Paris Hilton
Stuart Ramson  /  AP file
Paris Hilton speaks to media as she arrives at a party at Marquee in New York to celebrate the launch of her debut album titled 'Paris.'
NBC Universal Anchors and Correspondents
By Keith Morrison Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/4/2007 6:11:25 PM ET 2007-03-04T23:11:25

This report aired Dateline Saturday, Sept. 23 and will be updated Sunday, March 4, 2007.

It’s hard to imagine that there is a side of Paris Hilton that most of us haven’t explicitly already seen: Paris the singer, Paris the TV star, Paris the unintentional porn kitten. 

She’s almost more brand than person. But now, you’re about to hear an aspect of Paris Hilton the marketers and PR agents  would probably rather keep secret... In this report , you’ll hear Paris help solve a crime. Sort of.

Paris Hilton (law enforcement interview audio tapes): Like I really—I don’t remember.  I’m not like that smart.  I like forget stuff all the time.

Det. Koman: Don’t cut yourself short.

Paris...not that smart?  This is going to be, need we say, a bizarre little movie—except this one not only happens to be true.

It shines a strange new light on dark secrets.

Hilton: It was like four in the morning at a party.

Det. Koman: At a party?  

We’re about take a tour of a sometimes dangerous place:  there will be stars, playing themselves. The supporting cast includes the rich and famous, those who just want to be,  and the scene is the Hollywood party world.

Heather Bernardcyck: It’s not a pretty picture.

Kristen Williams: It’s not as pretty as a lot of people want to paint it.

Williams: Right.  It’s not what it’s all cracked up to be of this glitz and glamour.  There really is a lot of downsides.

You could be standing with the charming ex-con who just might know something about ¤what happened the night of the 22nd or not.

Will Wright: In Hollywood, celebrities, you know, party on the fringes of people who are in the grey and in the dark.  You know what I mean? It’s a very interesting crowd.  It’s like celebrities mix with people who sell drugs for a living or commit crimes.  I mean, Hollywood’s weird like that.

How weird? That crime drew this reporter like a moth to a flame... or like a star to a dangerous friend.

Mark Ebner, investigative journalist: The pampered celebrity wants to be associated with that person with the shady past.

Morrison: Because?

Ebner: Because it gives them that edge.  It gives them that kind of outlaw cool. 

Hoon Chun, L.A. county prosecutor: It’s a crowd that goes partying late at night at very trendy clubs.

Los Angeles prosecutor Hoon Chun knows the scene because he found the case on his desk:   a violent robbery, January 22, 2004. On a hilltop mansion was a celebrity victim. But unlike everyone else, Chun was Not exactly star struck.

Chun:  A sort of jet set version of high school, is what we’re talking about.

Scene one of our mystery
The first scene takes place in the nightclubs, the VIP-rooms, and the after party clubs. It’s  the party scene that aspiring actress Kristen Williams and her best friend Heather Bernardcyck had come to know so well…

Kristen Williams: It’s like a clique.  Hollywood is like a big clique—like you would have in high school. And everyone wants to be in the popular clique.

And the popular clique, it turns out, is at the very center of our story a  sort of nexus for everyone connected to that robbery: from the heiress with key information to the ex-con with an  alibi; from the victim to the that man in the mask; to the aspiring actress who helps us understand the scene from right in the middle of it.

Kristen Williams wanted so badly to be a star, but Hollywood can be brutal.

She got a bit part once on FX’s Nip/Tuck and she and Heather had line or two in a movie called “Skippy” that ran on Showtime.

Not much to write home about.

But after dark, it was different. In the nightclub world.

Morrison: The velvet rope is there and there’s a lineup to get in. You can’t get in. 

Williams: It’s very difficult for men to get into the clubs out here.  We’ve never had a problem. Because we walk right up to the front and we kind of flirt with the door guy. And we stand there and we’re all nice and he lets us in.

Then it’s like, then you wanna get to the VIP.  And then you wanna get to the after hour party of the club. There’s always another door you have to get through. 

And behind those doors are the instantly recognizable features that grace the whole world’s gossip mags.

Williams: There’s celebrities everywhere.  There’s, you know, ball players, there’s—

Bernardcyck: And yeah, you just kind of run into different people.

A little discretion among the stars, the celebrities... the king of soft core porn like “Girls Gone Wild.” That would be Joe Francis

Joe Francis:  I used to go out. You know?  And I have been out playing in the Hollywood nightclub scene. 

After all, it was Joe Francis at the center of events here in Hollywood that dark night of January 22nd, 2004. And where did that night begin? Why, at a Hollywood club of course .

Scene two: The crime

Morrison: So you had gone out one evening? Where?

Francis: I went out to a nightclub. And came home around midnight.

Morrison: That’s relatively early for the night crowd.

Francis: That’s what the guy said.

The guy was an intruder waiting in Joe Francis’ house when he came home. And the terror was about to begin.

Video: The robbery

Joe Francis: It was absolutely terrifying. It really was.

What happened to Joe Francis late at night that January 22nd, you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.Though there must be lots of people who might like to do Francis some serious harm.

A few fathers, for example...

To understand this story you need to know that this clean cut, handsome young man got obscenely rich by inventing the video series called “Girls Gone Wild.” 

Some people feel that what happens on these videos is also obscene:  Francis and his cameramen persuading young, often inebriated women, to expose themselves and even have sex with each other.

A few women have gone public with claims that they were forced to do things they didn’t want to do. Some of the accusations have made their way into court,  though they don’t seem to have tweaked his conscience.

Francis: I’ve been a target of lawsuits and a target of litigation and other accusations and ridiculous things in the past.

Keith Morrison, Dateline correspondent: Well, yeah, although some people say they’re not so ridiculous.  I mean I don’t wanna get back into that—

Francis: Yeah—yeah.

Morrison: —argument.  But, I mean, underage girls?  C’mon?  What are you doing?

Francis: Well, some girl showing a fake ID?  If somebody shows you a fake ID, you have every reason to believe that they’re that age. 

Though he has fought off most of  the allegations,  Joe and his company plead guilty to violating a federal law designed to prevent pornographers from working with people under 18. 

And, whatever his legal woes may be, they certainly haven’t held back the "Girls Gone Wild" juggernaut.

How many videos has Joe Francis sold? Enough to have a state of the art production office in Santa Monica and a mansion at the very peak of establishment Bel Air just up the road from Nancy Reagan. Enough for Ferraris, Bentleys, Picassos, two private jets, and friends like Paris Hilton.

And Joe isn’t shy about what his money has bought him— everybody knew. A few too many people knew.

An intruder in his home
It was just after midnight. Francis had come up the long drive to his gated mansion, parked his Bentley, and walked to the front door.

Francis: I walked in here, yeah, and someone came out of this door. And yeah, a guy comes out of there from behind me.  And puts me here on the floor.

The intruder had a gun and was wearing a mask. He tied Joe’s hands behind his back...

Francis: And I lay down, and he ties me up.

Morrison: And then where did he go?

Francis: It was for a while.  Then he pulled me upstairs.  And downstairs again.  And then to my office.  And pulled me throughout the night.

The ordeal would go on for some four hours. He stripped off Joe’s Rolex watch. He emptied the contents of Joe’s wallet of $1,100 dollars.  He pulled a Picasso off the wall, stuffed it into Joe’s Louis Vuittonluggage. It was valuable stuff but not enough. The intruder wanted money—lots of money.

Francis: He pulled me around to the safe.

Open it, he ordered.

Francis: ... he put me on my knees right here.  And held a gun to my head.  And that’s what threw me to tears.

But Francis told him he’d never used the safe and didn’t know how to open it.

Joe is a good talker, so that night as he lay helpless. Bound and crying, he decided to start talking.

Francis:  ...I told him I’d pay him money.

Morrison: How much money did he want?

Francis: Well, he wanted different amounts. When I was down on the ground here, it was $100,000. And then it became $300,000.

Joe says that’s when he knew he wouldn’t die.

Francis: ...when I convinced him that that I was gonna give him the money. And I wouldn’t go to the police—that there was a new direction.

Morrison: You sold him.

Francis: I did.

But the masked man wanted to make sure Joe wouldn’t back down on his promise—he wanted an insurance policy.

Morrison: He took you to your bedroom?

Francis: Yes.

The producer of those naughty videos was about to become a star of his own, only this one would be made at gun point…

The intruder ordered Joe to lie face down on the bed. He pulled down his pants. Then he revealed he’d brought with him to Joe’s house — a video camera and a sex toy, which he posed suggestively on Joe’s posterior.

Francis: He’s holding a gun and a camera and making me say things, and telling me what to say.

“My name is Joe Francis from Boys Gone Wild....”

The intruder wanted Joe to imply he was gay.

Francis: That just is ridiculous to me. That somebody’s gonna think the owner of “Girls Gone Wild” is gay?

Morrison: So when you were in that moment—

Francis: I would have said anything with a gun to my head. I mean Keith, you would have too.

The camera panned over to Joe’s driver’s license and a few personal photos—extortionist proof that it’s really Joe Francis...

But here, says Joe, was the weirdest thing.  All the while, he was clearly aware  that the whole scene was orchestrated—a real-life horror film whose director was at the other end of a walkie-talkie.

Francis: He was always on a walkie-talkie with another guy.

Morrison: Not a cell phone?

Francis: No, a walkie-talkie. Where I could hear the person speak.

High up in the pampered green of the Bel Air-hills, among the mansions of the very rich, behind the high gates where the likes of Nancy Reagan and Quincy Jones and Joe Francis live their relatively private lives, cell phones don’t work very well.

Morrison: Did they communicate constantly? Or did he call once? 

Francis: Constant communication. And I felt like that other person followed me from wherever I was. Or had been following me all night.

Morrison: Were instructions given over this walkie-talkie?

Francis: Yeah, instructions were given constantly.

Then abruptly, the intruder dragged a trussed up Francis to the garage, packed up his loot, threw Francis into the back of Joe’s own Bentley, and drove off down the hill.

Francis: My hands were wire tied and duct taped behind my back. My mouth was duct taped. I was put face down in the back of the Bentley.

Morrison: Did you know where you were gonna be taken? Or what would happen to you?

Francis: I had no idea what was happening,

But Francis had seen enough movies, worked in television long enough to know how these things can go down.

Francis: I had seen these happen before. The guys who came in your house. And telling these victims that they weren’t gonna do anything if they cooperated, you know, threatening them. But then at the end, they always killed them. So all these things were playing out in my mind. That, "Oh my God, this is how it all ends."

Joe was terrified; he felt the car slow down then the hold up man gave him a warning.

Francis: He was gonna park the car. He was going to leave the keys 100 feet in front of the car. And he was going to get in another car. And there, he said, was a man waiting. And if I moved for at least five minutes that the guy was gonna shoot me. So I’d be dead.  And then if I went to the police I would be killed.

It sounded like a movie, a bad movie full of cliches.  Could there really have been a man hiding in the bushes, waiting to kill Joe, seemed doubtful.  Still, he waited a couple of minutes, just to be sure. And managed to free his hands and get himself out of the car. He ran over, across the street to the Bel Air gate, crying,  frightened and so messed up that at first the guard wouldn’t let him in. Then, Bel Air security called the cops.  The night of terror was over, but not the crime. In fact, a whole new scene was about to begin.

The extortion

Morrison:  You got phone calls after the event?

Francis: Yeah.  I got phone calls—

Francis: Immediately, the day after the event.

Francis (tapes): I’ll meet you. Where do you want to meet.

Caller: you’re not going to meet with me directly

Francis: I’m not going to meet you directly. Well, you have my -----ing tape.

The calls continue, but the trail gets cold until Joe Francis gets a tip from none other than Paris Hilton.

Joe Francis, who’d made a fortune getting girls to strip for the camera, now was the star in his own nasty video.  Only difference he wasn’t convinced to do it by a slim chance for fame but by the point of a gun.

Why? Los Angeles county prosecutor Hoon Chun

Hoon Chun, L.A. county prosecutor: The purpose of the video was quite clearly extortion. In fact, demanding various sums of money—large sums of money—in order to not publish the videotape that he had forced Mr. Francis at gunpoint to make.

It was like some far-fetched caper movie or a horror flick that wouldn’t end. Francis was held up on a Thursday night into Friday...  it was soon after daylight friday when the calls began.

Joe Francis (audiotapes): Hello

Caller:  good morning

Francis: Good morning

The caller demanded money. Half a million dollars.

Caller: It’s gotta be non-sequential bills.

Francis: Hold on hold on hold on. Okay, okay can I write it down. Can you give me a minute?

But the perpetrator had over estimated Francis’ sense of decorum: Why would he worry about a nasty video tape?

Mark Ebner, investigative journalist: For a guy who has made a multi-million dollar career out of what amounts to soft core pornography via his “Girls Gone Wild enterprise,” that really isn’t all that embarrassing.

Investigative journalist Mark Ebner has written extensively about the Francis case in print and on his Website “Hollywood Interrupted.” He was a consultant for Dateline on this story.

He says Francis played it cool with the extortionist.

Ebner: In other words, “go ahead.”  “You know what?  I’m not going to pay money to you, If you’re threatening to put that on the Internet, go ahead.  You know?  People have said or done a lot worse things to me.”  And that’s his attitude to his credit. 

So when those calls started coming in, the LAPD was listening in too. Francis wasn’t trying to squelch the video; he was trying to catch the bad buy.

Francis: Hello?

Caller: It’s gonna be non-sequential bills

Francis:  All right non sequential bills. How do I tell my bank non-sequential bills?

Caller:  Meaning that the serial numbers won’t be in order. 45 40

Francis: It was like a movie.  You know?  Everybody would run to the one room.  You know?  Where they start tracing the calls.

Francis:  I’m not keeping that kind of money in the house so you tell me when want to do it.

Caller:  You got a pen and paper?

Francis:  I got a pen and paper.

Caller:  You’re not going far. You’re just going to a phone booth. You’re going to look to your right you’re going to see a bus depot ...you’re going to see one phone and it’s a Verizon phone. Get to that phone in 20 minutes and I’ll give you a call.

A phone booth? This guy had seen too many B-movies. And he wanted Joe to bring the money in a trash bag.

Francis: A trash, like a Hefty bag

Caller:  Yeah yeah. Do you have any?

Francis:   Don’t you think that’s gonna be a little obvious I’m carrying a Hefty bag on the street.

Caller:  Half million dollars weighs 22 pounds

Francis: Weighs 22 pounds

Caller:  Double the Hefty bag up

Francis: So I’m going to carrying three hefty bags down a ----ing street

Caller: You won’t be carrying it down the street. Let me call you back with the exact thing to do.  It’ll be pretty simple.

Most of the calls would end abruptly, quickly.

Caller:  I’ll call you later on today. I can’t be on the phone for this phone too much longer. Bye-bye.

Hoon Chun, L.A. prosecutor: It is a strange sort of demeanor. In the old days—you know, we’ve all seen the movies where they actually trace wires.

Keith Morrison, Dateline correspondent: Give me another 30 seconds.

Chun: Right exactly. Well, now we live in this electronic age, where you can literally know somebody’s phone number— because of there is a thing called Caller I.D.

By the way, this went on for nearly six months, as the extortionist kept on calling in an effort to set up that money drop.

Morrison: How did the content of those phone calls change over time?  Or did it?

Francis: It did change over time.  Because at first I was really freaked out and really scared.  And as I became more comfortable with my security and my situation—and he became more agitated, I felt more comfortable and maybe even cocky or complacent.  You know?

Morrison: As he got desperate?

Francis: Yeah, as he got desperate.

So... they must have caught him, right?  Well, no. Those phone calls suddenly stopped. Despite those quick phone traces and a fingerprint or two left behind—the LAPD’s case came to a dead stop,  languished for nearly a year.

Francis: I was beginning to think that no one was ever going to be found.  I thought that I would always wonder.

Morrison: Did you feel safe here in your home during that time?

Francis: I felt safe because my house was an armory at that point.  I mean, I had more bodyguards and security — there’s enough fire power in this house if anybody came in, I’d feel sorry for them. 

Of course, Joe Francis, the guy behind “Girls Gone Wild” wasn’t sitting home alone with his security detail. He was still sending his own cameras to colleges and booze-soaked spring break towns around America, still making a killing from his videos. And Joe was still living that Hollywood party life.

Which is how the heiress joins our story—in the most unlikely way.

Francis: Well, a girl I dated, Paris Hilton was at a party with me and she pulled me aside and said, “I have to talk to you about something.” 

That Paris Hilton? Why.. Yes.

Remember Joe and Paris hung out in that same crowd, the one with the stars, the wannabes, and the charming bad boys. But who would ever have thought that in this real life cheesy movie, Paris Hilton was about to become Nancy Drew in the peekaboo dress.

Francis: And I just thought it was gonna be some just random thing.  And she goes, “Look, I know who did it.” 

In this world, this jet setting scene, so much seems to happen when the rest of us are asleep. 

Now, we cut to Las Vegas, 10 months after Joe Francis was held up in his own home.  The scene: the Hard Rock hotel, where Paris was out at one of those exclusive after-parties. This one a birthday party for her sister Nicky.  Paris was playing bartender when, she says,  a young man from that Hollywood social set named Will Wright sat down on the other side of the bar, and told her an amazing story: about Joe Francis and the hold up and the video tape.

Hoon Chun:  Ms. Hilton heard somebody talking about this crime. She then took that information to Mr. Francis, and then Mr. Francis put her on the phone with the police and she provided that information to the police...

Morrison: Paris Hilton, amateur Det.ective? 

Chun:  I’m not sure that I would characterize as "amateur detective" just somebody who was concerned about a friend.

Concerned friend?  It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Paris Hilton. 

Det.. Koman (tape transcript): Paris, we’re here to talk to you today about a case—that you might know a little bit about.  It’s about Joe Francis.

Paris Hilton: I heard something. It was like four in the morning at a party.

Koman: At—at—at a party?  Okay, where was the party at?

Hilton: In Vegas.

And Paris’ informant? Will Wright.

What was his role on the Hollywood scene? Well, he is the charming ex-con.

Det.. Koman: And Will just comes up to you?

Hilton: Yeah.

According to Paris, Will knew all about the Joe Francis robbery and told her. 

But she was having trouble remembering.

Hilton:  Like I really—I don’t remember.  I’m not like that smart.  I like forget stuff all the time.

Det.. Koman: Don’t cut yourself short.

Hilton: But I don’t remember.  I don’t remember.

Then Prosecutor Hoon Chun gave it a try.

Hoon Chun: The circles you hang out in—I imagine people don’t often confess doing a home invasion robbery. Am I correct?

Hilton: I don’t know.  No.

Chun: And this is not just an ordinary thing.  Somebody’s describing taking a videotape, a compromising videotape, tying up an ex-boyfriend of yours. This is not—

Hilton: He’s not my ex-boyfriend.

Chun: I’m sorry.  It’s someone you dated?  Or somebody you—

Hilton: No.

Paris denied a relationship with Joe Francis.  That much she seemed very sure of.  But the rest of it was so hazy.

So the prosecutor and the cops decided to take a break and someone brought Paris a sandwich.  Would food help?

Chun: It seems like your memory is now a little bit better.

Hilton: Because I just ate and I ate coffee and I closed my eyes and think.

With some food in her, Paris starts remembering what happened that late night.

Hilton: It was really loud.  It was a nightclub.  the music was blasting. It was just like I’m making shots behind the bar and like getting wasted and like passing shots out to people.

Chun: Did Joe Francis’s name come up first?

Hilton: I don’t know.

Hoon: Cuz that’s not normal.

Hilton: People always talk bad about him. 

Hoon: Okay so somebody’s making fun of Joe. But just try to remember what did Will—what did Will say about Joe Francis?

Hilton: He was like there’s this gross video tape of him.

Then Paris recalls a little more clearly what she heard that night in the bar about the man who attacked and humiliated Joe Francis— who brought him to tears and tried to extort him.  That person had attended the very same parties as Paris and Joe and all the rest of them.  His name: Darnell Riley.

Chun: What did he mention about Darnell?

Hilton: That Darnell filmed it or had it.

Chun: Darnell filmed it?

Hilton: Filmed it or had it—I don’t know.

Mark Ebner, investigative journalist covering the case: What I know about Darnell Riley is, is that from the age of 15 to, I believe, 24 years old he was incarcerated in juvenile Det.ention facilities for the cold blooded murder of two Korean shopkeepers here in Los Angeles. 

Somewhere along the line, having been a convict, it didn’t take much to turn him into a smooth confidence guy when he got out of jail. He started meeting people.  And through those connections, started making his way into the nightlife scene— a handsome young man with a shady past. 

Morrison: He was a tough guy.

Ebner: Tough guy.

Ebner: But he was also very charming. 

Darnell Riley was 28 years old.  He was a good looking bundle of trouble who wanted very much to be part of that Hollywood crowd. Of course, Paris, the epicenter of that crowd tells the cops she wasn’t so interested.

Det. Koman: Okay how many times have you seen Darnell?

Hilton: A couple [times]— not really that much because I don’t hang out with him.  He’s not in my group.  He might be one of these club kids.  But I go to clubs and there’s thousands of people will come up to me in a night.  He’s not my friend.

Ron Richards is Darnell Riley’s defense attorney.

Morrison: Why was he so driven to hang out with this crowd of Hollywood people?

Richards: That’s a good question.  I don’t know why anybody’s driven to hang out with Hollywood people.  Except that he probably liked the action.  You know, that it’s a fast moving crowd.

Morrison: How would you describe that party scene?

Richards: I would describe it as treacherous.  It’s long hours—you know, fortunately I’m an outsider on it.  And that’s why I wouldn’t be able to tell you from the inside.  But, it generates a lot of business for my firm.

Heather and aspiring actress Kristen, the girls who had figured out their way past the velvet rope and the V.I.P. bouncer, knew Darnell too  from that Hollywood party scene.

Heather Bernardcyck:  I met Darnell Reilly—actually at Nikki Hilton’s party.

That’s the same party where Paris says Will Wright told her that Darnell Riley was the one who held up Joe.

Bernardcyck:  We were all  at The Hard Rock the very top—where the bowling alley or something.  And Will introduced us to Darnell—

An arrest and conviction
Darnell Riley was arrested for the robbery of Joe Francis.

Joe Francis told his side of the story at the hearing.  And here, a moment of irony: He has exposed the private parts of a veritable army of fresh faced young women, but Joe testified as the victim of a sex crime of sorts.  So the judge prevented us from showing his face in court.

The notorious video was played.

In an effort to undermine the star witness, defense attorney Ron Richards brought up every skeleton in Joe’s closet --  accusations of  sex crimes perpetrated by Joe in lawsuits and leveled by the state of Florida.  It turned out, “Girls Gone Wild” has produced some trouble along with all that wealth.

Ron Richards, Darnell Riley's defense lawyer (in court):  I’m showing you a copy of your arrest report on your current felony charges in Florida.  Do you see that?

Francis: Yes, I do.

Joe is charged with four felonies involving minors in a sexual performance... Joe, remember, was the victim in this case.

After Joe told his story, after the exortion tapes were played and finger prints were matched up --  Darnell Riley admitted he did it. He got 10 years, eight months less time served, and at no time did he ever mention an accomplice at the other end of a two-way radio.

So a big question remained unanswered: Could Darnell Riley have really acted alone? 

When Will Wright talked to us (he’d adopted a new look by the way), he denied he ever said anything to Paris Hilton  about the crime and that she lied to the cops when she told them he was the source of the name Darnell Riley.

Keith Morrison, Dateline correspondent: Well, why would she lie about such a thing?

Will Wright: Why does she say a lot of things that she said?  I mean, I can’t, I don’t speak for her.

Unlike Paris Hilton, says Will Wright, he never forgets.

Wright: I remember what I’ve said.  I’m never in a state of mind where I’m not remembering on what I’m saying.

Wright appears to be quite open about his past. He was a high school student when they busted him importing marijuana.  But by the time he got to Los Angeles, he was telling people he’d been a key figure in a multi-multi million dollar international  drug ring. We’ve confirmed he spent six years in prison. So how does someone go from inmate to the in-crowd?

Wright: I came out of prison and my first girlfriend—that I started dating—had a few friends that were celebrities.  And I pretty much you know, met everybody through her that I know today.

Morrison: Fell in with that crowd.

Wright: I just kind of fell into the middle of it, you know? 

Kristen Williams: Yeah.  He is talking about me.

Williams: ...I brought him into the inner sanctums of Hollywood.

Trouble is, for Kristen, her friendship with Wright, she says, has cost her.  A lot.

Williams: A lot of my friends—long term friends, kind of shunned me and kind of—what, threw me off the island, so to speak? 

Heather Bernardcyck:  Voted off the island of Hollywood.

Williams: A couple years there.

Why?  Well, for one thing, say the girls, it was Will Wright who brought to the party scene a  robber and extortionist.

Williams: You know, Hollywood’s a place where you’re judged by who you hang out with. Sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re wrong. 

Not only that but by now the Hollywood crowd was hearing Joe Francis’ claim that Will Wright was the voice on the other end of the walkie talkie that January 22.

Joe Francis: This was always constant communication with another guy. Who I believe is this guy Will Wright.

Joe also believes Will Wright planned the crime. He says that’s what Paris Hilton told him. But when the cops asked Paris that questions on tape, her memory became hazy again. 

Det. Koman (interview tape): Did he ever tell you when he was bragged about how he planned the robbery against Francis.

Paris Hilton: I don’t think he planned it.  I don’t think he said that.

Det. Koman: Okay.  Do you recall saying that to the detectives and to Joe on the phone?

Hilton: I don’t remember our conversation—no.

Det. Koman: Okay—

Hoon Chun, L.A. county prosecutors: You don’t remember whose conversation?  The conversation with the detective or the—

Hilton: Both.  I don’t remember exactly what I said.  I know I said something.  But I was in the middle of shooting Simple Life.

Det. Koman: In this statement it indicates sometime in November you attended a party in Las Vegas which was attended by numerous people.  Is that correct?

Hilton: Yes.

Det. Koman: One of these individuals attending was Will Wright.  Is that correct?

Hilton: Yes.

Det. Koman: According to Hilton—that would be you—Wright began to brag to her about how he planned a robbery against Francis at his home because he disliked him.  Is that correct?  Is that statement that you gave—

Hilton: It was, he hates Joe.  And I’m not sure he exactly planned it.  But he knew about it.

And there was something else he knew, says Paris. Remember the extortionist proof? The shots of Joe’s drivers’ license?

Det. Koman: He said something about somebody being tied up.

Hilton: And that they had put his driver’s license next to his face so you could tell who it was.  And-

Det. Koman: And this is stuff that Will’s telling you and you’re remember this stuff now.

Hilton: Some thing about his ID was there so  you could tell it was him.

So, was Will Wright involved in the robbery or not?

Morrison: Joe Francis is convinced that you’re the guy on the other end of that walkie-talkie.  Are you?

Wright: No.

Morrison: Did you help plan this attack on Joe Francis?

Wright: I didn’t hear anything about this whole thing until months after it had happened. 

Morrison: Well, so here’s that question I love to ask everybody.  Where were you on the night this happened?

Wright: I wasn’t there, I’ll put it that way.   

Morrison: Have you told the police where you were?

Wright:  Yeah.  They knew where I was at.

So we called detective Steve Koman, the lead investigator.  When we asked Koman if the LAPD had confirmed will Wright’s alibi. He told us “no” and  it was  quote: “First i’m hearing about this alibi.”

Is Will Wright under suspicion?  In certain Hollywood nightclubs, maybe.

But the LAPD is saying nothing. And Ron Richards, Riley’s attorney, who it turns out is also Will’s attorney, insists that Will was out of town and not involved.  Richards also says he knows who was at the other end of that walkie-talkie, because that person also came to him for legal advice. Richards says that to protect attorney-client privilege, he cannot reveal that name, but assures us it was not Will Wright and Will Wright has not been charged with any crime.

The end of our little tour of movieland nightlife?  Not quite. We’re about to change scenes. Turns out not far from here, not far from Hollywood Blvd was another break-in and another embarassing video and another attempt at extortion. Sound familiar? 

Paris tells the cops about a far more personal matter. Because this time, the victims, are the Hilton sisters themselves. Did someone try to strong arm Paris Hilton, too?

When the LAPD searched Darnell Riley’s apartment looking for missing loot from Joe Francis’ house, they found things that had gone missing from the Hilton sister’s home as well.

Det. Koman: Okay—what I’d like to dive into real quick is the burglary—that happened at your sister’s house.  Now remember what date that happened.  What was that August 4 approximately.  Ring a bell?

Paris Hilton: I wouldn’t know.

Det. Koman: Were you living at that house at the time?

Hilton:  Part time.

Det. Koman: You were staying there part time.  Do you remember the night that the incident happened?

Hilton: Yeah.

Neither Det. Koman nor prosecutor Chun will comment on the record about the Hilton break-in.  That case is still under investigation. Nor will they confirm stories making the Hollywood rounds that who ever broke into the Hilton’s house stole an embarrassing video of Paris and later tried to extort money.

Hoon Chun, L.A. prosecutor: Anybody trying to blackmail you with regard to those private tapes that were taken from your Hollywood Boulevard residence?

Hilton: They were asking for money, but nothing ever happened.

Chun: Who was asking you for money?

Hilton: Some guy on the phone.  I don’t know.   He was talkin’ to my girlfriend about it.  I never talked to anybody-

Det. Koman: Okay, your girlfriend?

Hilton: They wanted—they wanted money.  They were tryin’ to sell it to like a newspaper or something.

Det. Koman: Who was the guy?

Hilton: I don’t know. 

Det. Koman: Who was your girlfriend?

Hilton: Um, she was like ...

Det. Koman: Spell that name.

Hilton: I don’t know how to spell it. I was in Miami shooting a movie and I just heard about it.  They were like ...some guy’s tryin’ to sell like the tapes to like a magazine.  So as soon as you pay somebody, then you’re gonna be paying for the rest of your life.  My dad always taught me. They’ll keep the tape anyway.

Paris says she never paid anyone anything. And Darnell Riley’s attorney Ron Richards says his client had nothing to do with the Hilton break-in.

Morrison: Why was Paris Hilton’s stuff found in his place by the police?

Ron Richards, Riley's defense attorney: Well, I don’t know what stuff they found in his place to tell you the truth.  I think that she’s never—she’s never contended that he has done anything wrong to her or extorted her in any way.

Somebody broke into the Hilton sister’s house. Who was it? Somebody was at the other end of that walkie-talkie the night Joe Francis was terrorized in his own home—who was that man?

This much we do know: one Hollywood wannabe is in prison for a terrifying crime.

Best friends Heather and Kristen have learned a hard lesson about that shiny world of celebrities and late night parties.

Kristen Williams: You could be in a room next to a celebrity, next to a director, next to a porn star, next to a convict, next to a murderer and you wouldn’t even know it. 

Heather Bernardcyck: You wouldn’t.

Mind you, they’re still there among the rich and famous. Kristen is trying to become a pin-up girl. Heather is learning to fly...

Will Wright, the ex-con, is still making the rounds of the priciest watering holes in town, saying he is the blameless victim of vicious gossip. In fact, he tells us, his youthful exploits as a drug dealing high school student may soon become a real Hollywood movie.

Joe Francis is still raking it in getting women to pull up their tops.

And Paris Hilton, with all that detective work behind her, has even more time to get in the headlines.

So next time you pick up a tabloid to read about “a sort of jet set version of high school is what we’re talking about,” have a heart for those hard-partying celebrities. It can be treacherous out there.

Especially if you drive on a suspended license ... something Ms Hilton was cited for just this past week. Her license was suspended in January after she pleaded guilty to an earlier incident of "alcohol-related reckless driving." Officials say Hilton could  face fines or even jail time.

As for Joe Francis .. he got two years probation and was fined 2 million dollas after he pled guilty to violating that federal law designed to prevent pornographers from exploiting minors.

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