September 27, 2009

In case you missed it, the big news this morning was the arrest of Roman Polanski in Switzerland on thirty-year old charges of drugging and raping a 13-year old girl, the facts of which he has never contested. Or, as Jerralyn Merritt puts it:
The Swiss have arrested Roman Polanski on an outstanding warrant from California relating to his 1977 prosecution on a sexual assault charge. They were laying in wait, as they knew Polanski, who had always been allowed to freely travel to the country, was en route to accept an international film award. (citation omitted)

France is outraged. So am I. Polanski has lived in France since fleeing the U.S. in 1978 after the Judge, at the behest of a prosecutor not involved in the case, re-negged on a plea deal and was going to sentence Polanski to prison instead of the agreed upon time served in exchange for his guilty plea.
Ms. Merritt has been very important to this blog in the past, enabling me to have access to a much wider audience, but she's wrong about this. I, too, am outraged, but more over the fact that L.A. prosecutors in the late-70's had so little concern about enforcing the laws prohibiting rape and pedophilia that they actually thought they could get away with offering the director a plea deal that didn't involve a substantial amount of time in prison. It's no wonder the victim would rather not have to go through this whole thing again; the first time round she clearly did not have the support of those whose job it was to enforce the law. It turns out that the only person who acted heroically in this matter was the publicity-whore judge (who, being dead, can't defend himself from the recent attacks) who in the end wouldn't give Polanski a slap on the wrist.

Let's look at this another way. If a non-famous person was to drug and rape a woman of your acquaintance, you would be properly angry and outraged. You would rightly anticipate that if the authorities caught the assailant, he would get something more than a suspended sentence, and you would probably be right. Then realize that the victim in this case was younger than Dakota Fanning, and just a few years older than President Obama's daughters are now. Certainly, someone without the notoriety of Polanski should expect the judicial system to come down hard, and like the non-famous people who meet up with Chris Hansen on Dateline NBC, who have committed the less-serious offense of having only attempted to have sex with a minor, would probably see jail time.

It is very unlikely that a non-famous person who drugged and raped a thirteen-year old girl would be lionized in France, defended as a political refugee and allowed to travel throughout Europe for thirty years. Polanski has had many tragedies in his life, from losing parents at Auschwitz to seeing his pregnant wife murdered. But most people who had parents die in concentration camps don't go on to drug and rape thirteen year old girls. There were at least six other victims of the Manson Family, all of whom had people who loved them, but as far as I can tell, no one else has tried to parlay that into avoiding a prison sentence for a serious felony. And considering Polanski's other amorous encounters with teenage girls, such as the fifteen-year old Nastassia Kinski