the Hilton treatment. In a state where the definition of luck is getting rear-ended by a driver with a license and insurance, the Hilton defense seems to be: Many motorists get away with driving illegally -- Paris was simply living like the hoi polloi.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said of Hilton's 45-day sentence, "That would never happen in San Francisco." In this town, Hilton likely would have been treated to "a fine, a harsh speech and a couple of weeks of community service." Not 45 days, or the 23 days Hilton was expected to serve if she won time off for good behavior in jail. Sheriffs prefer to reserve jail space for more serious criminals.

"Today, there's a lot of people in county jail for misdemeanors who are probably scratching their heads saying, 'Why not me?'" Adachi noted. As he sees it, the average person caught driving without a license would not receive such a long sentence -- but also the average person would not have access to a well-heeled psychiatrist who could get that person sprung, say, because an inmate was having a nervous meltdown.

If Hilton had taken the law seriously and stopped driving when she lost her license -- sheesh, cupcake, hire a chauffeur -- she would have avoided discovering, up close and personal, that jail, like real life, is not a sitcom.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has a black eye on this one. His actions sent the message that if you're rich, you can game the system, shorten your stay and upgrade to a room with turn-down service and chocolate on the pillow.

Judge Sauer spared Baca from having to figure out what to do if Hilton again violated her probation. What would he have done then? Checked her into a Hilton?

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Debra J. Saunders


 
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