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Monday, September 28, 2009

Polanski Arrest

There's quite a bit of outrage in the arts world at the arrest and possible extradition of Roman Polanski, who has been a fugitive since he left the United States in 1978 to avoid a possible prison sentence. The latest NY Times article discusses the crime he pleaded guilty to:
Mr. Polanski pleaded guilty in 1978 to unlawful sex with the girl whom he had lured to the home of Jack Nicholson on the pretext of a photo shoot and plied with Quaaludes and Champagne. But when a plea bargain deal appeared to founder, raising the prospect of a prison term, he fled the United States just before his sentencing.
Note the circumstances. The girl in question was 13; she was lured under false pretenses, then given drugs and alcohol and raped. Really, I have no problem with him going to jail for a while for this crime. The victim, now an adult, has reportedly forgiven him. That doesn't make him less guilty. It does seem weird that he has been in and out of Switzerland for many years without being arrested, and I'm curious that. Still.

18 comments:

rootlesscosmo said...

For additional comments:

http://www.historiann.com/2009/09/28/the-word-rape-has-been-disappeared-from-the-english-language/#more-7621

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thank you - those comments (link goes here are excellent.

calimac said...

Not just reportedly. She wrote this over six years ago.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I did not mean to imply disbelief. Neither do I think her forgiveness means the charges should be dropped, any more than I think crime victims screaming for blood means they get to determine the sentence.

Tonya said...

I have to agree. I don't care how long ago it was. Additionally, let's just say he didn't know how old she was... he gave her drugs and alcohol to have sex with her. I don't see any implied consent on her part. I'm glad she's moved on, but really the man is a confessed rapist.

calimac said...

I don't think the situations (crime victims screaming for blood vs. forgiving the criminal) are commutative. The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven. Etc.

Given that - as I understand it, if I'm not mistaken - Polanski served the jail sentence and paid the fines and damages that the prospective 1977 plea bargain called for, I wonder what purpose it serves to prosecute this 31 years later, especially considering the numerous opportunities in the past to arrest him that were passed over. He is not reported to have repeated his crime, so it's not as if he's a dangerous predator who has to be locked up for the public safety.

Lisa Hirsch said...

You are mistaken in your understanding. He had not been sentenced yet in connection with the plea bargain and had not served jail time. Take a look at this Times story.

calimac said...

If you're referring to the paragraph on p. 2 beginning, "Mr. Polanski was initially indicted in 1977," then that's misleading. The plea bargain, again as I understand it, would have sentenced him to time served (the 42-day psychiatric evaluation, which he did go through). When he fled was after the judge unexpectedly canceled it, and Polanski faced up to 50 years in prison. See Geimer's article, my principal source for understanding this.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I will look for independent confirmation that the deal was for time served, but if so, that was 42 days (six weeks) for drugging and raping a thirteen-year-old, which doesn't sound like justice to me.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, it is painfully clear that you don't have nearly enough background on this case, either legal or otherwise, to be pontificating about it. What Polanski did all those years ago was wrong, but there's a hell of a lot more nuance to the story than you let on in your little summary (which resonates with a certain lynch mob type of "reasoning").

Lisa Hirsch said...

There's not a lot of nuance in what he did (drug and rape a child). I'm not advocating any kind of lynching. I'm advocating jail time. I see nothing wrong with this.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Incidentally, additional reading I've done about the case suggests that Polanski was promised or believed he was promised a particular deal, so he plea-bargained. Then he received information that the prosecutors and judge were going to renege on the deal, so he took off.

There's an appeals process, of course, which he could have gone through if there was evidence of prosecutorial or judicial misconduct. He chose to leave the country instead. If that misconduct could be proven, then I agree that it should void the conviction despite the fact that no one disputes that he committed rape.

calimac, as far as I can tell his belief was that he would get a lot more than the additional days on the original 90-day commitment for psychiatric evaluation and that's why he fled.

Edmund G. Brown, Jr. said...

Wow, Lisa -- we can actually agree on something non-musical for once.

This hand-wringing over Polanski's arrest and potential extraditions by the French and Polish governments and the Weinsteins and Wingers of the world amaze me. Take the exact same case, and if the Oscar winner were the 13-year old victim instead of the perpetrator, all this celebrity outcry would certainly demand immediate extradition and lynching.

For more details, see Steve Lopez's column in today's Los Angeles Times:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lopez30-2009sep30,0,1671827,full.column

Doundou Tchil said...

Sure what Polanski did was wrong but why wait so long ? Perhaps here is the answer: he was making a film about a British Prime Minister indicted for war crimes. "The Ghost follows the story of a ghost writer, played by Ewan McGregor, whose research into the former British leader, thought to be modelled on Mr Blair, for his memoirs leads to dangerous revelations." Is it possible that some politicians can lean on others for favours ?
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/article6856134.ece

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thanks, EGB, Jr.

Doundou, speculation in the US is that the Swiss cooperated because of the UBS case.

Edmund G. Brown, Jr. said...

Does it really matter how long it took? Really?

The man didn't think he'd get caught. And guess what, he got caught. That's his problem, not the LA District Attorney's problem. He committed a crime -- no one argues that, even him. He's a fugitive -- no one argues that, even him.

I'm sure every person who has a procedural beef with any justice system wishes they had the financial means and friends to get away with what Polanski has all these years. At least until now.

I'm particularly amused at the reports that Polanski's own lawyers may have brought this on themselves by making a big issue about how the DA supposedly had not tried to extradite him. Isn't there a thing about "letting sleeping dogs lie?" Remind me not to ever hire those lawyers.

Lisa Hirsch said...

The latest twist: David Wells, who claimed in the documentary there was judicial misconduct, now says he made it up.

Anonymous said...

"There's not a lot of nuance in what he did (drug and rape a child). I'm not advocating any kind of lynching. I'm advocating jail time. I see nothing wrong with this."

If you don't see any nuance, it is because you are deliberately avoiding it. Here's just a bit: at the time, the victim, the parent, the examining psychiatrist, Polanski's probation officer, and others all felt that jail time was not appropriate. Oh, right, how could people with first-hand knowledge situation know about it, compared to the Olympian wisdom of some random blogger some 30 years later?