Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Fall of Fleming: A Confession

I confess, I confess, I’m interested in the Paris Hilton case..

I want to take the cowardly route and say that it’s only because I’m a lawyer and have an interest in the legal issues that I’ve started reading about the case . . . but that’s too much like an evangelist saying he had to study a lot of pornography videos in order to know what he was fighting against – or a local State Representative here who explained after being taped soliciting sex from a policewoman posing as a prostitute that he was out hiring prostitutes in order to bring them to religion.

I therefore add that it’s not only because I’m a lawyer that I’ve become interested in the misadventures of naughty Paris Hilton. As a fiction writer I think it is a fascinating story which has reached a crucial juncture: Will the spoiled, rich young heiress – hitherto depicted enjoying a pampered life of incredible luxury and voluptuousness -- who is now genuinely suffering severely because of her flippant flouting of the law -- discover in this shocking experience new insights into herself? Will a process of self-examination bring about the change in her character which creative writing teachers say is required in this type of novel? After all, she did have herself photographed carrying a copy of “The Power of Now” to jail, although it seems unlikely that she stayed off the telephone long enough to read any of it. The Perils of Paris really do make a fascinating psychological study. Oh . . . and yes, sometimes I enjoy looking at her despite a feeling of faint nausea.


The first legal question that attracted me was how a sheriff could ignore a judge’s order where the judge specifically ordered that the convicted person was to stay in jail and not be moved to house arrest. In my experience – which included a lot of appellate work in criminal cases – a judge’s order always prevails. A sheriff on the county level takes care of all of the details of the prisoner’s incarceration and applies written laws and rules to treatment of the prisoner and any early lawful release, but the sheriff cannot disobey or overrule the explicit provisions of a court order. If a judge says, “Without possibility of parole” it means, “Without possibility of parole.” Los Angeles may, however, provide a kind of Disneyland version of the law which would not be found in other areas. So far I haven’t been able to locate an informed legal analysis of the situation there.

The question I want to ask in this post is below this report from the ‘Los Angeles Times’:

‘A sobbing Paris Hilton was shipped back to jail Friday, culminating a high-stakes legal showdown between a judge and Sheriff Lee Baca over who controls how long and where inmates serve their jail sentences.

The questions have loomed large over the Los Angeles County justice system for years as judges watched in frustration as the sheriff slashed the sentences they handed down, often by 90%, to alleviate chronic overcrowding in his jails.

[Sheriff] Baca defended his decision to let Hilton leave jail and said he was concerned about how Sauer's order — if copied by other judges — would affect the jail system.

"This has the strong potential to set up what will become an untenable precedent because of overcrowding in jail and the lack of adequate housing," Baca said in an interview.’

My question is: If jail overcrowding is such a big factor, why did the sheriff assign Paris Hilton alone to a 2-person cell with no cellmate?


  1. Well Fleming, I volunteered to be her cellmate but they turned me down. Hey, LA, the city who can't prosecute OJ in a murder trial now really has something to hang their hat on --- Paris Hilton. The whole thing is a joke. My question is: If her attorney appeals yesterdays order does she get out on bail till the hearing?

  2. Well, Fleming! I am glad to see your confession but detect no sign of remorse or repentance within it.

    Will anyone get to know the woman through all this publicity? I think the media shape things to tickle the palates of their audience, and something gets lost in the process.

    I knew her father a little: I mean I read his autobiography, thoughtfully supplied free along with the Gideon Bible in one of the hotels which bears Conrad Hilton's surname.

    I pity them both but cannot find time in my almost empty schedule to pursue the topic as you have done. As to the questions you raise, they have no bite over here, at least on me, because I see America as a circus of the absurd from which I have no expectation in the first place, so what happens cannot cause any frisson of shock or surprise.

  3. Zoey, better luck with a cellmate next time. I've seen a picture of you behind bars for committing cat crimes, but you're going to have to commit some in LA if you want to share bunks with Paris Hilton.

    About your bail question, I don't have the means to know the answer. We're talking about law on the county level in a state whose laws I haven't studied. Normally the filing of an appeal does not result in the convicted person being released until the appeal is decided . . . but the trial judge and the appellate court may each have the ability to grant a motion for release on bail pending an appellate decision. In Libby's case I believe the judge said that Libby's chances of reversal on appeal were so slim that no such bail would be granted. But Libby's in Federal court, which is a different game.

  4. Well said, Yves. I don't want to distract from the poetry of your remarks with my own comments, but of course I will anyway.

    As for knowing the woman, I had no interest whatsoever in her or her father (or much knowledge of them) until she was sentenced to jail. I had classified her vaguely as one of the Hollywood whores who are given an incredible amount of television attention in this demented country and made into "celebrities" for no reason.

    But now I feel some sympathy for her -- although not for her unforgiveable series of violations of probation. She strikes me as more of a spoiled brat than a person of ill will, or someone who is just plain stupid. And she has worked to accomplish some things (silly things, admittedly) rather than just resting on her family's money. I sense good nature but bad nurture . . . which is why I imagine her at a crucial point in the development of her character and values.

  5. ok, whether it is bad nurture or not, she has to learn her lesson. Three days and she's traumatised? Gimme a break. Looks like some people are more equal than others?

  6. Wombat, you're right. She deserves the jail term because her violations were so flagrant and arrogant.

    One of the more noble justifications for imprisonment is that it's supposed to teach lessons, reform people, and set them on the rigth path. I hope it works in this case. I think Paris will think more than twice before she sits down again at the wheel of a car without a license.

  7. Fleming: say a few hail mary's and then a few more, and all will be forgiven of you. Maybe.
    We should be as blessed as Yves and allow this "stuff" to have no bite!

  8. I just read a letter she wrote saying to her attorney not to appeal the judges ruling and that she intends to do the entire 45 days, 39 to go. These are all good responses and as I read them and knew she was not going to appeal, I think now jail has finally sunk into her and she will as Wombat said "learn her lesson."

  9. I'm sorry, what about Paris?

    Women are being gang-raped there in the streets of the Montmartre and in suburbs all over France?

    this is what I'm referring to

    Hmm...I think it's more important than some pseudo-star/criminal scumbag who broke the law and can't handle the consequences.

  10. I don't know what to say about Paris. once I was young and did lots of stupid things too...including breaking the law. She'll learn from her mistakes. You can't break the law and get away from it. So she had the book The power of Now...well, thats a beginning! :)

  11. Kathy, yes, I'm not perfect either, which is why I look at Paris with some sympathy. For a spoiled brat like her, going to jail has to be much more traumatic than for many people. She's really suffering. But as you say, she earned the suffering and justice requires that she pay a fit penalty.

    I guess you know the saying among criminals, "If you can't do the time, dont' do the crime."

  12. Fleming

    yes I agree. so probably the sheriff assigned Paris Hilton alone to a 2-person cell with no cellmate because the Hilton's wanted it that way. Interesting to learn about. Remember Martha Stewart? her case was interesting too.
    What Yves said about America being a circus of the absurd is true LOL especially when it comes to celebrities.