Proving that America has its priorities firmly in the correct order, many of its citizens remain focused on the Paris-Hilton-to-jail plot line. This may be due in part to the hypocrisy of people like me who make fun of others for caring and yet continue to write about it, or maybe Hollywood or the video-game industry is to blame. It's hard to say.
There is still a lot of comedy to be extracted from the situation, anyway. In the days since Hilton was sentenced more details have emerged about her multi-layered legal defense. The first layer does not appear to be, "I'm innocent," however. FindLaw published court papers showing that Hilton violated her DUI probation by not signing up for court-ordered alcohol-education classes, being caught driving more than once on a suspended license, and, most recently, for going 70 in a 35-mph zone at night with her headlights off. (She seems to have done this sober.)
She did argue, though, that she did not know her license was suspended, saying that she doesn't read her mail ("I have people who do that for me"), didn't read the form she was given by officers on which she acknowledged that her license was suspended ("I just sign what people tell me to sign"), and that she was only following her publicist's legal advice. The publicist, Elliot Mintz, seems to have gotten canned for giving this bad unlicensed legal advice, since he announced on Sunday that he and Hilton had parted ways over a "misunderstanding she received from me regarding the terms of her probation." (Hilton's actual attorneys don't appear to have been consulted -- she told the judge on Friday that she had not had time to talk with them about her probation.) Mainly, though, she is disturbed about the severity of the 45-day sentence.
And this is what seems to be driving the calls for Governor Schwarzenegger to pardon Hilton. Hilton herself does not seem to have asked for a pardon, contrary to some reports yesterday, but at least two websites have been launched to do so. One of them is FreeParis.org, whose founder says he is trying to collect one million signatures by June 5, when Hilton is supposed to report to jail. (So far he has 500.) He says his motivation is to repeal the "cruel punishment" Hilton received, and only secondarily to sell "Free Paris" T-shirts for $19 each. He declared, however, that the proceeds from this merchandise would go only to support "the petition drive" and "myself."
A counter-petition is asking the governor to ignore the other petitions. The governor's press secretary said today that he had received no formal pardon requests, and that it would be "premature for the governor to become involved in any case until the individual has exhausted their judicial remedies."
FindLaw's article points out that, of course, Hilton is only likely to benefit from yet another run-in with the law. It will "actually increase her star appeal in a very sick and demented way," said longtime publicist Michael Levine, obviously irked that Hilton has not hired him yet to help with that. The E! Network chimed in, wishing Paris the best "as she deals with this difficult time," and also noting that "The Simple Life Goes to Camp" will premiere on Memorial Day.