• Roman Polanski has managed to do the impossible. He has united feminist liberals, law & order conservatives, the American public, and even the French public. I haven’t seen this sort of consensus since 9/11.
  • When this all started, the picture (at least presented by the media) was a little bit different. It was presented as France/Europe vs. America, controversial, and a subject in which reasonable people disagreed vociferously. The Washington Post’s editorialists split in three different directions:
    • Obama-voting, right-leaning Anne Applebaum was outraged. She also declined to disclose that her husband is a Polish official seeking to set Polanski free.
    • Liberalish Richard Cohen wasn’t outraged but felt that Polanski should be set free.
    • Liberal Eugene Robinson was exasperated that anyone could defend him.
  • I find it fascinating (and a little depressing) how quickly the lines formed on this and the assumptions involved:
    • For people that recoil at American sexual puritanism, they immediately jumped to a number of conclusions, many of which demonstrably false (more on that later), that fit their narrative that this is a case of American exceptionalism in the face of a more enlightened foreign consensus.
    • Critics of Europe’s more liberal attitudes towards sex and of France in general immediately jumped to the conclusion that the French officials were speaking for the French people
    • Conservatives immediately accused “liberals” of defending Polanski, though few actually are.
  • The fury with which many in Europe leaped to Polanski’s defense was truly bizarre to me. It’s one thing to take Cohen’s squeamish stance at the prospect of arresting a 70-something year old man for something done 30+ years ago wherein even the victim doesn’t want this to drag out. I disagree with that, but I can understand it. It’s another to find the notion outrageous. And apparently in the opening hours, there really was a lot of concern among the French that this was American overreach, if this Bruce Crumley article is accurate.
  • Then, of course, things changed. Polls amongst the French showed a 2-to-1 majority believing that the arrest was legit. This leads me to believe one of two sets of things occurred:
    1. The people Bruce Crumley talked to were among the 30%. This is possible because he’s probably more likely to talk to the segment of the population more interested in the notion that the US is a Puritanical state that wants to punish sex. It’s also possible that Crumley himself (not only a heathen journalist, but one who got posted in France!) acribes to this mentality and so he projected his own views onto the French people or otherwise sought out sympathetic tongues.
    2. More likely, though, is that before the facts came rolling in, assumptions were made about the facts of the case. That it happened at a party. That the girl consented. That Polanski didn’t have reason to know how old she was. Also along these lines is the possibility that they were simply lied to by people that pretended to know more about the case than they did or knowingly spread false information.
  • I’m inclined to believe the latter explanation because the vast majority of the early pushback against the arrest seemed to be rooted in misinformation and not of the debatable kind. A lot of comments about how everybody agrees it was consensual (which is not true). Comments about how she lied about her age (which nobody is alleging). Comments about how the arrest is illegal due to statutes of limitations (which do not apply). That what he did was only illegal because it was in the puritanical US (very untrue). I see a lot fewer of those comments more recently and more comments on the defenses of Polanski that hold more merit (judicial misconduct, that Polanski is no longer a threat to anyone, and that the victim wants this to all just go away).
  • The illegality, and indeed immorality, of what Polanski did should be pretty obvious to everyone. Sex with a 13 year old, consensual or not, is illegal in California and the US and almost all of Europe. It not only runs against American law and European law, it runs afoul of Gannon’s worldview. And that’s not even considering the allegations of coersion. I’m a critic of American AOC laws, but I can’t imagine a regime that I would support that would let a 44 year old male have sex with a 13 year old female. And even to the extent that she did consent and even if she had wanted it because she was starstruck or wanted to further her career, there is almost no scenario in which I can see Polanski taking advantage that in any way that isn’t pretty immoral.
  • I’ve seen some try to question the timing of the arrest. It’s all pretty straightforward in my mind: The Zurich Film Festival people stupidly (and helpfully for the authorities!) advertised where he was going to be well in advance. And this time the authorities were able to keep hush-hush enough about it to keep from scaring Polanski away. I’m not even sure what that accusation is supposed to mean in terms of nefariousness. The documentary came out a year ago and as far as I know there’s no new big, giant scandal sweeping the LA DA’s office. It reminds me a little bit of the late 90’s when conservatives attempted to attach each and every foreign policy decision that Clinton made to a Wag the Dog trick. It wasn’t hard because there was always some scandal going on any time Clinton sent our boys (and girls) into action.
  • Kudos to Kevin Smith for being an early Hollywood voice against giving Polanski a pass.
  • Chris Rock: “People are defending Roman Polanski because he made good movies 30 years ago? Are you kidding me? Even Johnny Cochran didn’t have the nerve to go, ‘Well did you see OJ play against New England?’”
  • There seems to be some confusion of the ultimate significance of the alleged wrongdoing by the LA District Attorney’s office and the judge in the case. That’s the issue that most of Polanski’s remaining defenders (outside of Hollywood) are hanging their hat on. It seems to me that there are three ways this could go:
    1. The complaint is thrown out, the plea upheld but not the deal, and the new judge gets discretion over what the sentence should be. This is what a lot of Polanski-bashers are hoping for (and seem a little too optimistic about). This would certainly be a worst-case scenario for Polanski.
    2. The new judge determines that the old judge screwed up, but that the plea and the original deal both stand. This would mean that Polanski gets Time Served and does no more time for the statutory rape offense. However, there would still be the fleeing of the jurisdiction and that could lead to some jail time.
    3. The plea and the deal are both thrown out. Polanski is then free to enter a Not Guilty plea. This is a best-case scenario for Polanski. The victim is uncooperative and the mere threat of forcing her to testify could easily be enough to scare prosecutors out of prosecuting entirely and would certainly make them more amenable to a sweet deal that would have Polanski roaming the streets of LA relatively soon as if he hadn’t done a thing.
  • In the event that the guilty plea is thrown out, I would oppose bringing the victim back to California to testify. It’s one thing to ignore the victim’s wishes when nothing is required of her (which would likely be the case if the guilty plea stands), but it’s another to ignore the wishes of the victim and force her to fly to LA and relive the experiences that she has so successfully moved beyond. I want to see Polanski face a penalty for what he’s done, but not at that expense of the victim. I would hope that they could still get Polanski for fleeing the jurisdiction.
  • If the underlying charges against someone are dismissed, can he still go to jail for fleeing the country? I’m pretty sure he can. This is sort of a can of worms, I guess. In the case of an innocent man fleeing the jurisdiction and having his innocence proven, I would not favor prosecution for fleeing. If the charges are dropped due to insufficient evidence, though, that’s a dicier proposition. Another factor is if there was official misconduct alleged. In other words, if a guy happens to be at the wrong end of the circumstantial evidence stick and flees, I have less sympathy than the guy that is being actively framed by the authorities. Of course, this is further complicated by the fact that there is official misconduct alleged. This isn’t the kind I had in mind, though. But it’s hard to parse these distinctions without doing so on a case-by-case basis.
  • Mostly, though, I want the judge to follow the law. I think that so many people discussing this case are so intent on arguing what the law should be in this case that they’re losing sight of the fact that laws exist beyond this case. If the law says that Polanski should be set free, then he should be set free. If the law says that his skipping town significantly reduces the number of his legal options, then his parents’ death in the Holocaust shouldn’t change that. If he is let go, I will not be outraged, though I will want a good explanation. Then, if the explanation is rooted in “Poor old frail guy doesn’t deserve punishment in light of his dark history and his contributions to the arts”, then I’ll be outraged.
  • Some of you are probably aware that Poland, when not fighting vigorously for leniency with Polanski, aims to force chemical castration on pedophiles. For those of you that wonder: Yes, Polanski’s crime would apply as the victim was under 15.
  • On a positive note, I’ve been very pleased to see jokes about Polanski and prison rape kept to a minimum. Prison rape is unacceptable and not funny regardless of who the victim is.

Category: Courthouse, Newsroom

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6 Responses to The Captured Roman

  1. Peter says:

    One minor correction: Polanski’s mother died in the Holocaust, but his father did not, in fact he died only about 25 years ago.

    The petition signed by many film industry notables brings up an interesting concept, namely that there should be a form of diplomatic immunity given to industry people who travel to other countries to attend film festivals. Switzerland therefore should have refused to take Polanski into custody notwithstanding its extradition agreement with the United States because Polanski was there for a film festival. It’s rather hard to imagine this line of reasoning being taken too seriously outside the industry.

  2. web says:

    Slate had an absolutely delicious take-down of the “petition” all those hollyweirdos signed on Polanski’s behalf. They seem to have taken it down/retracted it but there are still mirrors of it.

    The Polanski kerfluffle has also shown the double standard held by a lot of people. Imagine this had been a right-wing director, or someone else. Would Whoopi Goldberg really have been this disingenuous in her defense? Moreover, how can she actually think this defense has any validity?

  3. john says:

    “I can’t imagine a regime that I would support that would let a 44 year old male have sex with a 13 year old female.”

    Let’s see if you’re still singing that tune when you hit 44…

    And in defense of Whoopi, she may have been disingenuous but she wasn’t disingenuous-disingenuous.

  4. trumwill says:

    Well, considering that I’m in my lower thirties and can’t imagine supporting a regime where men in their lower thirties can have sex with thirteen year olds, I don’t think that’s something my view is going to change on. In fact, I think my views have shifted more in the other direction. At 25 I had a much better idea of why it was a bad idea for 25 year olds to sleep with 15 year olds than I did when I was 15!

  5. Barry says:

    I’m not sure it’s a good idea in any situation not to prosecute someone for fleeing jurisdiction – innocent, framed, circumstancial evidence or not.

    While I might be persuaded on the merits of an individual case for a judge to hand down a more lenient sentence, regardless of whether you have actually committed a crime once arrested, put through the system and then released either on bond or your own recognizance, you are now bound by the laws of the land on where your movements take you. That’s in place for everyone, not just the guilty-as-sin, but for everyone because as we’ve seen with Polanski justice is not fully served and the people satisfied when a case is not fully closed.

    If you are actually innocent and feel for whatever circumstances you may actually be convicted of a crime you might consider taking the risk and fleeing – figuring whatever penalty you might tack on to the original sentence is sufficient to take the chance of not going to jail in the first place, but you should still be on the hook for it. And again, as I said if you know you are innocent and are confident you’re the victim of a huge frame-up job, or your family is in jeopardy, or it’s a political persecution it’s possibly the judge could be lenient in a sentence for fleeing. But the charges and guilt for it should still stand.

  6. Kirk says:

    I wonder if he went a bit bonkers after the Manson family murdered his wife.

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