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County board to probe Hilton release

Supervisors are expected to ask Sheriff Lee Baca to explain whether the hotel heiress got special treatment when she was sent home from jail.

June 12, 2007|Tami Abdollah and Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writers

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is expected today to ask Sheriff Lee Baca to prepare a report on Paris Hilton's release from jail in Lynwood -- just three days into her mandated 23-day stay -- to determine whether she was afforded special treatment.

Baca had cited an undisclosed medical condition for allowing Hilton to leave the Century Regional Detention Facility and serve the remainder of her sentence under home confinement. But a judge disagreed, sending her back to jail Friday.

Tony Bell, a spokesman for Supervisor Mike Antonovich, said his office had been told that judges were receiving requests for "the Paris Hilton treatment" from other county inmates wanting to be reassigned to home detention for medical reasons.

A key focus of the board's review, officials said, will be Hilton's medical condition and whether authorities could have treated her at the Lynwood jail or moved her to the county jail medical ward. Baca will have one week to report back to supervisors.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday July 03, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 71 words Type of Material: Correction
Paris Hilton: Articles in The Times about Paris Hilton's jail sentence have given differing accounts of how long the hotel heiress spent behind bars the first time before Sheriff Lee Baca released her. Hilton entered custody at 11:15 p.m. on June 3 and was released early in the morning of June 7. The Sheriff's Department credited her with five days in jail, but she actually served less than four full days.

"We have 20,000 inmates who were not comfortable, didn't like the food or were depressed in county jail," Bell said. "So to release Paris Hilton to home for medical reasons is clearly unfair. If her medical condition required immediate attention she should have been placed in Twin Towers, where she is now, and her issues addressed like any other inmate."

Baca told reporters last week that he released Hilton to home detention with electronic monitoring after she began "inexplicably deteriorating" while in jail. Baca did not detail her medical condition.

The difficulty many inmates have encountered in receiving medical care in the jail is documented in more than 10,000 confidential complaints filed by inmates from 2000 to 2005.

The records, reviewed by The Times in preparation for an article published last year, revealed an overwhelmed system in which sick inmates begged to be seen by a doctor for problems ranging from vaginal infections to mental illness. There was a backlog of several hundred inmates waiting to be seen.

It was common for inmates to wait a week or more to be evaluated, and when they were, they typically were treated and returned to their cells or sent to the jail's hospital.

"I feel myself becoming unglued, anxiety attacks, unstable," wrote one woman, who said her medication had run out two weeks earlier.

"Please," her hand-scrawled note read. "I need my medicine. Please."

In another case, a male inmate complained that he had been vomiting bile and traces of blood and losing weight for weeks, but that his requests to see a doctor had been ignored.

"This is well known by staff and inmates," the man wrote. "I don't know what it's going to take to get proper medical attention, short of expiring." Several days after complaining, the man was prescribed ulcer medication, records show. He remained in jail.

Terminally ill inmate Cynthia Barella was so desperate to see a doctor that she began banging her head against her cell wall, producing a bloody injury that couldn't be ignored. Barella, who suffered from hepatitis, cirrhosis and other ailments, was taken to a hospital, where she died the next day.

The Rev. Al Sharpton met with Baca on Monday to voice his concern over the "fairness issue." Attorney Gloria Allred filed a claim against the Sheriff's Department and the county, alleging that her client, who was in custody at the Lynwood jail, "had serious medical issues and was treated far worse than Paris Hilton."

A claim is a precursor to a lawsuit.

Pamela Richardson, a 51-year-old woman whose legs have been amputated, alleges that sheriff's deputies refused to treat her hernia or provide her with adequate medical care while she was in the Lynwood jail for three weeks in March, Allred said.

Meanwhile, there are signs Hilton is doing better in jail. In a telephone interview with ABC television's Barbara Walters, Hilton said she had not been eating or sleeping when she was at the Lynwood jail.

"I was severely depressed and felt as if I was in a cage. I was not myself. It was a horrible experience," Hilton told Walters, according to remarks posted on abcnews.com.

Hilton said the experience had changed her and she had become "much more spiritual."

"I'm not the same person I was," Hilton said. "I used to act dumb. It was an act. I am 26 years old, and that act is no longer cute. It is not who I am, nor do I want to be that person for the young girls who looked up to me."

tami.abdollah@latimes.com

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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Times staff writers Scott Glover and Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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