To those who felt director Roman Polanski had escaped justice when he fled the United States to escape charges of having unlaw sex with a minor, the news will be bitter: Switzerland has nixed U.S. requests to extradite Polanski to the United States for sentencing, with the official announcing the news declaring him a “free man.”:
Switzerland will not extradite the film director Roman Polanski to the United States to face charges of unlawful sex with a minor because of a possible fault in the American application for his extradition, Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told a press conference on Monday.
“He’s a free man,” she said.
Mr. Polanski was arrested on an international warrant issued by the United States on charges dating from 1977. The director fled on the eve of sentencing in California because of fear that the presiding intended to renege what his defense lawyers said was a deal to avoid a prison sentence.
Ms. Widmer-Schlumpf said the American authorities had rejected a request by her ministry for records of a hearing by the prosecutor in the case, Roger Gunson, in January 2010 which should have established whether the judge who tried the case in 1977 had assured Mr. Polanski that time he spent in a psychiatric unit would constitute the whole of the period of imprisonment he would serve.
“If this were the case, Roman Polanski would actually have already served his sentence and therefore both the proceedings on which the U.S. extradition request is founded and the request itself would have no foundation,” the Swiss Justice Ministry said in a statement.
Polanski’s supporters — many of them wealthy show business celebrities — who argued the case was trumped up or that the original prosecutor will say justice has been done. But others will view it as yet one more example of how someone who is famous, powerful and has lots of money can live under different rules than the man or woman on the street.
But Polanski may not find all is cheery: he is likely to be viewed in some quarters as another kind of O.J. Simpson, someone who in many circles will be shunned and whose name won’t be associated with the accomplishments that made him famous and respect, but with an image he will never be able to shake.
Polanski pleaded guilty in Los Angeles, California to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977 but fled to Europe before he was sentenced.
He was arrested in Switzerland last year and had been fighting extradition since then.
Switzerland was not making a decision about the severity of the charge or whether Polanski was guilty, Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said.
“It’s not about qualifying the crime. That is not our job. It’s also not about deciding over guilt or innocence,” she said.
The Swiss rejected the American request because the United States did not supply all the legal records Switzerland requested, and because Polanski had a reasonable right to think he would not be arrested if he visited the country, she said.
U.S. prosecutors cannot apply again to Switzerland to have Polanski sent there, she said, but could apply to other countries to detain and extradite him.
The Swiss mostly blamed US authorities for failing to provide confidential testimony about the film director’s sentencing procedure in 1977-1978.
…..Polanski’s lawyer said the director was still at his Swiss chalet in Gstaad, where he’s been under house arrest since December. Switzerland’s top justice official said he could now leave….
Approving extradition had seemed the likeliest scenario after Polanski was arrested in September as he arrived in Zurich to receive an award from a festival. Polanski had also suffered a series of legal setbacks this year in California courts.
Widmer-Schlumpf said the decision was not meant to excuse Polanski’s crime, saying the issue was “not about deciding whether he is guilty or not guilty”.
In the case, the Oscar-winning director ….had pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse.
What happened after that is a subject of dispute. The defence says the now deceased judge, Laurence J Rittenband, had agreed in meetings with attorneys to sentence Polanski to a 90-day diagnostic study and nothing more. The judge later changed his mind and summoned Polanski for further sentencing – at which time he fled to his native France, attorneys say.
–Great Britain’s Sky News:
The United States holds that Polanski, accused of raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977, must return to the country to serve his sentence.
Switzerland said it earlier requested U.S. court records — believed to contain a judge’s assurance that Polanski’s 42-day detention in a psychiatric unit in the 1970s represented the full term of his imprisonment — from the U.S. Justice Department, but the request was rejected.
Switzerland said in a statement that its decision to free Polanski was due to “persisting doubts” concerning his case.
—Time Magazine calls this a “shock” decision — and explains how Hollywood stars rallied behind him — and what this decision means:
Since September, an array of Hollywood stars have rallied around the filmmaker, including such A-list icons as Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese.
Such stars believe that the director was treated unfairly in 1977 when he was arrested and accused of having sex with an underage 13-year-old girl. Indicted on six counts – all felonies – including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy, Polanski pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse.
Most people involved in the case agree to the above part of the story. The contested version begins after the plea deal. Polanski’s legal team says judge Laurence J. Rittenband – now deceased – had originally agreed to sentence Polanski to a 90-day diagnostic study. But the judge later changed his mind and summoned Polanski for additional sentencing, at which point he fled Hollywood and America, never to return.
Swiss officials made no determination Monday as to the validity of the charges, or to Polanski’s claims of mistreatment: Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said the extradition hearing was ”not about deciding whether he is guilty or not guilty.”
Monday’s decision almost assures Polanski that he will avoid jail for the remainder of his life.
Specifically, the Swiss wanted to determine whether the 42 days Polanski already served in a Los Angeles jail would have been considered sufficient time served for having sex with a minor.
Also, Swiss authorities said the U.S. had known since 2006 that Polanski regularly visited Switzerland to stay in his chalet in Gstaad yet did not file any action against him until last year. That gave Polanski a reasonable expectation that Switzerland was a safe place for him to be.
“Roman Polanski would not have decided to go to the film festival in Zürich in September 2009 if he had not trusted that the journey would not entail any legal disadvantages for him,” the Swiss justice ministry said.
Swiss authorities allowed the director to leave prison and stay under house arrest while it considered his extradition. But because Polanski, as a foreign national, was judged a possible flight risk, he had to pay $4.5 million in bail and hand over all of his identification papers to the police.
On Dec. 4, 2009, Polanski was released from his prison cell to begin house arrest at the Milky Way, his three-story chalet in the luxurious resort town of Gstaad, in the Swiss Alps. He was reunited there with his wife and their two children.
…..He was, however, free to receive visitors. His most recent film, the political thriller “The Ghost Writer,” was completed and released during his period of house arrest.
But some will continue to ask: If Polanski was a gardner would there be an outcry among some who would call the original deal unjust, would Hollywood celebrities rally to his defense and some and argue that he was a resource to the world who should not be in jail because of his great gardening?
—Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey:
Let’s parse this a moment, shall we? The Swiss point to no fault in the request. In fact, they admit it was “thoroughly examined.” Instead of acting on an extradition request that admittedly had no apparent fault, the Swiss refused because it might have a fault. Somewhere.
What, are Swiss lawyers that incompetent? Are their jurists that unintelligent? By that standard, the entire legal system in Switzerland should be dismantled, its employees sent to remedial school, and perhaps the government should resign in favor of an absolute monarchy. Assuming, of course, that anyone with an IQ above 70 can be found to hold the office.
Of course, this is not the case. Switzerland just didn’t want to turn Polanski over to the US for fear of falling out of favor with the entertainment industry, and the EuroLeft that adores the child rapist Polanski. When they couldn’t come up with a good reason, they had to claim that the lack of a good reason was reason enough to reject the request.
If Switzerland likes child rapists so much, perhaps we should send them more of ours.
Because all good stories deserve a happy ending, Roman Polanski will not be extradited to the U.S by the Swiss government and instead will continue to live a life of luxury in Europe as a reward for drugging and raping a young girl in the 70s. Did I say happy back there? Because I meant soul-crushingly sad.
Granted, the judge and the LA district attorney botched this case 30 years ago with the plea bargaining shenanigans, we need to stay focused on the heart of the matter here: How many French Mel Gibson will kill when he reads this and inevitably flees the country. I’m guessing no less than 100 unless they really are the most fellatious country on the planet and he only has to burn down a McDonald’s.
There will be more on this (alas) as the day and week unfolds, and I imagine Vanity Fair or Rolling Stone or someone has an exclusive first interview already in the works.
….Better late than never, I guess, but I can’t imagine this is really just about some documents, particularly with those oddly worded official statements like “The freedom-restricting measures against him have been revoked” and caveats that the case was “not about deciding whether he is guilty or not guilty” making the rounds. Polanski remains in Gstaad for now. More to come here as events warrant, and as always, weigh in with your take below…
And so another child sex offender walks around free in the world. Amazing what dirty politics (and we’d wager a hefty bribe to the Switzerland government) can do!
Way to go, Swiss!
Many celebrities continued to support Roman Polanski: Woody Allen (no surprise there), Martin Scorsese, Penelope Cruz, Monica Bellucci, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Weinstein, and Whoopi Goldberg (who said on The View that what Polanski did “wasn’t rape-rape”). They and hundreds of others in Hollywood signed a petition for his release and rallied against his extradition to the U.S.
While Geimer and some of Hollywood were forgiving, others were not.
Celebrities who spoke out against Polanski and thought he should be punished for his crime include Kirstie Alley, Joy Behar, Luc Besson, Jamie Foxx, Jewel, Emma Thompson (who had originally signed the petition supporting him), Kevin Smith, and many more.
And in May of this year, Charlotte Lewis, a British actress, claimed that she was also sexually abused by director Roman Polanski in his Paris apartment when she was 16. She said Polanski abused her “in the worst possible way” sometime in the 1980s.
Lewis hired attorney Gloria Allred and met with Los Angeles prosecutors, saying she came forward because she heard that Polanski was fighting extradition to the United States and “that his legal team is portraying his previous offense against a minor as an isolated instance.”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Roman Polanski will be in L.A. any time soon.
Sadly, there’s nothing unusual in itself about a child rapist getting away with his crimes – the difference here is that the media deems the situation worthy of coverage…
(And writer Shelby Knox gives some examples, then:)
….The Polanski case is to rape apologists as standing water is to mosquitos. (Here’s a big flyswatter, courtesy Amanda Hess, with a point by point refutation of the most common Polanski defenses.) News outlets and blogs feel the need to gin up page views by debating the definition of rape, or it’s status as a crime in certain situations, or the believability of survivors, or whether extraordinary talent – whether it be in the arts or sports – negates one’s status as a rapist. In almost all cases, these conversations do nothing but prop up and propagate a rape culture – and those who initiate them in the mainstream media and on the internet should be held accountable for doing so. If you see this type of behavior, post it in the comments, tweet about it, write a letter to the station – one injustice should not breed hundreds more.
EDITOR’s NOTE: The headline inexplicably vanished on this post several minutes after it was put up. TMV regrets the technical glitch and is looking into it.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.