The Sordidness of Polanski's Crime Justifies U.S. Adjudication

Thursday, October 1, 2009

FIRST, THERE was: "He's a brilliant guy, and he made a little mistake 32 years ago." Next came: "Whatever you think about the so-called crime . . . it is a shocking way to treat such a man." And, then: "I know it wasn't rape-rape. It was something else, but I don't believe it was rape-rape."

Roman Polanski's apologists -- as typified by the comments of Swiss filmmaker Otto Weisser, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, film and TV celebrity Whoopi Goldberg -- don't let basic facts, or even simple decency for that matter, get in the way of their defense of this notorious director. Ever since Mr. Polanski's arrest Saturday in Switzerland on a fugitive warrant in a case involving sex with a 13-year-old girl, a number of Hollywood luminaries -- Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, David Lynch, to name but a few -- are demanding his release. This follows the equally misguided defense of Mr. Polanski by European political and cultural authorities. Thankfully, a backlash is developing, fueled by the public getting a clear understanding of Mr. Polanski's sordid crime and his cowardice in evading justice.

What matters is not that Mr. Polanski is 76 or that he has a talent for filmmaking or that his own life has been filled with unspeakable horrors or that the case is decades old. It doesn't even matter that his underage victim, now grown up, forgives him. What matters is that this man admitted to having sex with a 13-year-old whose undisputed testimony details how he gave her champagne and Quaaludes, got her naked in a hot tub and wouldn't listen as she -- terrified -- said no. He was originally charged with sodomy and rape but agreed to plead to a lesser offense. He jumped bail and fled the country out of fear the judge would give him more prison time than the paltry 42 days supposedly promised by prosecutors. He has been living with impunity and in luxury ever since.

Much has been made of the delay by California authorities in seeking his extradition. Not only is that beside the point, but it seems that Mr. Polanski may have had a hand in renewing interest in his case by trying to get it dismissed, citing concerns aired in a 2008 documentary about judicial and prosecutorial misconduct. If, as his supporters so vehemently argue, his claims are legitimate, we would think he would not fight extradition but return to California to make his case in a proper court -- not the gauzy one of celebrity opinion.

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