The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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Roman Polanski is a free man. You got a problem with that?

Roman_polanski I'm sure that Glenn Beck will somehow find a way to blame this on some Obamaian socialist conspiracy, but the news Monday morning that a Swiss judge has set Roman Polanski free is probably just the latest example of how different European attitudes about sexual abuse are from the views we hold here in America.

It may well be that the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office has bungled the Polanski case again, especially since Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf made it clear that the district attorney's request to extradite the 76-year-old filmmaker was undermined by "persisting doubts concerning the presentation of the facts of the case." But it seems clear that the Swiss -- and the French and the Italians, who keep electing as their presidents guys who seem more infatuated with young women than even Hugh Hefner -- just aren't that worked up about the fact that Polanski forced himself on an underage girl more than 30 years ago.

In America, having sex with a 13-year-girl is a crime worthy of punishment, no matter how talented Polanski is as a filmmaker. In Europe, it's hardly worthy of a raised eyebrow, which is why Polanski is still lionized in most European countries, receiving countless awards and happily accepted in polite society. This drives a lot of Americans crazy, since we're at heart a Puritan nation. But in Europe, attitudes are different. Not better. I'm not sure even worse. Just different.

I still believe that if Polanski wants to return to America, he should have to submit himself to the American judicial system and pay whatever price has to be paid. But I suspect this rejection of the district attorney's case marks the end of any persistent efforts to persuade the Europeans to go along with our mores. Hearing that the Swiss had rejected any extradition efforts, France's Minister of Culture, Frederic Mitterrand, said, "The time has now come for calm," as if he were speaking to the crazed Spaniards celebrating their World Cup victory. But what he was really saying, with a supreme Gallic shrug, is that it's time for us to move on. When it comes to Polanski, history will be the only judge.

Photo: Roman Polanski at the 2002 Spanish premiere of "The Pianist." Credit: Carlos Alvarez / Getty Images 

Comments () | Archives (66)

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I feel sorry for anyone that doesn't have a problem with a guy raping a 13 year old. We are so morally bankrupt in this nation that guys like Mr Goldstein can't even call a spade a spade. Pathetic.

Having sex with a 13 year old is one thing. But DRUGGING a 13 year old and having sex with her is different. don't forget that. I'm sorry but if the first thing you say after sex is "please don't tell your mom" you KNOW you've done something wrong

Not really sure what Glenn Beck has to do with Roman Polanski, rape of a minor or your thoughts on transatlantic relations. Red meat for the Left Coast I imagine...

this guy makes a couple of movies then rapes an underage girl and gets a pass in europe , wow what a shock! whats the differance between europe an america nowdays? ..................... nothing at all. the guy is a scumbag.

hope this comment will be approved.

Wow. How narrowed this article is! I am from Europe and 've been living in the US since 2000.

I have no idea why the author is so strongly trying to paint Europe as a rape-and-go continent. Sure, there is no death penalty, but noone with a sound mind would have sex with someone of 17 or younger and would be set free. Even more, European prisons are well known from its cruelty (from fellow inmates that do not recognize rapes and sex with underage and in many cases criminals are killed or permanently injured when in jail), but the facts in this article are wrong. If you read it carefully (Swiss decision), it is indeed on the US side that US Dept of Justice failed.

Long story short - the US asked for extradition based on this crime, something that is a formality between Swiss and US, HOWEVER, Polanski attorney pointed out that a judge in first instance made it a clear finding that Polanski already did time for this crime. Further, the US judge failed to prove those documents to Swiss authority making it even more probable that this decision was made. If US doesn't want to cooperate, there was no reason to extradict this man, just because the US wants so. Dont get me wrong. Anal sex with 13 years old? This guy should be send back and put behind bars for next 20 years. But in this case, I am on the justice side. The US Dep of Justice has to make ALL documents clear and in order in order to success extradiction -- something this article failed to mention.

This article is ignorant in its facts and offensive in its implication.

The Swiss asked for certain documents from the case to support the extradition request. The US prosecutors failed to produce them. The extradition request was rejected.

We in Europe take under-age sex crimes very seriously, contrary to your blatant sub-text. However, we also take the law and its process very seriously. Perhaps that's the difference between us you were looking for.

Oh there is another judge. He wants to be his Saviour now but if nothing changes He will be his judge at the Great White Throne, and the punishment will fit the crime for eternity.

I personally think that Roman Polanski is a dirt bad! having said, in light of all the years that he's had to endure in exile, at this time, it wouldn't serve any purpose wasting tax-payers money to prosecute an old man who did his dirty deeds years ago. Isn't there any more pressing cases that the FBI or whatever agency is hounding this clown, can occupy themselves with? Isn't it time to just let go!! They are treating this low life as a Nazi war criminal for crying out loud!!!!

Switzerland is the largest facilitator of terrorist organizations worldwide, and we worry about one pervert?

In Europe, having sex with a 13-year-girl is also a crime worthy of punishment. Unfortunately in certain sections of European society (and probably sections of American society too) 'art transcends everything' -- even child abuse. Celebrity and wealth also come in very handy when avoiding justice.

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