The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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Roman Polanski still being hounded by L.A. County prosecutors

With the state Legislature forced to make dramatic cuts in the prison budget and a three-judge federal panel having recently ordered California lawmakers to release as many as 40,000 inmates in response to the scandalous overcrowding of the California state prison system, it seems like an especially inauspicious time for the L.A. County district attorney's office to be spending some of our few remaining tax dollars seeing if it can finally, after all these years, put Roman Polanski behind bars.

Polanski

As you've probably heard, the French-born filmmaker, who won a best director Oscar in absentia for the 2002 film "The Pianist," was arrested by Swiss police late Saturday as he arrived to accept an award at the Zurich Film Festival. At the request of the L.A. County district attorney's office, Polanski has been placed in custody -- the official term is "provisional detention for extradition'' -- awaiting a U.S. decision to make a formal extradition request.

Polanski has been living in France for the past three decades, directing films and raising a family with actress Emanuelle Seigner. He has been a fugitive from justice in the U.S. since 1978, when he fled the country rather than stand charges of having unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl. The case has been a cause celebre for years, with charges and counter-charges rocketing back and forth, many involving the controversial efforts of the original presiding judge to put Polanski safely away behind bars. It added another dramatic chapter to a life of tragedy for the filmmaker, who fled the Krakow ghetto during the Nazi occupation not long after his mother was sent to the gas chambers. In 1969, his wife, Sharon Tate, then pregnant with Polanski's child, was murdered by the Charles Manson family at a hillside home in Los Angeles. 

Meanwhile, Polanski's victim, Samantha Geimer, long ago announced that she had forgiven the filmmaker for his transgressions and supported various efforts to have the case against him dismissed. I don't think that you'd find many people who would approve of Polanski's behavior, which was disgusting -- he drugged his victim with champagne and Quaaludes before raping her during a 1977 photo session at Jack Nicholson's house.

But at a time when California is shredding the safety net that protects the poor and the unemployed, not to mention the budget of the public school system, you'd hope that L.A. County prosecutors had better things to do than cause an international furor by hounding a film director for a 32-year-old sex crime, especially one that Polanski's victim wants to put behind her. As Marina Zenovich's 2008 documentary, "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired," ably chronicled, the original prosecution of Polanski was marred by all sorts of embarrassing missteps and strange behavior, largely by Laurence Rittenband, the original presiding judge. 

Still, actions have consequences, and Polanski's sins have not been forgotten. He has been barred from returning to the U.S. and prevented from traveling to other countries, including England, because of extradition issues. His career has clearly suffered from his inability to work in Hollywood, where he made such celebrated films as "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby." He has been embraced by many -- having won a number of awards over the years -- but also shunned by a number of detractors. As he put it in his autobiography: "I am widely regarded, I know, as an evil, profligate dwarf."

But he also has his stout defenders, notably French Minister of Culture Frederic Mitterrand, who said over the weekend that he was "dumbfounded" by Polanski's arrest in Switzerland, adding that he "strongly regrets that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already experienced so many of them."

In the coming weeks, the Polanski affair will no doubt become a tabloid sensation, with op-ed moralists, excitable bloggers and the Glenn Becks of the world noisily weighing in on the propriety of his possible prosecution. Some will say Polanski is a predator whose punishment is long overdue. Others will argue that it's the height of  folly to be stalking a 76-year-old man who has admitted his guilt and was long ago forgiven by his victim.

We live in an age that is so thoroughly post-modern that you can find an obvious literary antecedent for nearly every seamy media storyline. The same goes for the Polanski case, which is full of echoes of "Les Miserables," the classic Victor Hugo novel about Jean Valjean, an ex-con trying to turn his life around who is being obsessively tracked and hunted down by the Parisian police inspector Javert.

Hugo's story is a tragedy, as is the life story of Polanski, who was a fugitive as a boy and is now a fugitive as an old man. Whether the L.A. County district attorney office has its way or not, it is not a story that can have a happy ending. I think Polanski has already paid a horrible, soul-wrenching price for the infamy surrounding his actions. The real tragedy is that he will always, till his death, be snubbed and stalked and confronted by people who think the price he has already paid isn't enough.

Video: Roman Polanski in "Chinatown."


Photo of Roman Polanski by Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images.
 
Comments () | Archives (131)

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Just because he has a Dudley-Mooresque look to him, doesnt make him less of a pedophile. The Holocaust and Sharon Tate do not excuse his inability to keep it zipped. 'She looked older' is not a defense. And he did not steal a piece of bread to feed his family. The Victor Hugo crap is insulting. I dont know how the fact that he gave booze and drugs to a 13 yr old and then had sex with her gets obscured in this debate.

1. Polanski was NOT a boy when he drugged and anally raped an 8th grader.
2. He was CONVICTED and fled prosecution NOT trial.
3. Jean Valjean served his sentence Polanski did not.

Making a movie doesn't assuage your guilt. Living scot-free in France isn't punishment, neither is not being able to recieve an Oscar from Hollywood.

Make him and his Hollywood cronies pay for it! He does get my sympathy for what he has been through, of course, but it doesn't justify what he did. EVERYONE must face their punishment and he has had a pretty good life in France. I am sick of child rapist and child pornographer's. We must protect our children and not the elite. Roman, it's time to man up and go to prison for ruining at least one little child's life.

Hopefully true justice will prevail and he gets placed in the general population at LASD Inmate Reception Center. Let's see if he survives a week. Damn pedophiles.

I strongly recommend that all the people here who feel so morally sure about this case actually watch Marina Zenovich's superb documentary, "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired". Mr. Goldstein is partly to blame to here for using incendiary language that weakens his own case -- words like "raped" and "drugged -- while technically not completely untrue at least in a legal sense are also possibly misleading in this case.

In fact, there is a strong case to be made that, while there was certainly a crime here, this was quite arguably more of a statutory rape than a out-and-out rape. Also, there is no evidence that Mr. Polanski is a pedophile in the usual sense. She was not prepbuscent (an attraction to prepubescent children is a crucial part of the definition of "pedophile"; people who have sex with very underage teens might be scum, or at least behaving like scum, but they are not pedophiles and, indeed, in some states they are even allowed to marry them) and, while this has no actual bearing on the case legally nor perhaps should it, she had had sex with someone else consensually prior to the crime. More important, Polanski has never before or since been known to be involved in anything else remotely like this.

He was certainly guilty of the crime he confessed to and possibly more, but the plea bargain that was worked out originally, but which Judge Rittenband reneged on, was probably quite fair. It's also important to note that Polanski did, in fact, serve time while awaiting trial and was terrified for his life because of the kind of attitudes expressed by people here. (The thought of murdering a "known pedophile" as famed as Polanski would have made him a tempting target for his fellow prisoners.) People make a big deal out of the fact that it was anal sex, but assuming some degree of consent, is that significantly different from vaginal sex in terms of the seriousness of the crime? Would it have been somehow a less serious crime if she also wound up pregnant?

There's no proof that he "drugged" her in the sense of "slipping a mickey." If someone offers me say, two Long Island Ice Teas and I down them both quickly, are they "drugging" me? I might well end up pretty out of it after consuming them, possibly as altered as the victim was. Quaaludes were a very popular party drug at the time and, bad as it was, thirteen year olds were taking them all over L.A. It's entirely easy to see how she might have drunk champagne and had a half quaalude consensually. Not that it really mitigates the crime, but he was taking the same drugs himself.

Of course, her story at the time varied from that account, but to me the fact that she is willing to forgive him indicates it was mostly consensual -- except, of course, in the sense that in the eyes of the law and common sense 13 year olds can't consent to sex in the same way an adult can. And, obviously, a 13 year old under any degree of drug influence even more so. He deserved to be punished, but to what degree?

By the way, aside from being forgiven by the victim, Polanski's maltreatment at the hands of Judge Rittenband is also confirmed by the prosecuting attorney, who since the case has been working together with Polanski's defense attorney in the original case. How often do prosecutors and defense attorney's work together on something like that? Both men, by the way, appear to be unimpeachably honest lawyers. Yes, they exist.

As Marina Zenovich said in her film, there are two victims and two perpetrators in this case. Polanski was both, but bothering to take a look into this case will reveal two things. 1. The original crime, while very serious, has not been proven to be heinous in the way that words like "rape" and "pedophile" imply. 2. Polanski has not even come close to getting off scot free.

Does Mr. Goldstein want all child rapists released from prison, or just the ones who are famous movie directors?
It is a typical L.A. attitude to think that achievment in show-business gives one a free pass.

"The real tragedy is that he will always, till his death, be snubbed and stalked and confronted by people who think the price he has already paid isn't enough."

You're a very disturbed person if you think that Polanski being inconvenienced is "the real tragedy." "The real tragedy" is that a 13-year-old girl was RAPED, and that her RAPIST skipped out on his punishment.

I have the perfect solution.

Does not this child raper have a boatload of money?

Sentence him to 25 years to life or a fine of his total net worth.

There is restitution that will take a bite out of crime and pay the state too!

~~~~~~~

Read the trial testimony yourself here:

From The Smoking Gun:


Recently unsealed grand jury testimony regarding Roman Polanski's arrest for sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl.

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/polanskicover1.html

HEY BOB WESTAL:

First he got the 13 year old girl DRUNK.

Then he HE DRUGGED the 13 year old girl with half a Quaalude !

And then he RAPED her.

READ her testimony:

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/polanskia18.html

GET A CLUE!

Patrick Goldstein, you are a poor excuse of a human being. It's a shame that you have a position in media where you have the ability to influence others.

 
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