Roman Polanski in hot water again: Is he a two-time offender?
It looks like even more bad news for embattled filmmaker Roman Polanski. While he's waiting for a Swiss court to rule on whether he'll be extradited to the U.S. for sentencing in the wildly notorious case involving his rape of a 13-year-old girl, a British actress named Charlotte Lewis held a news conference today in Los Angeles, saying that Polanski "sexually abused me in the worst possible way when I was just 16 years old, four years after he fled the United States to avoid sentencing for his crime."
Lewis, who is now 42, has appeared in small roles in largely little-seen movies over the years, her best-known films being movies like 1986's "The Golden Child" and 1992's "Storyville." One of her first roles was in Polanski's 1986 film, "Pirates," which was released four years after the incident in which Polanski, according to the actress, "met me and forced himself upon me in his apartment in Paris."
Lewis is saying that she came forward because she had heard that Polanski was fighting extradition to the U.S. She has already hired Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred to represent her, which means that Polanski will have his hands full, since Allred has always been especially expert at winning media coverage for her clients. Best known for representing Nicole Simpson Brown's family during the O.J. murder trial, Allred also filed the first lawsuit in California challenging the state's denial of marriage licenses to gay couples. She also has represented Rachel Uchitel and the X-rated film actress Joslyn James, who've both been alleged to have had affairs with golfer Tiger Woods.
I'm sure the Polanski camp will be asking why the actress waited so long to come forward with such a serious charge. If Lewis had raised the issue earlier, it would be unlikely that anyone would be publicly seeking absolution for the filmmaker, like the various European directors attending the Cannes Film Festival (including Bertrand Tavernier and Jean-Luc Godard) who signed a petition seeking to free Polanski from "the Kafkaesque isolation that has been his lot for the past seven months."
As an admirer of his work, I've tried to see things from Polanski's point of view in the past, but if these charges turn out to be true, it would be harder than ever to defend him. Once burned is twice shy.
Photo: Charlotte Lewis at the Friday press conference where she alleged she was sexually abused by Roman Polanski. Credit: David Livingston / Getty Images