Steve Marcus / File
Published Monday, Sept. 20, 2010 | 7:46 a.m.
Updated Monday, Sept. 20, 2010 | 10:46 a.m.
With camera shutters clicking and lawyers talking in hushed tones, Paris Hilton pleaded guilty Monday morning in a Las Vegas courtroom to two misdemeanor charges stemming from her arrest for cocaine possession last month at the Wynn Las Vegas.
But the 29-year-old hotel heiress and TV reality show celebrity won't go to jail — as long as she stays out of trouble for a year.
Hilton will serve a year of probation, pay a $2,000 fine, do 200 hours of community service and complete an intensive substance abuse program, according to the sentence handed down by Justice of the Peace Joe Bonaventure.
But Bonaventure also handed her a stern warning.
"You say you live in California and you come to Las Vegas to enjoy the accommodations on the Strip or at the Palms," Bonaventure said. "You have to understand that when you break the law here, there are consequences.
"I'm going to warn you, Miss Hilton, you've now been sentenced to one year in the Clark County Detention Center. The Clark County Detention Center is not the Waldorf Astoria. But I assure you that if you violate the terms of your probation you will serve one year in the Clark County Detention Center. Treat this very seriously. Do you understand me?"
"Yes, your honor. I promise," Hilton said.
Bonaventure said the matter will be reviewed in a year at 7:30 a.m. Sept. 20, 2011. He told Hilton that if she stayed out of trouble he would waive her personal appearance for that hearing.
"If there's any problems, make sure she's here," Bonaventure said.
Bonaventure followed through on a deal Hilton's lawyers cut with the Clark County District Attorney's office for her to avoid felony charges by pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of drug possession and obstructing an officer.
Hilton's courtroom appearance, which drew an army of photographers, videographers and some fans, was the follow-up to her run-in with Metro Police Aug. 27 on the Las Vegas Strip.
She was arrested inside the Wynn after police said a small plastic bag containing 0.8 of a gram of cocaine spilled out of her purse.
After the hearing, Hilton and her lawyers walked quickly out the sixth-floor courtroom to an elevator.
Hilton didn't stop to talk to reporters. But she pulled out a compact from her purse and applied makeup before entering an elevator and heading out to waiting cameras outside.
Outside the Regional Justice Center, Hilton and her attorneys walked briskly, escorted by Las Vegas city marshals, through a gauntlet of photographers and videographers who were told to stand behind barricades and police tape.
"Don't let them get you down, Paris," shouted one well-wisher. "They can't break that spirit. No way, baby! No way! Paris is back, folks! You're not Scarface!"
Hilton's attorney, David Chesnoff, escorted her to a black SUV, then had an impromptu press conference.
"She was treated like anybody would be treated under the circumstances," Chesnoff said. "I'm very proud of the way that she's dealt with this. She's been polite and contrite through the whole procedure, not only with the court, but with our office. I think she's on the road to success here and I wish her personally all the best."
Chesnoff was asked if she would come back to Las Vegas soon — or if she had an ill will toward Las Vegas after being arrested.
"She loves Las Vegas and she loves the people of Las Vegas," Chesnoff said. "And her family has strong ties to Las Vegas. So I'm sure Paris will return to Las Vegas like anybody else."
Hilton will likely do part of her 200 hours of community service as an animal rights advocate.
"She does a lot of stuff with animal rights issues," Chesnoff said. "Also, I understand she's done work with children's hospitals. So I think she'll probably continue along those lines."
Chesnoff would not reveal what intensive substance abuse program she would enter.
"I'm going to protect her privacy on that," he said.
Asked why Hilton decided not to fight the felony charge, Chesnoff said "Miss Hilton accepted responsibility."
At the hearing, which lasted about 12 minutes, Chesnoff and Chief Deputy District Attorney David Shubert and Chesnoff told Bonaventure about the plea deal.
Part of the agreement, Chesnoff said, was that there were to be two six-month sentences, to run consecutively to each other, if she violates her probation terms.
"The terms that are defined by the agreement are that if she is arrested for anything other than a minor traffic citation," Chesnoff said.
Bonaventure then spoke to Hilton and read the original charges to her to make sure she understood the consequences.
"For a first or second offense this felony would be punishable by a prison term of from one to four years, with mandatory probation," Bonaventure said.
He made sure she understood that by making the plea agreement to the lesser charge she would be waiving her right to a preliminary hearing and a trial on the felony charge and asked if she accepted the negotiations.
Hilton told him she understood and had no questions.
He asked her what she did Aug. 27 that caused her to plead guilty.
"I was in possession as well as telling an officer that the bag wasn't mine," she said.
"As to possession, what did you possess?" Bonaventure asked.
"Cocaine," she said quietly.
"As to count two, charging you with obstructing a public officer, a misdemeanor, how do you plea?"
"Guilty, your honor."
He asked her what she did to plead guilty to that offense.
"I said that the purse wasn't mine to the officer," she said.
Bonaventure asked her specifically if she said that the lady's Chanel handbag with the cocaine and the Zig-Zag rolling papers belonged to an unidentified person, when in truth, she had bought the handbag months earlier.
"Yes, your honor," she said.
After accepting those guilty pleas, Bonaventure talked to her about the sentence.
Bonaventure noted to Schubert that the plea agreement was fairly typical.
"Quite commonly, possession of controlled substance felony offenses are amended to misdemeanor offenses," Bonaventure said. "I would note the suspended sentence is the maximum suspended sentence on these misdemeanor offenses."
Bonaventure said he assumed there was a lack of criminal history as to the reason for the negotiations.
"Judge, I think under the circumstances of the case, this is a fair resolution. We reduced a felony down to two misdemeanors. Our main concern is that Miss Hilton stay out of trouble over the next year," Schubert said. "And that's why we want the one-year suspended sentence."
Chesnoff said he appreciated the professionalism of the district attorney's office in making the negotiations.
"Miss Hilton is contrite and accepts responsibility," Chesnoff told the judge.
Bonaventure told Hilton that her 200 hours of community service could be done at any nonprofit organization.
Bonaventure said there was not a specific intensive substance abuse program that she had to complete.
"I've discussed it with the authorities and we've arranged for Miss Hilton to be in an outpatient program directed by a certified person in that field and we will provide the court with proof of the attendance and completion of the program," Chesnoff said.
"As far as the charity work, Miss Hilton intends on continuing the kind of charity work she already does to complete that condition," Chesnoff said.
Bonaventure said that would be sufficient.
"Miss Hilton you are ordered to stay out of trouble. That means no new arrests or citations while this case is pending for at least one year," Bonaventure said. "You are sentenced to an informal term of probation, meaning you won't have a probation officer that you have to check in with. On your own, you will have to complete requirements and you will have to stay out of trouble."
Bonaventure also said that minor traffic violations don't fall under the "stay out of trouble" agreement.
"You have agreed that any new arrests terminate your term of probation, and you are agreeing to serve a one-year jail sentence. Do you understand that?" Bonaventure said.
Hilton said she understood.
"The purpose of this, at this point, is that you change your conduct," Bonaventure told her. "If you're not changing your conduct, the purpose then shifts simply to punishment. The punishment here is to serve a one-year jail sentence."
The Aug. 27 incident began when she was with her boyfriend, Las Vegas nightclub mogul Cy Waits, who was driving a black Cadillac Escalade in front of Wynn Las Vegas. A Metro officer said he stopped the SUV after the officer smelled a "vapor trail" of marijuana smoke.
Waits faild field sobriety tests given by a motorcycle officer. Hilton told an officer she needed to go inside to use a restroom and an officer saw a bag of cocaine fall out of her handbag. Hilton initially told police the purse and cocaine were not hers, but did claim the rolling papers, $1,300 in cash and several credit cards.
She was banned from two Wynn resorts of the Strip after the arrest. Waits was dismissed from his nightclub job.