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Hilton opens up on drugs, jail and God

  • Story Highlights
  • Paris Hilton: "I'm just going to follow all the laws"
  • Hilton denies three times using or being addicted to drugs
  • Hilton says sentence was excessive
  • Jail strip-search humiliating, Hilton says
  • Next Article in Entertainment »
By Eliott C. McLaughlin
CNN
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- In her first interview since being released from jail, Paris Hilton told CNN's Larry King on Wednesday that she has never used drugs, isn't a big drinker, and although she feels her incarceration was unwarranted, God had a reason for putting her there.

Hilton, King

Paris Hilton talks to Larry King on "Larry King Live" Wednesday night.

"Don't serve the time; let the time serve you," Hilton said. "I have a new outlook on life."

The 26-year-old hotel heiress was released from jail early Tuesday after being sentenced to 45 days in jail for driving on a license that was suspended after she pleaded no contest in January to alcohol-related reckless driving. Her jail term was cut almost in half for good behavior.

Being incarcerated, Hilton said, provided "time to get to know myself" and she has emerged from the jail cell with a determination to eliminate the bad elements, and bad friends, from her life. She also promised King, "I'm just going to follow all the laws."

Grilled about the friends she had to sacrifice, she replied, "I've gotten rid of a lot of people." Asked for names, she said, "I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but they know who they are."

During her 23 days in jail, Hilton said she meditated, read letters from fans, talked to other inmates through the vents, wrote in her journal and read the Bible, though she couldn't cite a favorite passage when asked. It was also nice to have a little privacy, she said, and to "be away from all the flashes for a while." Video Watch what Paris watchers say to that »

Her imprisonment also reversed a mental disorder she said she had suffered from all her life. Asked by King if her time in jail cured her claustrophobia, she said, "Now that I'm out of there, yes."

But there were rough times, too, she said. The food "wasn't that tasty," she said. Being strip-searched was the most humiliating experience of her life and one Sunday visit from her parents was especially emotional for her, she said.

"It was my first Father's Day I couldn't give my dad a hug, and that was really hard on me," she said, describing how she was separated from her visitors by glass.

When she arrived at the Century Regional Detention Facility, her claustrophobia became too much to handle, she said. She couldn't sleep. She couldn't eat. She suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, she said.

Her deteriorating mental condition is what prompted Sheriff Lee Baca -- much to the chagrin of the judge who sentenced Hilton -- to release her to house arrest after consulting physicians.

"He thought it'd be better for everybody if I just went home," she said.

An angry prosecutor and judge demanded that she be returned to jail. "Ten minutes before the police arrived I'm yanked out of bed" and told the news, she said, describing the situation as "crazy; it was pure madness."

Hilton said that her lawyer told her that her license was valid.

"I never would've driven on a suspended license. I get followed by paparazzi all day. Why would I have the audacity to do that?"

Asked if she got a "raw deal," she replied that she had and that she was shocked when her 45-day sentence was handed down because "that doesn't happen ever." Her lawyers had predicted she'd get community service, she said.

"But I don't know. Even though I hate it, I'm glad it happened in a way because this really changed my life forever, and I feel stronger than ever."

Perhaps the world's most famous socialite, Hilton said she has picked up her life and career -- which includes modeling, perfumes, clothing, movies, singing and television shows -- where she left them for an 8-by-12-foot cell three weeks ago.

But despite her reputation, Hilton said it won't be hard to give up the party heartiness that has helped make her famous. Why? Because she doesn't have a problem, never has -- those are just "stories" that the media have made up about her, she said.

Asked three times if she has ever used or been addicted to drugs, she replied flatly, "No." Asked if she was a big drinker, Hilton told King, "I'm not really into it. I think socially people do sometimes when they go out, but it's not something that I really care about."

She added, "People make up so many crazy stories. The things I read about and things I see is not the person who I am. It really baffles me sometimes when I read things -- the places I've never been, people I've never met -- it's really shocking to me."

The buildup to the much-anticipated interview was palpable. Passersby may have thought a head of state was arriving at CNN's Los Angeles studio Wednesday, but the hullabaloo was for Hilton.

With scores of onlookers and paparazzi gathered behind police barriers on the side streets -- still and video cameras perched eagerly -- a dozen Los Angeles police officers and several private security guards carefully watched the alley behind the building on Sunset Boulevard.

Hilton arrived in a black Cadillac Escalade, wearing white-rimmed sunglasses and a cream-colored minidress with lace sleeves.

She was hustled through a vacant lobby -- cleared especially for her arrival -- and upstairs to the studio where King has prodded news makers for CNN for more than two decades.

King, decked out in a purple button-down, polka-dot tie and his trademark suspenders, was promptly told that Hilton would need 15 minutes in hair and makeup before beginning one of the most sought-after interviews in recent history.

The gambling Web site Bodog was taking wagers on what comments Hilton would make during the interview. Odds were, according to the Web site, Hilton would discuss finding God in jail and the mental health issues from which she suffered while incarcerated.

Bodog.com founder Calvin Ayre said taking odds on Hilton "seemed like a natural fit for us. The vast majority of our odds are based on the most common questions being asked by the public."

But whether Hilton is serious about reinventing -- or dismantling -- herself remains to be seen.

Time will be the determinant of whether Hilton has changed her wily ways or if this is a spurious attempt to rebuild a battered image, said Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

"I think some of it could be sincere, and some of it could be her handlers," she said. "If it's not sincere it will crack pretty fast."

It is possible, Levenson said, that the "transformative experience" of being jailed could have had a profound effect on the heiress, and whether it sticks will depend on what kind of reinforcement and recognition she receives for being good.

Levenson said she is unsure whether Hilton has the necessary tools to be a "great contributor to American society, because she's been playing somewhat of a vacuous role."

But, Levenson acknowledges, being a good girl may not bode well for business -- "Sometimes society likes the naughty Paris Hilton. We like a bad girl."

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After Wednesday's hourlong interview, Hilton walked out of the studio and chatted with two children and posed for a photo with them outside the studio's control room.

Of the interview, she told a producer in the hallway, "I was nervous, but Larry's so sweet." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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