LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hotel heiress Paris Hilton left jail on Tuesday in red-carpet Hollywood style, waving and smiling to scores of paparazzi, after serving three weeks for violating probation in a drunken-driving case.
Looking exuberant — and reportedly several pounds thinner than when she went in — Hilton sashayed past two rows of reporters and photographers held behind yellow police tape at the Lynwood women’s jail just after midnight, before running to a waiting sport utility vehicle to hug her mother, Kathy.
Without saying a word, they left quickly for a Hilton family home in the exclusive enclave of Bel-Air, with several vehicles full of photographers tailing them all the way.
Hilton, who has vowed to change her party-going ways and give new meaning to her life, was set to give her first after jail interview on Wednesday on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”
The incarceration of the 26-year-old multimillionaire, who lampooned her own persona as a clueless child of privilege on the reality TV show “The Simple Life,” ignited a worldwide media frenzy and debate about celebrity justice.
The saga hit a crescendo when Hilton was placed briefly under house arrest after just three days in jail, sparking an uproar over what many saw as preferential treatment. A Los Angeles Times analysis, however, found her sentence far exceeded those served by most inmates for similar offenses.
Her departure from jail on Tuesday was in stark contrast to the scene when a sobbing Hilton was ordered back to her cell earlier this month, crying: “Mom, mom. It is not right.”
In the end, Hilton served just over 22 days in detention. The original 45-day term set by the judge was effectively cut in half under a standard credit applied for good behavior.
The celebrity news Web site TMZ.com reported on Tuesday that Hilton lost seven pounds behind bars, despite ordering regular between-meal snacks from the jail commissary, including instant chicken noodle soup, blueberry muffins and peanuts.
According to invoice records obtained by TMZ for one week of her stay, she also bought items including skin cream, eyebrow pencils and cotton swabs, spending $145.32.
The case also led to a rare public showdown between two of Los Angeles’ top law enforcement officers — City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, who prosecuted Hilton, and Sheriff Lee Baca, who oversees the county jail system and moved to “reassign” Hilton to house arrest.
The judge sided with the prosecutor in sending Hilton back to jail to finish her term. But Delgadillo, a rising political star, soon found himself under fire for his own misconduct, including improper use of city resources and revelations that his wife had been the subject of a 9-year-old arrest warrant.
Hilton has spoken in interviews of being transformed by her experience and of feeling that God gave her a second chance.
Her jail time stemmed from her arrest in September on a charge of drunken driving. She pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of alcohol-related reckless driving in January and was sentenced to three years probation.
The next month she was caught driving on a suspended license, which Judge Michael Sauer ruled violated probation.
Hilton surrendered on June 3 to begin her sentence. Days later, Baca released her to house arrest, citing unspecified medical problems that he later described as psychological. Hilton later said she suffers from claustrophobia.
Hilton’s probation will end in March 2009 as long as she obeys the law until then, although the judge ruled that she can elect to shave 12 months off that time if she performs 40 hours of community service.