Saturday, June 16, 2007
Indignation Over Paris Hilton
Some legal commentators, including Mike at Crime and Federalism and Jeralyn at TalkLeft, argue that Paris was sentenced more harshly than other non-celebrity defendants, including the spouse of the City Attorney who argued that Paris should serve jail time. I don't agree, and am more sympathetic to the views of Mike's co-blogger, Norm Pattis, who argues, Send Paris Back To Jail. If you were to look at the full facts of Paris Hilton's situation, I doubt that you will find a comparable defendant who did not serve jail time for similar violations. (Two alcohol-related driving offenses within six months, repeatedly driving on a suspended license, failing to enroll in court-ordered alcohol-education classes, getting stopped by the police driving in the dark, with her headlights off, at 70MPH in a 35 MPH zone, etc.) I can't bring myself to share the indignation.
But what I would like to know is, how often has the Sheriff extended himself in a similar fashion to keep other inmates from having to serve their jail time? While I recognize that we're not talking about the D.C. jail here, I would venture that the number of inmates the Sheriff has released to house arrest over claims of claustrophobia and ADHD, the rumored mental illnesses claimed by Paris Hilton, number approximately... one.
I once represented a young man, picked up on a probation violation, who was held in a jail observation cell pending the resolution of his charge. Everybody knew what the resolution was going to be - he had failed to appear in court several years before due to his being incarcerated on another charge and, after maxing out a five-year prison term, he was going to be released with credit for time served. He was profoundly mentally ill, and he was a cutter - not the type who inflicts superficial wounds, but the type who can potentially kill himself with a staple inadvertently left in a document he is allowed to handle, with an ugly web of scars on his arms as a testament to his past self-injury. Not once did I hear somebody say, "He's already done his time, we know he'll be sentenced to time served, and most defendants who have no chance of jail time aren't detained, so why are we treating him so harshly?" I would venture that the L.A. County Jail has accommodated countless similar individuals without flouting a court's sentence so that the defendant can serve out his or her time on house arrest.
 This is not hyperbole.