The Paris Hilton Case Gets Political – No, Seriously

The over-exposed celebrity’s “get out of jail” card threatens to ramp up into a volatile political debate about race and privilege in Los Angeles.


Rev. Al Sharpton

Free Paris! Word came late yesterday that the Rev. Al Sharpton is flying into Los Angeles today to speak with Sheriff Lee Baca about his department’s decision to release Paris Hilton from the county hoosegow yesterday.

Hilton spent three days in a women’s facility in Lynwood, but had many complaints about conditions in the jail — it was too cold and she didn’t like food for example. Her psychiatrist was called in because she feared she was near a state of nervous collapse.

As a result, Hilton’s sentence was changed from 23 days in jail to 40 days under house arrest in her hillside home in West Hollywood.

This change in her sentence has sparked outrage across the spectrum of demographic groups in Los Angeles, including among affluent anglos, but especially so among blacks and latinos.

One young African-American woman who apparently had been incarcerated at the jail told a local reporter that if she had complained about the temperature or the food, she would have been ignored — and that if she’d had a medical condition, they would have treated her in the jail’s infirmary and then sent her back to her cell.

Los Angeles has plenty of activists and spokespeople within its black and latino communities — including, just to name two, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Connie Rice, who is a codirector of the Advancement Project (and whose evil cousin is the U.S. secretary of state). Beyond these respected voices on racial matters and beyond, there are any number of city council members and other high officials who could speak for their communities on this issue.

But when an issue of race meets a bank of cameras and microphones, we must accept the fact that Al Sharpton will soon be parachuting in:

“I think that it’s both another glaring display of how race and money seem to get different treatments. There seems to be a different criminal justice system for some than others,” Sharpton said.

Judge Michael Sauer, the man who sentenced Hilton to jail after she’d been caught driving three times while her license was suspended for drunk driving, has called her back to court today and may send her back to jail. Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo is also upset with the sheriff’s department for unilaterally changing Hilton’s sentence.

Finally, there is this. The L.A. County jails are experiencing a crisis of overcrowding. The truth is, a regular citizen — white, brown, black, rich or poor, infamous or not — who’d been sentenced to jail for a crime like Hilton’s would have been admitted, processed and then sent home, all within a few hours on the same day.

If this issue is going to explode in Los Angeles — and at 5:45 AM on Friday that’s where we appear to be heading — the truth is, if Paris had been treated “fairly,” she would have been released without ever seeing the inside of cell.

Update: Local news is reporting that the city attorney is threatening to sue Sheriff Baca over the change in Hilton’s sentencing.

7 Comments

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  • nikolai
    June 8, 2007 - 7:45 am | Permalink

    Like they say on South*ark,
    “Stupid Spoiled Whore!”

  • June 8, 2007 - 8:51 am | Permalink

    Who in hell cares what “Reverend” Al has to say about this overblown b.s.? He’s just another publicity hound like Paris Hilton, and just as relevant.Can you say “Tawana Brawley”?

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  • Alvey
    June 10, 2007 - 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Sharpton has now become the mouthpiece for Jesse Jackson who has never truly represented the voice of African Americans. As an African American from the innercity in the northeast I have seen many poor minorities get treated to an ankle bracelet more than once for the same crime and they were for more serious crimes than that which Paris Hilton is being persecuted for. Al Sharpton does not represent me, my opinion or my friends and family and the African American community needs to stand up and as James Brown would say, “Say it Loud”

  • Shimozono
    June 13, 2007 - 1:26 am | Permalink

    Most importantly, Paris should realized what she has been doing?
    There is not excuses to avoid those matters that are against the law. Indeed very much I do agreed she has to served her terms in prison like anybody who has committed a crime. Regardless of races, rich or poor, celebrities or princes or princesses.
    Wake up Paris! You are no more a small child.

  • June 28, 2007 - 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Rather than complaining about Hilton’s release, activists would accomplish more by protesting the biased laws that result in long sentences for petty drug criminals and cause such overcrowding in prisons that officials are forced to release inmates early. In 2000 the mean sentence imposed on federal prisoners for violent felonies was 63.0 months as opposed to 75.6 months for drug felonies.* The fact that murders, child molesters, rapists, and other violent criminals can get less time than non-violent drug offenders is alarming and a lot more newsworthy than Hilton’s ordeal.

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