Hilton is ordered to appear in court, and the sheriff who approved her transfer defends himself

By Ken Lee
Updated June 07, 2007 05:25 PM
Credit: Byron Purvis/AdMedia

A day after Paris Hilton was reassigned to house arrest, prosecutors will ask a court to force her back behind bars.

On Friday morning, Hilton, 26, was ordered to appear at the hearing, though initially it was thought she would only teleconference into court, where Judge Michael T. Sauer – the judge who sentenced her to 45 days in jail – will preside.

The last-minute hearing was requested by Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, who will ask the court to order the Sheriff’s Department to return Hilton to jail.

Prosecutors have also asked the court to force the Sheriff’s Department to explain why it should not be held in contempt of court for allegedly violating Judge Sauer’s original May 4 sentence, which forbade electronic home monitoring.

In an interview with the L.A. Times published Friday, Sheriff Lee Baca, who approved Hilton’s reassignment to home arrest, defended his decision.

“The problem here is that there is a medical issue and it isn’t wise to keep a person in jail with her problem over an extended period of time and let the problem get worse,” he told the paper. “In my opinion, justice is being served by the decision to have her serve her time at home.”

Baca also dismissed accusations that Hilton had received preferential treatment: “My message to those who don’t like celebrities is that punishing celebrities more than the average American is not justice,” he said.

Earlier on Thursday, the L.A. Superior Court clarified that Judge Sauer did not authorize Hilton’s release from jail. Court spokesman Allan Parachini said the Sheriff’s Department acted unilaterally by releasing Hilton and that it “can override a judge’s sentencing order, it happens all the time.” Sheriff Baca, Parachini said, “was in his legal jurisdiction to do so.”

On Thursday morning, shortly after Hilton’s reassignment was announced, Delgadillo, whose department handled Hilton’s probation violation case, blasted the Sheriff’s Department’s decision.

“Today I was extremely troubled to learn that the Sheriff’s Department has decided to release Ms. Hilton from custody just three days after she was admitted to county jail,” Delgadillo said in a statement Thursday.

“Had we been provided with the proper notification, we would have opposed the decision on legal grounds.”

Delgadillo added that he found the release on medical grounds “puzzling” since he says L.A. County jails are “well-equipped” to deal with inmate medical situations.

“I am also concerned that the judicial process may have been improperly circumvented in this case,” Delgadillo continued. “I have directed my criminal branch to immediately explore all possible legal options to ensure that the law is being applied equally and justly in this case.”

The chief prosecutor added that only the judge had the power to modify the conditions of her sentence.

“If law enforcement officials are to enjoy the respect of those we are charged with protecting, we cannot tolerate a two-tiered jail system where the rich and powerful receive special treatment,” Delgadillo concluded. “We must ensure that in our city, in our nation, and under our Constitution, justice remains blind.”