Did Paris Get Special Treatment?

Paris Hilton's early release from jail because of an unspecified "medical condition" has some crying foul over what appears to be special treatment for "The Simple Life" star.

ABC News spoke with several legal experts to learn their views on whether it was fair to let the hotel heiress out of jail after only a few days.

Attorneys who spoke to ABC News were split over the question of whether Hilton deserved to get out of jail early. Although early release from jail for a medical emergency is unusual, several experts believe Hilton got an overly harsh sentence in the first place.

An Unusual Release

Letting a prisoner out of jail because of an illness is rare, and is normally reserved for those with severe illnesses, lawyers said.

Jodi Kent of the American Civil Liberties Union spent three years monitoring Los Angeles jails. "The only time I'd ever seen somebody released for a medical reason was if they were being released as a 'compassionate release' -- in other words, they're about to die," she said. "It's extremely bizarre."

Citing privacy regulations, Steve Whitmore of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office declined to say what was wrong with Hilton or why she couldn't be treated in jail.

Experienced criminal defense lawyers complained that they've often had trouble getting early release for their lesser-known clients based on medical illness.

Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer Dana Cole called Hilton's release "outrageous," adding that Paris would have gone to the hospital if there were a true medical emergency.

"Many of my clients had all sorts of medical problems and never got out of jail," Cole said. "One client [had] a grotesque staph infection that was eating away at his leg -- this is common in jail. I tried desperately but could not get him out of jail."

"I'm going to file Paris motions for all my clients," he quipped. "I didn't know it was this easy."

Hilton was sentenced to jail in May for violating her probation in an alcohol-related reckless driving case. She started her sentence Sunday night.

According to her lawyer, Hilton was holding up in prison after her first night. But her condition deteriorated and rumors spread of her incessant crying, two visits from a psychiatrist, lack of sleep and appetite.

Hilton was released this morning. She will be under house arrest and will be required to wear an ankle bracelet for 40 days.

Fame Works Both Ways

Though getting out of jail because of illness is uncommon, experts also said that Hilton's fame may have worked against her when she was sentenced in the first place. Darren Kavinoky, a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer, said Hilton's original 45-day sentence was harsh.

E. Christopher Murray, a New York civil liberties lawyer, agreed. "Sentencing Paris to jail for an extended period of time was an example of a celebrity being treated more harshly than an average person," he said. "Allowing her to be subject to house arrest is appropriate punishment, and should have been implemented earlier."

Howard Price, a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer thought there was nothing wrong with releasing Hilton after a few days.

"What did she do that was so serious?" he said. "This was on the low end of crimes"

With reporting by Lauren Pearle, Mary Harris and Ellen Davis, and the ABC News Law & Justice Unit

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...