LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hotel heiress Paris Hilton was let out of jail early and put under house arrest on Thursday, drawing fire from prosecutors and court officials and sparking public debate about celebrity justice.
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.
A statement from the Los Angeles Superior Court said the decision to release Hilton for unspecified health reasons after she had served three days of her three-week sentence was made without the consent of the sentencing judge.
And 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.
Officials said Hilton, 26, was sent home early on Thursday wearing an electronic ankle bracelet to track her movements and ordered confined to her Hollywood Hills house for 40 days.
Hilton, who has lampooned her own image as a clueless child of privilege while starring in the reality TV show “The Simple Life,” turned herself in on Sunday night to begin a jail term for violating her probation in a drunken-driving case.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said Hilton was “reassigned” to the county’s Community-Based Alternatives to Custody (CBAC) program for medical reasons after “extensive consultations” with doctors at the jail and others, including the sentencing judge.
He declined to reveal the health issues involved.
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.
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 favouritism that is constantly cited by poor people and people of colour.”
Additional reporting by Jill Serjeant in Los Angeles