LYNWOOD, Calif. – It's back to the not-so-solitary and far-from-simple life for Paris Hilton, who flashed a beaming smile as she walked out of jail early Tuesday into a frenzied gathering of photographers and reporters.
Hilton ignored the media but waved and slapped hands with excited well-wishers. Her parents, Kathy and Rick Hilton, waited in a black sport utility vehicle. Hilton, her blond hair pulled back in a braided ponytail, hurried to the vehicle, where she hugged her mother through the SUV's window.
The hotel heiress, who was wearing a sage jacket with white trim over a white shirt and skinny jeans, didn't respond to reporters' questions.
Hilton, 26, wrapped up her three-week stay at the all-women's jail in Lynwood at about 12:15 a.m. She had checked into the Century Regional Detention Facility late June 3, largely avoiding the spotlight, after a surprise appearance at the MTV Movie Awards.
"She fulfilled her debt. She was obviously in good spirits. She thanked people as she left," said sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore.
Chased by photographers in the air and on the street, the celebutante and her parents drove to her grandparents' mansion in fashionable Holmby Hills. She spent the morning behind the mansion's gates while people in more than a dozen cars came and went.
At one point, a black Cadillac Escalade arrived carrying balloons and a cake with the words "Welcome Home" in pink frosting. At another, a van from Dream Catchers Hair Extensions, Hilton's own company, passed through the gates. Dream Catchers receptionist Crystal Armijo confirmed the heiress was having extensions added to her hair.
Late in the morning a police officer went inside the mansion and came out a few minutes later to announce that the family would not be making a statement Tuesday.
"There's not going to be a press conference today," said police Sgt. B. Anthony Roberts.
The star of the TV reality series "The Simple Life" planned to appear on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Wednesday.
Besides the few cars entering and leaving, there was little sign of activity throughout the day at the Holmby Hills house, which was shielded by large, wrought-iron gates, a block wall and tall shrubs.
Later in the day, as traffic began to back up for blocks and people in cars leaned on their horns, neighbors expressed their irritation.
"I'm trying to get my daughter to her dance class," an angry Mindy Mann said as she called police on her cell phone.
One passing motorist took both hands off the steering wheel to make an obscene gesture to reporters.
Just before her release, Hilton's lawyer, Richard Hutton, reportedly slipped a note to Harvey Levin, managing editor of celebrity news Web site TMZ.com, that included a penciled-sketch of Hilton in front of cell doors in the Lynwood jail.
Hilton thanked Levin for his "fair and unbiased reporting of the events in my case," according to the note posted on the Web site. It was signed "Paris Hilton" -- each letter "i" dotted with a heart.
While Hilton was in custody, Levin repeatedly belittled the judge for the length of her sentence, saying anyone else would have served less time.
Hilton will complete her probation in March 2009 as long as she keeps her driver's license current and doesn't break any laws. She can reduce that time by 12 months if she does community service that could include a public-service announcement, the city attorney's office has said.
During her stay at Lynwood, Hilton was mostly confined to a solitary cell in the special needs unit away from the other 2,200 inmates.
After spending only three days there, she was released to home confinement by Sheriff Lee Baca for an unspecified medical condition that he later said was psychological.
The following day, Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer, who had sentenced Hilton, called her back into court and ordered her returned to jail, saying he hadn't condoned her release.
Hilton left in tears, calling for her mother and shouting, "It's not right!"
She was then taken to the downtown Twin Towers jail, which houses men and the county jail's medical treatment center, where she underwent medical and psychiatric exams to determine where she should be confined. Eventually she was returned to Lynwood.
Her early release caused a firestorm of criticism over whether she was getting special treatment because of her wealth and fame. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors was to meet with Baca on Tuesday to discuss the matter.
Hilton's path to jail began Sept. 7, when she failed a sobriety test after police saw her weaving down a street in her car on what she said was a late-night run to a hamburger stand.
She pleaded no contest to reckless driving and was sentenced to 36 months of probation, alcohol education and $1,500 in fines.
In the months that followed, Hilton was stopped twice by officers who discovered her driving with a suspended license. The second stop landed her in Sauer's courtroom, where he sentenced her to 45 days in jail. She was released after three weeks for reasons including good behavior.