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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Did Polanski documentary spur D.A.'s criminal chase?


Did the L.A. County district attorney's office go after Roman Polanski because they wanted revenge after getting a black eye in the recent Polanski documentary, "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired?"

That's the provocative theory floated by Newser's always provocative Michael Wolff, best known as the author of "The Man Who Owns the News," the wonderfully dishy recent biography of Rupert Murdoch. According to Wolff, it seems awfully strange that Polanski has been traveling to Switzerland for years -- he even has a home there -- without L.A. prosecutors managing to nab him until now.

So why did the D.A.'s office suddenly kick itself into gear? Here's the gist of Wolff's theory:

Arresting Polanski is about the L.A. prosecutor's office's public relations. Prosecutors ignored Polanski for 30 years because it was a terrible case in which the prosecutor's office and the sitting judge, in the interest of getting publicity for themselves, had conducted themselves in all variety of dubious ways. But then, last year, 'Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired' came out detailing all this dubiousness. So the first motivation for going after Polanski now, as it so often is with prosecutors, is revenge -- Polanski and this film makes the D.A. look bad.

Wolff adds that the documentary must have also served as a reminder, with Polanski traveling freely around Europe, that the D.A.'s office had turned a blind eye to his case. Now that the D.A.'s office has nabbed its fugitive, it no longer looks distracted or impotent. As Wolff puts it: "The headlines now sweeping the world are the prosecutor's ultimate benefit. Many careers are suddenly advanced."

There are a few holes in Wolff's theory, especially since I'm not so sure that the current inhabitants of the D.A.'s office are really so invested in defending the actions of their long-ago predecessors, especially since the documentary's most damning revelations involved the sitting judge, not the prosecutors. But with so many far more important cases sitting idle because of budget cuts and lack of manpower, it is hard to fathom why the D.A.'s office is suddenly spending time and money trying to re-energize an ancient sex case when there are so many more nasty characters so much closer to home who need to feel the strong arm of the law.

Photo: Roman Polanski. Credit: Los Angeles Times / UCLA Library of Special Collections

Comments () | Archives (29)

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Yes, Wolff looks to be correct. The first international "warrant" for arrest was issues in 2005. The LA DA is an elected post - odd.

one should have to answer to a crime to which one pleads or is found guilty...

Oh puzzzzzleeeeese.

The criminal got caught, accept it and move on. What a bunch of wackos.

Loius Cruise said:one should have to answer to a crime to which one pleads or is found guilty.

My understanding is that he did plead guilty many years ago and was sentenced to time served. Bar him from this country and let it go. His victim doesn't need any more grief.

Polanski admitted to raping a 13 year old and then fled the country. We have forgiven him because of what he has done for the arts. However the system of justice in this country still needs to hold him accountable.

All to often it is the rich and mighty who get away with such criminal behavior, while those who struggle with poverty and isolation suffer the consequence of their station in life for similar crimes. Polanski getting away with it is like OJ getting away with it. What message do we send? That power buys you special status.

The fact that his victem forgives him is irrelevant. If everyone forgave Madoff should he be allowed to walk free? If so then justice is discretionary, and then better to do away with the hypocricy of it all.

Polanski is a genius, Chinatown is my all-time favorite movie. However, it is incredibly offensive that everyone seems to be cutting him some sort of break for that, if he was a carpenter or mechanic, everyone would be in favor of of locking him up. This was a sex offense with a child, hardly a minor offense. The fact he makes great movies should not give him some sort of immunity.

satire on Polanski and Goldstein:

"Polanski arrested for lame 1967 vampire movie"

"I could forgive him if it were something minor like drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl," said one writer. "But making a bad film is beyond the pale."

Wow. I foolishly thought that after all the negative responses to your blog that you might reflect on why you were wrong in dismissing Polanski's crime. Now its clear to me that you're intentionally trying to be provocative and outrageous. I offer this challenge. Do a poll like you use to do with your kids and their friends. Instead of viewing movie trailers, have one of the kids read the testimony as the victim. Then you can tell the others that it really doesn't matter since it happened long ago. Now I would really be interested in their response. In fact, I dare you to do it as an exercise and write about it,

"--My understanding is that he did plead guilty many years ago and was sentenced to time served. Bar him from this country and let it go. His victim doesn't need any more grief.""

Nooo. He pled guilty and absconded BEFORE he was sentenced.

I'm fairly sure they went after him because he's a Felon who fled before his sentencing date. There are no statutes of limitations once you've pled guilty. They knew he'd be in Zurich thanks to the internet, so they issued an international warrent. The Swiss, being law and order types, arrested him. He's welcome to hire his own attorneys and appeal, but he's in the same predicament as Larry Craig - once you admit guilt...kinda hard to appeal.

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