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Posted by on Sep 29, 2009 in Arts & Entertainment, International, Society | 22 comments

The Truth About Roman Polanski

As you may know, famed Polish-French director Roman Polanski was recently arrested in Switzerland. In 1977, he was convicted in the U.S. of “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor” (a disturbing euphemism). He has been on the run ever since, avoiding extradition in Europe while continuing with his career.

Polanski has many fans and admirers, of course. I especially like Chinatown and The Pianist, though I generally find him grossly overrated. (Knife in the Water, his early “masterpiece,” is also pretty good, but most of his films have been mediocre or worse.) But, with respect to his disturbing crime, he also has many apologists. WaPo columnist Anne Applebaum, for example, who wrote on Sunday that his arrest was “outrageous.” (Although what she failed to mention is that she’s married to Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and that the Polish government with Sikorski directly involved is lobbying the U.S. to dismiss the case against Polanski, an obvious conflict of interest. So much for her credibility.) Hollywood has also rushed to his defence, unsurprisingly. (If the case was politically motivated or mishandled, or if Polanski is actually innocent, let the evidence be presented in a court of law, not in the faux court of the pro-celebrity press.)

Thankfully, there are others who are having none of it. I’m not sure if Polanski should go to jail or be subjected to some other punishment (what that could be, I don’t know, as community service or a fine hardly seems right), but it does seem to make sense for the U.S. to press ahead with the case. As WaPo’s Eugene Robinson put it yesterday, Polanski “doesn’t deserve a happy ending.”

But let’s get back to what really happened in 1977. Kate Harding has the sordid details at Salon — read them, then apologize for Polanski, if you can — and is, I think, right about this:

The point is not to keep 76-year-old Polanski off the streets or help his victim feel safe. The point is that drugging and raping a child, then leaving the country before you can be sentenced for it, is behavior our society should not — and at least in theory, does not — tolerate, no matter how famous, wealthy or well-connected you are, no matter how old you were when you finally got caught, no matter what your victim says about it now, no matter how mature she looked at 13, no matter how pushy her mother was, and no matter how many really swell movies you’ve made.


The reporting on Polanski’s arrest has been every bit as “bizarrely skewed,” if not more so. Roman Polanski may be a great director, an old man, a husband, a father, a friend to many powerful people, and even the target of some questionable legal shenanigans. He may very well be no threat to society at this point. He may even be a good person on balance, whatever that means. But none of that changes the basic, undisputed fact: Roman Polanski raped a child. And rushing past that point to focus on the reasons why we should forgive him, pity him, respect him, admire him, support him, whatever, is absolutely twisted.

But “twisted” is what we’re getting. Whatever you think of the cinema and celebrity of Roman Polanski, it is the truth that should matter most, including the truth about what happened over three decades ago.

(Cross-posted from The Reaction.)

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  • christoofar

    I think we’re pretty clear on what happened 3 decades ago. I’m also a bit suprised that my home state of California, facing it’s current huge gaping maw of a budget deficit, still thought it a good idea to spent money on this. His victim has already forgiven him.

    • tidbits

      Christoofar, you may have gone too far. From what I’ve seen you’re a minority of one on this subject. The guy’s a child raper and a fugitive from justice who took his money and ran rather taking responsibility and facing the consequences.

      Recant, repent, rethink, retract, retreat. A barrage may be coming your way.

  • Father_Time

    I thought Polanski’s pedophile involvment included Brooke Shields? I was under the impression that there was more than once incidence reported in the media.

  • AustinRoth

    I think the funniest thing I have read on this (maybe the only funny thing) is that Woody Allen is demanding Polanski’s release!

    I guess he want to compare notes with him on how to seduce children.

    • kathykattenburg

      And then how to marry them. Amusing, indeed.

  • christoofar

    I’m no fan of his (though I did like Chinatown) IIRC, it seems that “back in the day”, the LA prosecutor’s office was all set to have him come in to discuss an outcome, but then changed their scenario. I guess I am more suprised (as was pointed out in other posts on this site) that supposed “neutral” Switzerland decided to allow the extradition. I was unaware of any other victims of Polanski’s (i.e. Brooke Shields).

    • AustinRoth

      Natasia Kinski (15)

    • kathykattenburg

      Polanski did not rape Brooke Shields. You may be thinking of the film “Pretty Baby.”

    • JeffersonDavis

      Switzerland is neutral in terms of military/political actions. However, they still have trade treaties and extradition treaties that lie outside of their neutrality. They’ve also been helpful in stopping the bankrolling of terrorists within their supposed neutral banking system.

      And as far as Mark30339’s comment….
      That’s incorrect. He plead guilty to statutory rape and “agreed” to the 90-day sentence. He never served that sentence and skipped the country. Now he faces not only the original sentence, but whatever is added for fleeing the country.

      Just keep in mind, folks. This revisionist legalistic attempt to cannonize Saint Polanski does not hold water. The rape laws 30 years ago were vague at best, and existed during a time when the chauvanistic among us thought it was the woman’s fault for placing herself in that situation or by “dressing slutty”. Had Polanski been caught today, he’d be in prison (unless he was a female school teacher, of course).

      He deserves more, but he’ll most likely get away with serving the 90 days, plus whatever they throw at him for fleeing. I wonder what the max sentence is for that?

      • archangel

        Here’s paraphrased citation from caselaw.comIn an indictment filed March 24, 1977, Roman Polanski was charged, with respect to Doe (that was the ‘shield’ name of the child), with furnishing a controlled substance to a minor, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under 14, unlawful sexual intercourse, rape by use of drugs, oral copulation, and sodomy.On August 8, 1977, after plea bargaining, Polanski pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse. Criminal proceedings were adjourned, and the trial court instituted mentally disordered sex offender proceedings. (Former Welf. & Inst. Code, § 6300 et seq.) To continue the narrative…. However, prior to sentencing (for unlawful sexual intercourse,) and prior to determination made for duration of incarceration perameters for ‘mentally disordered sex offenders” ….and in addition to the 40-some days Polanski already had spent in jail… (unclear here whether that would count as time served in a sexual criminal program), Polanski defied the court which had not yet pronounced complete sentencing… and ran away to France instead, aided and abetted by others un-named…

        Polanski had been born in France, and had as a child remained there until 3 years old, when at the burgeoning of Nazi power, his Jewish/Catholic parents inexplicably moved to Poland.

        Back to narrative of criminal charges and illegal flight before sentencing… 11 years later, on December 30, 1988, Doe, then 25 years old, filed a complaint against Polanski alleging causes of action for “sexual assault and battery; assault and battery; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent infliction of emotional distress; false imprisonment; [and] seduction.”

        The case has been more alive over these years with various filings made but coming to naught, which may account for the fatigue of “Doe” in the present re pursuing the original case which statute of limitations only will start to tick if/when Mr. Polanski is back on US soil.


  • kathykattenburg

    Whoops, I meant that last comment for Father_Time, not you, christoofar.

  • Zzzzz

    He definitely needs to rot in jail.

  • christoofar

    re: Kinski – I’m not familiar with the age of consent in Europe at that time, so whether the relationship was a crime over there then is unclear.
    I arrived home from work this afternoon & saw the front page story on Polanski, on how it appears his lawyers goaded the LA prosecutors about “not trying very hard” to nab him over all these years in briefs they recently filed in court. Um..careful for what you bring up , it might come back for a chunk out of your clients gluteus maximus.

    • AustinRoth

      The point was the man has a history of sex with young/underage girls, and using drugs and alcohol to take advantage of them,

      Why would anyone want to defend this man and his actions?

  • Polanski is no angel, but he paid compensation to his victim on terms acceptable to her and she wants the matter dropped. Further, Polanski and the DA presented a plea deal the judge accepted and for which Polanski served a 90 day term that was supposed to end in a sentence for time served plus probation. That was the binding deal reached in 1978 — but johnny-come-lately justice vigilantes want to exploit the victim’s right to privacy in her grand jury testimony (as well as the defendant’s), deny the victim’s right to closure, and toss defendant rights in general in advocating a “do-over” on a plea deal performed by the defendant and then abrogated by the judge. The flight from justice commenced with the judge trying to renege (he was later removed for the misconduct). And who can blame the guy for running; California was the place where his wife and child were brutally murdered by Manson and his groupies. Polansky is a troubled creep, but his victim wants closure. My conservative principles are not so obsessive that they need to run roughshod over her wishes and over constitutional due process. If the victim wanted the process continued, then I say extradite him — but even then the plea deal will be binding and at most he will have probation left to serve. Yet most conservatives seem willing to toss due process and double jeopardy protections so a punishment more satisfactory to them can be meted out.

    • AustinRoth

      So, if I rape your children but agree to pay you enough money, justice is served in your mind?

      And exactly where and how is due process or double jeopardy in play here? Obviously, you do not understand what you criticize.

      A Grand Jury was convened, charges were brought, he plead guilty, so due process occurred. The only missing part is he fled the county prior to his sentencing hearing. No one is talking about putting him on trial again, only having him server time for that he already admitted he did, but would not face the due process punishment for which he plead guilty.

      How is the legal system in the wrong here?

  • pacatrue

    While I don’t agree with much of Mark’s take, the way this may unfold seems to be increasingly ummm depressing? Let’s say Polanski is brought to the U.S. finally for sentencing, as I think he should be. Now, the judge can finally assess whether the guilty plea is valid. My understanding, however, is that he’s already indicated it may not be, due to the behavior of the previous judge, but would not make a final ruling without Polanski’s presence.

    But if you throw out the guilty verdict as invalid, isn’t a trial now needed? But it’s going to be really hard to prosecute a trial as there’s little evidence at this point except for the testimony of the victim who herself doesn’t want to go to trial.

    The End.

    He got away with it.

    The only hope for him to do some more jail time is if that guilty plea is not just factually true, as it seems to be, but legally valid — which it may not be. A re-trial seems hopeless and the previous judge may have legally screwed up the plea deal and sentencing.

  • twodaughters

    This article helped me find your web site and I will put it in my favorites folder and desktop and visit your site often.

    I agree with the comment in the article that, “The reporting on Polanski’s arrest has been every bit as “bizarrely skewed.” PLEASE publish a list of the celebrities who signed the letter supporting his pedophilia!

  • AustinRoth

    BTW – in Polanski’s own words from 1979:If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But… f—ing, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to f— young girls. Juries want to f— young girls. Everyone wants to f— young girls!Whole article: Roman Polanski: ‘Everyone else fancies little girls too’ht: the corner

  • DLS

    He’s a rapist and a fugitive from justice.

    It is not that surprising, but disgusting, how degenerate some can be that he has defenders such as in Hollywood. Talk about PR self-immolation (insofar as decent, normal people are concerned, at least).

    The intriguing coincidence here was that it involved Switzerland just after the Swiss government agreed to knuckle under to ObamaCo tax-related demands, which involve a legal angle, too. There may be nothing to the coincidence, but it was enough to provide for an amusing thought: If the Swiss can be made to identify people evading the IRS, certainly they can be convinced finally to surrender (to arrest and then to extradite) a low-life scumbag like Polanski.

    • archangel

      I thought that too DLS, wondered if swiss bank and extradition attention suddenly were related. The question on that might be, what is Switzerland suddenly wanting/needing from the US that the usually ‘hold ’em close to the chest’ players are suddenly laying out the whole deckdr.e

  • DLS

    “I thought that too DLS, wondered if swiss bank and extradition attention suddenly were related.”

    Yes, ma’am! What other answer quickly comes to mind when asking, “Why now?”

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