Hilton’s early jail check-in preempts media horde, fans

Times Staff Writer

Even before the sun rose the word was out at Philadelphia Gear Manufacturing Center: In the middle of the night, Paris Hilton had checked in directly across the street.

Arriving for the start of their 5 a.m. shifts, the workers could see the throng of gathered media -- satellite trucks, television cameras -- giving off a predawn glow in the parking lot of Lynwood’s Century Regional Detention Facility.

“We were all disappointed,” said Dave Kratz, an assembly test mechanic. “We were waiting for all the fanfare.”

So were the gathered reporters, some of whom had spent the midnight hour holding out hope that America’s most famous heiress hadn’t managed to slip by their cameras. That is until sheriff’s officials came out shortly before 1 a.m. to report that Hilton had in fact been booked.


For a woman known for making memorable entrances it was the rare stealth arrival. Despite media staking out every entry point at the 2,200-bed County Jail, Hilton got through the gates undetected.

The celebrity website TMZ emerged as the big winner with the only footage of Hilton en route to jail, accompanied by her mother, Kathy, and sister, Nicky.

She surrendered to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies at a downtown jail about 11:15 p.m. Sunday and was later transferred to the women’s facility.

Hilton was sentenced to 45 days in jail after repeatedly violating the terms of her probation on alcohol-related reckless driving charges from an incident last year.

Sheriffs officials have said that she will probably spend about 23 days behind bars because of automatic credits for good behavior.

Hilton had until today to turn herself in and took many by surprise by instead reporting to jail fresh from her appearance at Sunday’s MTV Movie Awards, where she weathered several crude jokes with composure.

By Monday morning there was little to do. The chance had passed for a perp-walk photo that was every paparazzo’s dream.

The hope now, however slim, was for a photo of Hilton behind bars, estimated to be worth $500,000 on the tabloid market. But that shot wasn’t coming from the front lawn.

Sheriff’s officials lingered nearby, speculating about whether Hilton’s mug shot, her skin golden, hair swept to one side, chin down, was the best ever taken.

But they waved off making any statements, asking reporters to stay behind the yellow tape on either side of the walkway unless a quick trip to the restroom was needed.

After Hilton’s attorney, Richard Hutton, arrived for a morning meeting with his client and promised to speak on his way out, television crews had a brief debate on where to set up. With little of visual interest to choose from, they pointed more than a dozen cameras toward one of the jail’s concrete walls, did sound checks and then waited more than five hours for Hutton to appear.

The attorney said his client was “doing very well, under the circumstances,” adding that jail staff had described Hilton so far as “gracious and polite.” He said the idea to report early to jail had been his client’s.

“Rather than create a public spectacle tomorrow morning, that was Paris’ request to demonstrate that she takes this very seriously. She didn’t want to make a media circus out of this event.”

Earlier, a New York Post reporter, here on assignment, grumbled that she would rather be covering the alleged terrorist plot at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Cameramen from “Inside Edition” and other entertainment shows wondered what exactly their editors expected them to film.

A man claiming to be Hilton’s relative approached reporters, flashing his driver’s license. Eric Hilton of Torrance, dressed in paint-splattered shorts and work boots, said he came to the jail to offer his distant cousin support.

“I’m in recovery myself,” he said. “I see all them gals getting into trouble. I want to see her embrace sobriety, be more productive, you know.”

After noon, a man named Saul, who declined to give his last name, came out with a bagged lunch that he said was the same as the meals served to inmates.

Saul said he was just getting off his work-release shift at the sheriff’s Century Station and was looking for the Telemundo television crew so they could film the contents of the lunch.

As female inmates were released, they were swarmed by reporters inquiring about conditions inside.

As a dark-suited reporter did his stand-up steps away, outlining Kathy Hilton’s hopes that the time behind bars would help her daughter shut out “the constant chatter” of her everyday life, one woman detailed lunch: plain bologna sandwich, watered-down juice, carrots.

Russell Davis, 28, watched from under a shade tree.

As he surveyed the reporters, some sitting on chairs or stools, others standing or leaning against the building, Davis shook his head.

“What are they hoping to accomplish here?” he asked.

Across the street, Philadelphia Gear’s Kratz closed shop about 3 p.m.

He yanked down the impromptu “Free Paris!” banner that workers had made, and rolled down the warehouse door where he and his co-workers had waved and cheered earlier in the day. At least one of the men held a rose.

But Kratz promised more to come.

“We’re planning a new sign for every day,” he said. “At least as long as our supervisor is OK with the joke. I think tomorrow we’re going to offer to watch Tinkerbell (Hilton’s famous Chihuahua) while she’s away.”