LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A judge sentenced a shocked and tearful Paris Hilton to 45 days in jail on Friday, ruling that the hotel heiress violated her probation for a previous traffic offence by knowingly driving without a valid license.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Sauer rejected Hilton’s defence that she didn’t realize her license was suspended and ordered the 26-year-old socialite to report to a county detention facility on June 5.
Hilton wept and her mother, Kathy, yelled at the prosecutor, “You’re pathetic,” as the packed courtroom cleared.
The stunning decision capped a two-hour hearing in which prosecutors argued that Hilton was thumbing her nose at the court and seeking to be placed above the law, while defence lawyers said she was being singled out for harsh treatment because of her celebrity.
Taking the witness stand in her own defence, the star of the reality TV show “The Simple Life” testified that she was unaware her driving privileges had been completely suspended at the time police stopped her and impounded her car on February 27.
Hilton said her publicist, Elliot Mintz, had told her she was permitted to drive for work-related reasons after the first 30 days of her license suspension late last November, and that she relied on what he had said.
But the judge said he did not believe Hilton, pointing to a notice she had received from a police officer, and had signed, during another traffic stop in January.
He said Hilton had “completely ignored” that notice, which she had carried in her glove box for weeks, and another license suspension notice sent to her office address by the Department of Motor Vehicles that Hilton said she never saw.
“In my opinion, there’s not doubt that she knew that her license had been suspended,” the judge said. “She doesn’t look at her mail, her personal assistant never goes through it either. ... I think she just wanted to disregard everything that was said and continued to drive no matter what.”
In a final statement before she was sentenced, Hilton, dressed in a gray waist jacket, white blouse and black pants, her blond hair tied back in a pony tail, stood before the judge and denied that she had sought to flout the law.
“I did what I was told. I would never drive just because I want to. I follow the law and I respect the law. From now on I want to pay complete attention to everything,” she said. “I just want to say I’m sorry.”
But the judge was unmoved.
“Probation is revoked — 45 days in jail,” he declared.
Hilton’s lawyer, Howard Weitzman, said he would appeal “to modify the sentence.”
“It is clear that she has been selectively targeted for prosecution for who she is,” he said outside the courthouse.
Hilton was sentenced in January to three years on probation and ordered into an alcohol-education program for pleading no contest — the equivalent of a guilty plea — to alcohol-related reckless driving after a September 2006 arrest.
In February, she was pulled over again for driving without headlights. Police impounded her car, a $190,000 blue Bentley, when they discovered she was driving on a suspended license.
Hilton recently finished taping episodes for a fifth season of “The Simple Life,” which returns to the airwaves later this month.