What Polanski Deserves
By Eugene Robinson
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Hasn't Roman Polanski suffered enough? Didn't he endure all those cool, gray, rainy Paris winters? Wasn't he forced -- well, not forced, but strongly enticed -- to subsist all those years on overpriced fare served up by haughty waiters in Michelin-starred restaurants? Didn't he survive for decades having his vacation options limited, essentially, to the grim monotony of the South of France?
I've got a better question: Shouldn't Polanski and his many apologists give us a break?
I'm a huge fan of Polanski's work. "Chinatown" is one of my favorite movies of all time, "Rosemary's Baby" is a masterpiece, and he richly deserved the Oscar he won as best director for "The Pianist." He's a great artist. Maybe his next film will be a prison movie.
Brilliant auteur or no, Polanski has been a fugitive from U.S. justice since 1978. And there was certainly no artistic merit in the crime he acknowledged committing: During a photo shoot at the Los Angeles home of his friend and "Chinatown" star Jack Nicholson, Polanski plied a 13-year-old girl with champagne and drugs and had sex with her.
That is grotesque. In general, I agree with the European view that Americans tend to be prudish and hypocritical about sex. But a grown man drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl? That's not remotely a close call. It's wrong in any moral universe -- and deserves harsher punishment than three decades of gilded exile.
Polanski went on the lam after pleading guilty to the crime. He had a deal with prosecutors under which he would essentially walk out of the courtroom a free man -- he had spent 42 days in prison undergoing psychiatric evaluation, and the arrangement was that he would be sentenced to time served. But Polanski got wind that the judge in the case, said to be something of a publicity hound, was going to refuse to honor the plea bargain and instead impose a prison term. So the director skipped town and surfaced in France, where authorities ruled that his crime wasn't covered by extradition treaties with the United States.
He was arrested Sunday in Zurich, where he had traveled to accept an award -- and where the extradition treaty does cover his crime. Assuming that Polanski puts up a legal fight, it could be months or even years before he is sent back to the United States.
The Justice Department was right to have Polanski nabbed at the Zurich airport and should pursue the case to the end. We've waited this long; we can wait a little longer.
Polanski has dual French-Polish citizenship, and officials in Paris and Warsaw are outraged. Which makes me outraged. What's their beef? That Polanski is 76? That he makes great movies? That he only fled to escape what might well have been an unjust sentence? Sorry, mes amis, but none of this matters. If you decide to become a fugitive, you accept the risk that someday you might get caught.
Much has been made of the fact that Polanski's victim, now 45, has said she no longer feels any anger toward him and does not want to see him jailed. But it's irrelevant what the victim thinks and feels as a grown woman. What's important is what she thought and felt at age 13, when the crime was committed. Those who argue that there's something unjust about Polanski's arrest are essentially accepting his argument that it's possible for a 13-year-old girl, under the influence of alcohol and drugs, to "consent" to sex with a man in his 40s. Or maybe his defenders are saying that drugging and raping a child is simply not such a big deal.
As far as I'm concerned, it's a huge deal. Even in France, it should be a big deal. This isn't about a genius who is being hounded for flouting society's hidebound conventions. It's about a rich and powerful man who used his fame and position to assault -- in every sense, to violate -- an innocent child.
And it's about a man who ran away rather than face the consequences of his actions. Before any sentence could be imposed, he absconded like a weasel to live a princely life in France.
That's the sort of protagonist, a great director like Polanski must realize, who doesn't deserve a happy ending.
The writer will be online to chat with readers at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/con鈥?/a>|||based on what i've read about this story (him, a 43 yr old man, giving drugs and alcohol to a 13 yr old girl and having sex with her), i'm not a judge or lawyer but where i'm from thats called rape.
whether she said no or yes (and she allegedly said no) is besides the point because a 13yr old cannot conscent to sex with anyone,
i'm curious about one thing in this whole case... why was this 13 yr old alone with roman polanski? where were her parents? did she know him and why was she allowed to go anywhere with him, alone?|||he should be brought to justice.he is a perv,
he done the crime.
he should do the time.|||Once you run from justice here in America, There is always a Cop that wants to get his man..|||Regardless of what I feel about what he did - he fled the jurisdiction. He should pay the original penalty and something for fleeing the jurisdiction too.
I don't care what he has done since. What is the point of having law if you can ignore it and eventually flaunt ignoring it?
I feel that his escapade has done a huge amount of damage to the judicial system's credibility, and that, despite the victim's protestations, it needs to be addressed.
Sure, I feel for the victim.
But the judiciary affects us all.|||Congratulations. Very well said. You're eloquence is admirable. Polanski is and did all that and should now face the music. But i have a suspicion: He evaded arrest for all these years. Protected by nonexistent extradition laws. I would think that he would be an expert in his evasion tactics. What happened? He just trotted off to Zurich and forgot his tactics? I think not. I suspect that he's probably a very sick (medically) man and he wants to clear his name prior to leaving us. Possibly. Or there has to be some reason for all this. All those years. It's not like he was just one step ahead of the law. The authorities weren't 'just around the bend', in hot pursuit. No. None of that. There has to be a reason. Our American justice system doesn't work like that. Anyone with power and money can and has gotten away with all kinds of heinous crimes. Polanski will be no exception. Too bad. But again, thanks for your great comments. It's text book/reality "right on the mark". Good Luck.|||It's enough to say that Roman Polanski was going to be caught one of these days to be brought back to the U.S. to face the charges that are more than 30 years old. Don't get me wrong he's a wonderful filmmaker %26amp; has gotten lots of praises %26amp; accolades over the years with his works in film, including an Oscar for Best Director in "The Pianist",
but this is a man who's been a fugitive from justice for all these years who's been thumbing his nose at the system %26amp; enjoying solitude in his native France. Now he sits in a Swiss jail ready to fight extradiction back to the United States because he doesn't want to spend any time longer behind bars in a California prison, but if he only had an open mind %26amp; took care of this matter years ago, he wouldn't be in a legal he's in today. It's only a matter of time until the Swiss courts decide to send him back to Los Angeles %26amp; to the courts to resolve this matter that has been a black eye to both sides for over three decades.|||He is a child molester, but what is even more gross are the parents who cater to a child molester providing their own children. They should pay for the crime as well. I think the law should have acted on this immediately and it should have been over with by now, especially since it was allegedly consensual....but by whom, was it consensual, the parents? Very sick case but not as rare as some may think.|||Listen, I'm not condoning what Polanski did, but it would be very easy to draw comparisons between his situation and that of Michael Jackson. Of course, MJ wasn't found guilty of the charges against him, sexually molesting under-aged boys even younger than 13. But, O.J. Simpson wasn't found guilty either.
Now that MJ is dead (R.I.P.), he is evidently forgiven. Of course, MJ was a huge talent, loved by many...Roman Polanski, not as much.
I guess my point is: Is Polanski any more of a perv or any guiltier than MJ seems to have been, regardless of the verdict in a court of law? Was O.J. innocent, too?