Challenger's TV ad says celebrity Hilton got break from DA


District Attorney David Roger is Paris Hilton's newest BFF.

That is what Don Chairez, the Democratic candidate in the district attorney's race, is telling voters in his new television ad.

It's the third spot for Chairez, who contends the Republican incumbent gave Hilton a "sweetheart deal" in the courtroom in exchange for campaign contributions.

The 30-second campaign ad flashes to Hilton's smiling mug shot after her August drug arrest in Las Vegas. The screen cuts to video of a smiling Roger and a close-up of a spot on his campaign website that asks for donations.

The camera zooms in on Roger's 2009 annual campaign finance report, which shows a $10,000 donation in May from David Chesnoff, Hilton's lawyer.

Then, a picture appears of Hilton standing next to Chesnoff as they leave the Regional Justice Center.

"Paris Hilton walking free," a caption states as a photo of Chairez fades in. There is no voice-over, only "Waltzing Matilda" playing in the background.

"The message I'm trying to send to voters is that in traditional Las Vegas politics, money talks," Chairez said. "There are two standards of justice. If you're a regular middle-class person who can't afford a high-power lawyer, you will not get as good a deal as someone who can afford a high-profile lawyer."

The socialite was sentenced in September to a year of probation after she pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors for drug possession and obstructing an officer. She accepted a deal from Clark County prosecutors that reduced the felony to two misdemeanors. She was sentenced to two consecutive six-month sentences in the county jail, which were suspended.

According to the sentence, Hilton will have to serve a full year in jail if she is arrested during her probation.

Roger said that state law required probation for the first-time drug offender even under the original felony charge.

Hilton was found with a 0.8 gram of cocaine inside of her purse. She admitted in court that she lied to police about owning the purse.

"If we were to take that case to trial, we would be accused of grandstanding," Roger said. "No matter what we did, she would get probation at the end of the day. We fashioned a resolution that would give us complete control in this case."

Finance reports dating to 2001 show Chesnoff and a colleague from the same law firm have consistently given to Roger's campaigns. Other donations have come from Chesnoff's wife and from companies owned by Cy Waits, Hilton's boyfriend, and his brother, Jesse Waits.

Cy Waits' contribution was made in February 2010, seven months before his arrest.

According to 2009 finance reports, Roger received almost $30,000 from Chesnoff and his associates. Roger said that money does not influence how he handles defendants in court.

"When you run a countywide race, a lot of people contribute to the campaign," Roger said. "I've received campaign contributions from broad sections of the community including police officers, prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Roger released his own television ad last week touting a 25 percent drop in crime and a lengthy list of police endorsements.

In their most recent campaign finance reports from June, Chairez has $244,240 against Roger's $139,050. Chairez has given $200,000 to his own campaign.

"I don't care that congressmen and senators sell their souls to campaign contributors, but district attorneys and judges shouldn't do it," Chairez said.

David Damore, a political science professor at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said Chairez deserves credit for creativity, "but the ad won't be a game-changer."

"It's certainly a hook because it's something that got a lot of national attention," Damore said. "But there wasn't a lot of fallout from it. There was not a lot of criticism that she got a sweetheart deal.

"It's an uphill battle" for Chairez. "Roger is popular; he's got all the establishment folks behind him."

 

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.