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Polanski case about rape, not legal wrangling. Let's not forget that

July 12, 2010 |  8:30 am


You'd have to call it Roman Polanski's luckiest day since 1978, when he managed to flee Los Angeles before a judge sentenced him for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

On Monday, Swiss authorities refused to extradite the Oscar winner, who was arrested last year in Switzerland and placed under house arrest while Los Angeles prosecutors lobbied to have him brought back for a final verdict on a crime committed more than 30 years ago.

The Swiss government said there were "persisting doubts concerning the presentation of the facts of the case." It said a confidential statement by the former prosecutor had not been turned over to it. Once again, Polanski is saved by legal nonsense.

http://latimes.image2.trb.com/lanews/media/photo/2009-09/49514908.jpgYes, Polanski did undergo a 42-day in-custody observation in California after being initially charged with raping a child model after telling her to disrobe in Jack Nicholson's house, where Polanski photographed her and allegedly plied her with alcohol and drugs.

And he was led to believe he'd be free after serving the short stint for a guilty plea of unlawful sex, going on the lam only when it appeared that the judge might keep him behind bars longer.

But having read through the grand jury testimony by the victim, as I did last year, and given Polanski's acknowledgment that the had sex with her, I don't see it as anything but rape, and 42 days of observation was a joke.

Observation for what? 

The district attorney's office was under the impression at the time that the victim would not testify, thereby weakening its case, but prosecutors were too quick to cut a deal that was a gift to Polanski. As for all the Polanski apologists in L.A. and around the world, I'd like to remind them that, as I reported last year, the girl said on more than one occasion in grand jury testimony that she didn't want to do what Polanski was asking her to do.

She was scared and wanted to get away from him and go home, but he pushed and prodded, asked if she was on the pill, and had anal intercourse to avoid getting her pregnant.

"This is a travesty," said a statement Monday morning from Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "Our hearts go out to the tens of thousands of sexual assault victims whose perpetrators escaped justice by political clout, shrewd maneuvering or by running out the clock on the statute of limitations."

Polanski, the statement went on, "got off scot-free despite his heinous sex offense against a girl."

Not quite scot-free, but close enough.

Your thoughts?

-- Steve Lopez

Photo: Roman Polanski in court in the 1970s. Credit: Los Angeles Times file