Friday, June 08, 2007

We'll always have Paris?

Well! If anybody had told me two weeks ago that I would be blogging about Paris Hilton, I would have told them they were crazy. However, despite having had little or no interest in her apparently ditzy antics, I've come to have rather strong feelings about this jail thing.

Naturally, I figure my job is to enter the minority report.

I've watched courts in California as a journalist, and I think I know something about how these things are handled in the normal course of things. I'm convinced that if this had been anybody but Paris Hilton, she would have gotten no jail time at all, or a day or two at most, even for the second time driving on a suspended license, which did violate her probation for a DUI (which was the minimum, .08 blood alcohol, by the way, which is the law but punitively and unnecessarily low). California's prisons and jails are chronically overcrowded (a federal judge has threatened to take over and run the state prison system if the overcrowding isn't addressed by June 30, and there's little or no evidence that it has been). There's just no room in these facilities, given the number of serious offenders and riff-raff, for penny-ante things like driving on a suspended license.

In addition, L.A. County's jails, as Sheriff Lee Baca has pointed out, are under a special order that permits early release to make room for more serious offenders. He is right that in ordinary circumstances, if a judge had been in an especially foul mood and given some poor schlump jail time, that he had discretion to release them after serving 10 percent of the sentence, as she did.

I have no idea whether she really had a medical condition or not.

The fact that the judge, Michael T. Sauer (an appropriate name) gave her 45 days, with 22 to serve was "special treatment" for a celebrity, all right. He threw the book at her because she was a celebrity, to create a phony publicity stunt to "prove" that wealth and celebrity won't get you leniency. He's a panderer to public opinion and a thoroughly disgusting person as far as I'm concerned.

Naturally, I'm disgusted at public opinion. As far as I can tell Paris Hilton is a superficial twit, and I guess I can understand why people have negative feelings about her. But being a superficial twit is not a jailing offense, or shouldn't be in a country with a pretense to the rule of law. Most of the people who say they want her in there because they're for "equal justice" aren't the least bit interested in equal justice, or they would inform themsleves about how ordinary citizens in similar circumstances are handled. Most of them are simply loving the fact that a rich celebrity is being punished, and they want her punished. There's a meanness bordering on sadism in this Schadenfreude that speaks ill of our society.

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