When celebrity socialite Paris Hilton was arrested on suspicion of cocaine possession on Aug. 27, the average time to process through the Clark County Detention Center for people facing that charge was about six hours.
Hilton was in and out in about three.
The discrepancy did not go unnoticed by those who know the system best and who question why the celebrity hotel heiress got preferential treatment while those less rich or famous had to languish behind bars for hours longer.
Jessica Murray of Bob's Bail Bonds said her clients "are all asking me 'why can't we get out that quick.' "
Murray, whose clientele is mostly "working girls" charged with nonviolent soliciting or trespassing counts, said the average booking time on those charges is four to 12 hours, followed by another four to 12 hours until release.
But authorities say they weren't doing Hilton any favors. The 5-foot, 8-inch model/actress/celebrity was just too hot to handle.
"Yeah, she was treated differently so I don't have a disruption of my process here at the county jail," said Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Deputy Chief Jim Dixon, who runs the detention center. "When you bring somebody in like that, everybody comes over and tries to look at them. I'd have officers attempting to keep inmates away from her. I'd have disruptions."
The 29-year-old was charged with one felony count of cocaine possession after she opened her purse in front of a police lieutenant and a small baggie of cocaine fell out. Hilton claims that neither the purse nor the cocaine were hers.
She is scheduled to appear before Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Joe Bonaventure on Oct. 27.
After her arrest, she was booked into the downtown jail in the wee hours of that Saturday, along with 207 alleged drunks, drug addicts and drug dealers, prostitutes, thieves, gang members and other less reputable miscreants.
Dixon makes no bones about it. Hilton was pushed through the booking process in order to get her into a separate room and then out of the jail as soon as possible. He said that when he told the media after her arrest that Hilton was treated no differently than others, he was referring to the actual booking process involving things like fingerprints.
Hilton was escorted into the booking room, lined with benches filled with shackled inmates who are cooperating. She was searched. She was put through an initial screening process to identify her and check for outstanding warrants. She went through a medical screening.
Hilton then was escorted to a second room where inmates aren't cuffed while waiting to have their mug shots taken. She then was photographed.
Corrections officers determined she was eligible for release on OR, or on her own recognizance, effectively promising to show up for court later without having to post a bond.
Jail officers have the authority to release some inmates OR at any time of the day or night, Dixon said. While notorious for all manner of untoward behavior and for recent arrests on suspicion of drug possession in other countries, Hilton's bust on the Strip is her first for possession of a controlled substance in the United States. Because of that, she could be released OR.
Officers also can OR most single misdemeanor charges, with battery and soliciting prostitution as big exceptions.
Hilton was allowed to make phone calls while she was being processed out.
Because of overcrowding issues, Hilton presented a major problem for jailers, Dixon said.
"She was moved along out of the general area and put in isolation where nobody can actually get to her," Dixon said.
She couldn't be left alone in a room filled with uncuffed inmates, he said.
"That wouldn't be fair to her. It wouldn't be fair to my officers. It wouldn't be fair to the other inmates," Dixon said. "To put Paris Hilton in an open dorm area with male inmates and female inmates would shut down my process."
So, Hilton spent the rest of her time alone. At one point she was kept in a sergeant's office because all isolation rooms -- also known as drunk tanks -- were full, Dixon said.
But that was inefficient because an officer had to be with her there.
Hilton was shown to her own isolation room for part of her stay, but even that wasn't optimal because the room doors are clear so officers can see in.
Trouble is, so can the inmates, who tend to ogle and gawk, leading to pushing and shoving for a better look.
Dixon, like any jailer, likes to keep things calm. Calm people are faster and easier to move through the process. Calm people don't fight or break things.
Paris Hilton is not calming.
Dixon pointed to police reports that a crowd of about 100 people gathered outside the Wynn to snap photos and take video of Hilton while her boyfriend, Cy Waits, was pulled over and charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
"We don't need this disruption in the process at the county jail,'' Dixon said. "As soon as the OR was pushed through, she was kicked out.''
For her part, Murray said she was bothered by Hilton's rapid release.
"I could understand putting her in a separate room. But I don't understand putting her above everyone else,'' Murray said. "If you're alleged to commit a crime, you get treated like everybody else. That's my opinion.''
Others are not so quick to criticize the jailers.
Tony Collins of 911 Bail Bonds said he understood why Hilton was treated differently, and said he knows of other instances where lower-profile people get lucky and get out of jail in three hours.
"If she had gotten out in 30 minutes, that would have been special treatment," he said.
Collins said he only wishes Hilton had needed him to post her bond, that his business could use the free publicity, not to mention future benefits.
"She's in trouble a lot" and could be a good repeat customer, he said.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at email@example.com or 702-380-1039.