The Roman Polanski story has certainly gotten interesting. Well, actually, the story is still only mildly interesting, but the discussion about it has developed in interesting ways. So, I thought I’d muddy the waters by throwing in a few thoughts.


This is one of those situations where people have started judging each other on their opinions. Don’t even think about doing that with me. I have not actually formulated an opinion so you’d be wasting your time and mine. The LA authorities, Polanski’s lawyers, none of those involved, have contacted me about my opinion, and I’m not influencing any legislative bodies that might change laws owing to the particulars of this case. And until the Governor of California calls me and asks my opinion, that’s how it is going to stay.

Observations
It seems to me that this is what happened:

1) A rape happened. Exactly what happened and who-all is responsible for letting it happen is still up in the air, but Polanski is the perp, it was almost certainly not statutory, and there was a real victim. Did the 13-year old “let” herself be in an out of control situation? Maybe, but while that may be a lesson to all 13 year old would be stars, it does not affect the responsibility of the others involved. Did the 13-year old’s mother drop the ball on this? In retrospect it is hard to see how she didn’t, but we don’t know for sure. Just how far along the spectrum of totally inappropriate sex to forced sodomy did this event fall? That we may never know, because although there is very damning grand jury testimony, the facts of the case were never tried before a jury. But, each person is certainly welcome to form an opinion on this based on the grand jury testimony.

2) Polanski skipped out before sentencing and has used his wealth and privilege to lead a fairly remarkable, productive, and happy life. At least he looks happy.

3) The film industry and all those involved … including every person who reads this blog and loves to watch the Academy Awards shows … has been compliant in ignoring the fact that one of the top directors walked away from an admission of guilt very much related to his professional activities. I think this may be something not noted by other commenters. Polanski’s crime was not just a crime against a particular victim, it was also a crime committed in the context of his professional activities. For either reason, and certainly for both reasons combined, the sorts of questions being asked now should probably have been asked more often and more forcefully all along.

Imagine a person who does NIH funded research stealing a $2,000 TV from Best Buy. He gets caught, convicted, pays is debt to society, and two years later, someone reviewing his grant says “No, he can’t have this grant because he stole a TV from Best Buy.” That would be a hard argument to justify. It is not the role of each and every person to re-judge, re-convict, re-sentence, and re-punish others on a whim.

On the other and, if the same hypothetical person had bought the TV with NIH grant money, subsequent denials of funding may be quite justified, unless the NIH itself came to some conclusion and determined the matter to be history.

Polanski, based on his own admission, carried out classic “casting couch” coercion, and if we take the grand jury testimony at face value (always a questionable thing to do) he carried out a felonious, abhorrent act using his position of power as a director. Subsequent to this, it may have been wrong for The Academy to consider submissions of his films as best picture or best director nominees.

4) But it is still a complicated story, and made more complicated by the contrasting time frames of “then” and “now” which represent real differences in the way sex crimes are perceived and treated, and how victims are treated. I’m not sure, but I’m pretty certain that the phrase “What part of ‘no’ do you not understand” in relation to male sexual aggressiveness, as reflective or symbolic of changing attitudes, post dates Polanski’s crime. There really may be a “then” vs. “now” phenomenon happening here, that substantively affects every aspect of the current situation. (Stephanie Zvan, on the comment thread cited above, noted that the shift towards focus on and concern with child pornography post dates the Polanski affair.)

The victim was willing, even eager, to arrange a plea bargain, largely because the treatment of her by investigators and the press was appallingly bad (or so it seems). Therefore, there ended up being very little relationship between the charges against Polanski and what actually happened. The latter is pretty common … the official record of convictions in American criminal courts bears almost no resemblance to the pattern of criminal activity those courts supposedly address. The former … the bad treatment of the victim … is surely still something that happens, but there are huge differences in at least what is supposed to happen now as opposed to the 1970s.

This disconnect is actually at the heart of the matter. Had this case been tried today, it is unlikely that a bargain quite like this would have been struck. Pleas are routine, and very high-level felonies are commonly pled way down when there is not an actual victim, but where there is a victim, this would be unusual.

5) There was almost no relationship between the nature of the crime and the plea, but also, there was little relationship between the plea and the judge’s behavior. By all accounts, the judge acted in a very unprofessional manner. It has been claimed that the prosecuting attorney remarked that it was not surprising that Polanski skipped town before sentencing given what the judge had said in out-of-court contexts.

Discussion
As we look at the situation now, with Polanski facing extradition to the US from Switzerland, much of the discussion seems to ignore the fact that a lot has changed in 30 years, especially with respect to sex crimes. Had the treatment of victims then been what it is like now, it is likely that Polanski would have faced more serious charges that were more in line with what (apparently) actually happened. Had the prosecutors been more professional, and certainly, the judge not been a publicity hound and (it would seem) more than a little whacked out, Polanski would have received a trial that would have ended in reasonable certainty about what happened, or the plea would have reflected reality more closely.

We can look at the grand jury testimony today and conclude whatever we like, but grand juries don’t convict people for a reason. A post-grand jury conviction without a trial would be a very serious breech of someone’s rights. Who knows what would have happened in a fair trial process? Grand juries are staged by prosecutors. As with all testimony, there is a strong potential for the witness to be prepped, and in a grand jury, there is no cross examination. Grand juries are given great powers to investigate but no powers to convict because the former so easily obviate due process. When I read the grand jury testimony in this case, I feel reasonably comfortable coming up with an opinion, which I won’t give you, about what happened. But then I remember how often my grandmother, who could not hear, was asked to serve on the grand jury with all her other friends who could not hear. But they could nod. And they all thought the prosecutor was a nice man and hansom too.

Even given differences in the reality of how sex crimes were handled “back then” vs now, Polanski seems to have behaved very badly and to have truly victimized this young girl. Since he never stood trial for that, however, we are only guessing today, but probably with some degree of confidence. If Polanski raped the girl, that would be his biggest crime, but the crime for which he copped was not as severe, and maybe not, to some, as severe as the crime of skipping town (this is a philosophically difficult question).

I have to admit, I’ve not been a huge fan of his movies.

My Opinion
Post Script: OK, at the beginning I said I don’t have an opinion. Maybe I do, and maybe I’ll tell you what it is.

The criminal justice system failed the young girl by not treating her like a presumed victim of a sexual assault should be treated. This led to the easy way out for her being a significantly reduced charge for Polanski. If he really was guilty of that for which he was convicted in the plea (and nothing else) he probably had an excellent case for whatever abuse he would have suffered by the hands of the judge, if things turned out like some say they would have. If, on the other hand, the judge was passing out a sentence commensurate with the crime Polanski is presumed to have committed (but was not convicted for) then the same criminal justice system that failed the victim also failed Polanski.

Those who insist on convicting Polanski in the court of public opinion based on the released grand jury testimony do not know much about grand juries. Note: A grand jury has never sent anyone to jail. They can’t because they do not represent due process. An indictment that comes from such a proceeding is not a conviction. In my opinion, the girl was truly raped by Polanski. But that is no more than a guess. She was probably raped, but, in fact, the criminal justice system says otherwise. So, perhaps the criminal justice system failed yet again in this regard as well.

Comments

  1. #1 Jeremy
    September 30, 2009

    Well said regarding your opinion.

    The thing that irks me the most about this is the reaction of people in the movie business, thinking that for some reason Polanski shouldn’t be brought to justice.

    His abilities as a director should play no role in the decision to extradite and prosecute or not.

  2. #2 Jon
    September 30, 2009

    The only thing we should be discussing is that he plead guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor and that he then fled the United States. Everything else is irrelevant.

  3. #3 MarkW
    September 30, 2009

    Given the relentless way the US authorities have pursued Gary McKinnon, there are few of us from this side of the Pond left with much respect for American justice in general, and extradition in particular.

    The immediate questions raised by Polanski’s arrest are cui bono? And why now?

  4. #4 Stephanie Z
    September 30, 2009

    Mark, the why now part is simple. Polanski set the time. This has been pursued for a very long time. This time around, he happened to follow his travel plans even after the extradition process was set in motion. Previously he hasn’t.

    Greg, I think you underestimate the masochism of the film industry. There is almost a fetish for working with directors who are terribly abusive if the end result is art. See Nicole Kidman working with whatshisname a few years back.

  5. #5 José
    September 30, 2009

    I think this may be something not noted by other commenters.

    It’s been noted, but only by people who seem to think it favors Polanski’s position.

  6. #6 jay
    September 30, 2009

    Interesting take on this from someone of the “pox on both their houses” camp who feels this is being elevated to a culture war.

    http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/7464/

  7. #7 LightningRose
    September 30, 2009

    As much as I abhor the crime to which Polanski confessed, I abhor judicial malfeasance far, far, more.

    All charges against Polanski should be dropped.

  8. #8 mk
    September 30, 2009

    Throughout the entire blogosphere and newspapers/magazine op-eds included… this post is the most reasonable I’ve been privileged to read.

    Thanks.

  9. #9 Andrew
    September 30, 2009

    It is very common for a felony to be copped down and then dropped for procedural reasons. One of the more interesting examples is to plea down the felony and have reduced time, and then have the sentence thrown out because there is no time for the (plead to) crime. That last step happens later when few are paying attention.

  10. #10 skepville
    September 30, 2009

    Trying to understand your points:
    Polanski had reason to fear that he would be punished with a sentence above the level of the crime he had plead guilty to.

    1. Did judges in California in the 70s have that much discretion?

    2. If the judge could have in some way set aside the plea deal, wouldn’t that imply bringing the case to trial?

    3. If the judge truly was a whack job, and succeeded in imposing an onerous (in relation to the crime pleaded) penalty, isn’t it likely that Polanski’s lawyers could have appealed, or otherwise challenged the ruling?

    It’s obvious from my questions I know very little about the law. but the argument that Polanski might have suffered from a miscarriage of justice, according to the severity of his pleaded crime, if he hadn’t run doesn’t really persuade me.

  11. #11 Kammy
    September 30, 2009

    “As much as I abhor the crime to which Polanski confessed, I abhor judicial malfeasance far, far, more.

    All charges against Polanski should be dropped.”

    Judicial malfeasance has hardly been proven. He would have had the opportunity to prove that, had he not fled the justice system. If he is extradited, he will once again have the opportunity to prove that, and it will be taken into consideration on the matter of the charges being dropped or possible sentencing.

  12. #12 Enoch
    September 30, 2009

    Jay: “Should the film director Roman Polanski be extradited to the US over his statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles in March 1977?” puts the commentator on thin ice right there. He is mixing up the facts.

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    September 30, 2009

    mk: That is because I refused to express an opinion!

  14. #14 Greg Laden
    September 30, 2009

    What Kammy said .

  15. #15 Greg Laden
    September 30, 2009

    Skep:

    I’ll take a stab at your questions.

    1) I don’t know but I think they do now, and have less now then then, generally.

    2) Not necessarily. A plea deal is a contract that binds the accused but not the state. At least, the one’s I’ve read seem to be such.

    3) I would have thought yes, and that is what should have happened, in my opinion. If I had an opinion.

    To mitigate, though, consider the possibility that Polanski may have had good reasons to be paranoid. Not to excuse, but to explain. In the medium term one would think that he would not ultimately have suffered from a miscarriage of justice. That does not mean that the criminal justice system wasn’t failing him … but I agree that if the judge really did behave in the end in a whacked out manner that a lawyered-up guy like Polanski could have handled, maybe even exploited that.

  16. #16 lawguy
    September 30, 2009

    I’d have to agree with most of what you say. One of the issues is that back then there was a legal fiction, usually, that there hadn’t been a deal reached and everybody agreed to that on the record even though a deal had been reached. Then you go on though out the shadow game and the end result is what was agreed to. So until the very last moment the judge could renege on that deal and there really wasn’t much you could do. An appeals court would look at the record and say you said on the record. What could be argued, “No we all lied on the record?”

  17. #17 Comrade PhysioProf
    September 30, 2009

    Throughout the entire blogosphere and newspapers/magazine op-eds included… this post is the most reasonable I’ve been privileged to read.

    I think mine is pretty reasonable, too, although more limited in scope:

    http://physioprof.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/polanskis-suffering-of-indignities/

  18. #18 zed
    September 30, 2009

    Given the relentless way the US authorities have pursued Gary McKinnon, there are few of us from this side of the Pond left with much respect for American justice in general, and extradition in particular.

    And Mr. McKinnon wasn’t even famous. So much for the claim that Polanski is only being pursued this doggedly because he was famous.

    The McKinnon example supports the viewpoint that Polanski is getting the same treatment anyone else would.

  19. #19 skepville
    September 30, 2009

    @lawguy – Wow, didn’t know that. This is making my head hurt.

    But…here we are now. Can’t see many other options besides moving ahead with the prosecution. I feel that we, as a society, need to see this played out to bring some sort of resolution. Even the OJ trial brought a kind of resolution, which is one of the goals of our justice system.

  20. #20 JefFlyingV
    September 30, 2009

    Do we as a society:
    …ignore statutory rape laws?
    …age of consent laws?
    …contributing to minors laws?
    …pandering laws?
    …a great director’s abuse of an underage girl?
    …30 years in time?
    Seems similar exscuses can be used to not prosecute for any number of crimes.

  21. #21 sailor
    September 30, 2009

    Greg makes excellent points, especially that society did not judge these things in quite the same way then as today (no pedophile lists as far as I know).
    I would ask what mother would let her 13 year old go for that kind of shoot with than kind of man without demanding she came along? Even back then that seems like a serious error in judgment.
    Another point that worries me a little is what is the motivation for extradition now? Is is some DA looking for a big splash of publicity so he can run for political office, or is someone seriously worried about justice?
    I think that the victim does not want this proceded with should be a consideration (but not necessarily the only or a major consideration). She certainly seems to have got a rough deal from the investigators the first time round, and probably deserves a little peace.
    Apart from that I rally have no big feelings either way. However, I wish the huge feeling of “get the scumbag” that came up in comments would also apply to all those priests and others who often did much worse (i.e physical brutality combined with male rape, and then the blame laid on the victim), mainly in Ireland, and who were never even named as part of a deal between the church and the government.

  22. #22 Adela
    September 30, 2009

    “do not know much about grand juries”

    We can blame Law&Order shows for that which makes it look like the grand jury is higher level court trial. The wiki on what they really are is interesting.

  23. #23 Enoch
    September 30, 2009

    It is my understanding that the prosecutors are wrangling up Polanski now because the recent documentary made them look like fools. Prosecutors are most famous for their tactics of revenge.

  24. #24 D. C. Sessions
    September 30, 2009

    If he is extradited, he will once again have the opportunity to prove that

    I’m not so sure of that. There’s a time limit on appeals, and it’s a lot less than 30 years.

    If he’d stuck around, sure, he could have appealed and he had enough money to have stayed out of prison while the appeal was pending. As it is, he took his chances with an extrajudicial strategy, and it sorta-kinda worked. IANAL, but I don’t think he’s legally entitled to a second bite at the apple.

  25. #25 Stephanie Z
    September 30, 2009

    Really, Enoch? They’re telling people this, or that’s what you’d like to think? And how many of the original prosecutors are still working there 30+ years later?

  26. #26 Enoch
    September 30, 2009

    Yes really Stephanie. This was mentioned by someone from the Washington Post on NPR an hour ago. It is not the same prosecutor, and that is not the point. It is more like a fraternity of prosecutors. As is also the same witdh the police, if they are embarassed or made to look weak, they tend to strike out.

  27. #27 José
    September 30, 2009

    I would ask what mother would let her 13 year old go for that kind of shoot with than kind of man without demanding she came along?

    Yes. What kind of mother would let a highly respected, world famous photographer/director, take her daughter on a photo shoot. You say “that kind of man” but you already know the outcome. It’s not that I don’t think the mother bears some responsibility, but I don’t think it was that obvious of a mistake.

  28. #28 KeithB
    September 30, 2009

    I read on oped in the LA Times many, many years ago that came from the victim (IIRC). She stated was that the reason Polanski fled was because the original plea was to involve no jail time, but the Judge refused that deal and wanted Polanski to serve some time, so he fled.

  29. #29 Stephanie Z
    September 30, 2009

    Enoch, are you talking about Talk of the Nation’s “Roman Polanski Opinion Roundup”? The opinion of even a reporter (if said person wasn’t a columnist instead) is not the same thing as reporting of fact. I can’t listen from here, so I’ll ask again. Are the prosecutors telling people they’re after revenge?

  30. #30 Enoch
    September 30, 2009

    Stephanie Z: You should ask me about something I said not something you think I said. Again.

    No, the prosecutors were not being interviewed on NPR. This was the opinion of a talking head of some kind. It is more like a fraternity of prosecutors. As is also the same witdh the police, if they are embarrassed or made to look weak, they tend to strike out.

  31. #31 Kammy
    September 30, 2009

    “I’m not so sure of that. There’s a time limit on appeals, and it’s a lot less than 30 years.”

    Well, he’s the one responsible for letting the time run out on his appeal then. A poor choice, and another consequence of his actions for him to be made to deal with.

  32. #32 Stephanie Z
    September 30, 2009

    Enoch, this is what you said:

    It is my understanding that the prosecutors are wrangling up Polanski now because the recent documentary made them look like fools.

    I’m pointing out that you heard the opinion of one person and presented it here as a description of the situation rather than as your opinion. You’re perfectly entitled to that opinion, but it’s worth pointing out that you’re not privy to any more information on the situation than any of the rest of us. So I did.

  33. #33 D. C. Sessions
    September 30, 2009

    “Why are they extraditing him now?”

    Because he finally slipped up. They’ve been trying for over 30 years, but he’s always avoided going anywhere that would extradite him. This time, Switzerland held him long enough for the paperwork to go through.

    In other words, nothing has changed at the US end.

  34. #34 Enoch
    September 30, 2009

    I do not think that is what you are doing at all, Stephanie Z. I think that you have made a choice about how I feel in regards to the Polanski case, you do not like this opinion you think I have and you are now harassing me.

    Saying that something is my understanding is a way of stating that it is an opinion of mine. I have not quoted that the prosecutors said something, and I am merely making a comment. Are you in the business of telling every person who makes a comment in a blog that their comment is only a comment and they better remember that?

    I happen to think almost exactly the same as it seems you do, from reading your comments, about Polanski and the entire situation. But the question has been asked: Is there a reason why this happens now and not some other time otherthan chance. The idea has been stated that the documentary that came out a while ago prompted this and it did so by annoying the DA office.

    Now that you understand, if you believe me, that we do not differ in our opinion you can stop your harassment of my opinion!

  35. #35 Penelope
    September 30, 2009

    “Did the 13-year old “let” herself be in an out of control situation? Maybe”

    How can you even ask this question? How long has it been now since rape is not considered the victim’s fault?

  36. #36 calvert
    September 30, 2009

    That was pretty much all opinion, man. I mostly agree with it though.

  37. #37 Stephanie Z
    September 30, 2009

    Enoch, check the other thread and my response to CyberLizard before you try to intuit my motives. There’s a lot floating around in this that’s either wrong or rumor and opinion presented without clear disclaimers. I’m squashing more than a bit of it.

  38. #38 jay
    September 30, 2009

    How long has it been now since rape is not considered the victim’s fault?

    About as long as theft has not been considered the victim’s fault.

  39. #39 Irene Delse
    September 30, 2009

    D. C. Sessions: “This time, Switzerland held him long enough for the paperwork to go through.”

    The part played by Switzerland here is very… interesting. This comes after the Hannibal Gaddafi fiasco, proving that for all Polanski’s fame, money and friends, that’s nothing compared to the power of an oil-and-uranium dictator. Gaddafi’s son, a violent man with previous run-ins with justice in other countries, was arrested in Geneva on charges of allegedly beating two servants. Lybia retaliated by economic sanctions and by taking two Swiss businessmen hostages. Switzerland let the son go and made groveling excuses.

    In other news, Switzerland released today 16 Russian businessmen arrested recently and wanted by the French authorities on charges of being part of an international prostitution ring. Russia wasn’t happy.

    Yeah, it’s Hollywood artists who are “above the law”. Right.

  40. #40 CRM-114
    September 30, 2009

    The police interrogated the girl without a parent or attorney present, so all we know about what happened there is the story the police ended up with, and the statement they had the girl sign.

    The police then charged him with everything conceivable, then gave him a choice: he could plead guilty to the least of the charges or they would convict him of all of the charges. This is SOP, why almost all criminal cases are pled out and nobody really has a right to a trial by jury.

    If the police believed all the charges were just, dropping any of them would be criminal conduct.

    I long ago concluded we would never find out the truth about what happened.

  41. #41 the real Coochie Snortcher
    September 30, 2009

    “It’s not that I don’t think the mother bears some responsibility, but I don’t think it was that obvious of a mistake.”
    Yeah–I love the convenience of that out-dated, inherently massagynist archetype of ” Mothers are good hearted, but dimwitted good souls whose purity and naivete knows know equal–she was only wanting what was BEST for her cherished daughter.” I thought that shit went out with the male/female egalitarian movement…

    Penelope: I think rape as ‘not the victims fault’ took a hard hit with that racist stripper/drug-addict/”sex worker” who accused the Lacrosse team of rape, or maybe it was that skanky blonde head case with the underwear full of seven different mens juice that accused Koby Bryant…

  42. #42 Stephanie Z
    September 30, 2009

    If the police believed all the charges were just, dropping any of them would be criminal conduct.

    By which statute?

  43. #43 Heraclides
    September 30, 2009

    Just to muddy the waters a little more. Who is pressing charges? I have no idea how things work in the USA, but in other countries, crimes can be committed and no charges laid because no-one wants to press charges, which is to say that no-one is asking for justice. In this case it seems that the victim (let’s presume that’s a fair thing to call her) doesn’t want charges laid. So, to who is justice being served by laying charges, and who precisely is laying the charges?

    To be clear: I’m presented this as a purely academic question, if you will, not for or against any particular “side”.

  44. #44 D. C. Sessions
    September 30, 2009

    Who is pressing charges?

    He already entered a guilty plea for the charges 30 years ago. The new charges are for flight from judgment, and are entered by the State of California, with the United States State Department (and maybe Justice) as intermediaries.

  45. #45 Heraclides
    September 30, 2009

    @44:

    Am I to understand that this means there is no charge for rape, as the (presumed) victim isn’t pressing for this and I take your reply to mean that this has effectively been dropped, and the only charge is for “flight from judgment”?

    If he’s going to be charged for “flight from judgment”, isn’t it appropriate that the reasons for that flight be investigated and be resolved to be unjustified first? Just a thought.

  46. #46 Stephanie Z
    September 30, 2009

    Heraclides, as D. C. said, there were rape charges. There is now a rape conviction and has been for over 30 years. Polanski has not been sentenced for that conviction because he fled first. He still faces sentencing for rape in addition to the new charges for flight, which haven’t been tried.

  47. #47 the real Coochie Snortcher
    September 30, 2009

    Heraclides: just to make things more clear–or more muddy depending on your political views–in America, the state has a vested interest in protecting the right of mothers and women in general to pimp each other, and each others children as they see fit.
    This system guarantees a tax base and finances the police and social services networks.

  48. #48 Heraclides
    September 30, 2009

    Stephanie Z,

    Hmm. But that’s means these charges are standing despite that the victim no longer supports the charges.

    I guess it’s your system. Whatever!

  49. #49 José
    September 30, 2009

    Yeah–I love the convenience of that out-dated, inherently massagynist archetype of

    Give me a break. I would have said the same thing if it had been her father. I was responding specifically to the insinuation that Polanski was a known sexual predator at the time of the incident.

  50. #50 JefFlyingV
    September 30, 2009

    Heraclides, flight from prosecution is a crime against the state. It doesn’t matter if the victim gives forgiveness to the perpetrator of the crime 30 years later, the state remains the representative of the victim. This is more than “whatever” that you dismiss with a blase attitude.

  51. #51 Jason Thibeault
    September 30, 2009

    Americans in matters of justice have a tendency toward being something of cowboys, willing to pile on punishment for the least offense. So, it seems to me anyone willing to “forgive and forget” the rape of a 13-year-old is engaged in some form of misdirection. If the then-thirteen-year-old had “forgiven” Polanski AT THE TIME OF THE TRIAL, would it have made a difference? No. Therefore, why is it a relevant fact now?

    I’m of the opinion that, yes, things would have been much different for Polanski’s current whereabouts if it happened today, and there wasn’t over 20 years of intervening time and a ton of well-received movies to dampen the impact of his crime. If it had happened today, he’d not only be convicted under the full force of the law, but he’d be punished directly for the crime instead of a plea-bargain to a lesser charge.

    Justice delayed is justice denied, and he’s gotten over 20 years of parole for a crime that he wasn’t even going to get punished for directly. Anyone who argues “why bother now”, would never countenance suggesting “why bother now” about other folks dodging other crimes like, for instance, murder.

  52. #52 Greg Laden
    September 30, 2009

    Heraclides: Yeah, the system works differently. Depending on the crime, the state may bring charges. Polanski was convicted of charges brought by the victim and mitigated during a plea bargain. His being convicted takes the victim out of the picture. She can marry him if she wants, he is still convicted.

    The flight charges would be against him by some government prosecutorial agency, possibly more than one.

  53. #53 Kristine
    September 30, 2009

    Great summary, Greg.

    It’s interesting that Debra Tate has come out in support of Polanski, but I don’t agree that “it wasn’t really rape.” It was rape. Debra has also made some inaccurate statements about her sister’s (Sharon Tate) murder. And Whoopi Goldberg is being an idiot as usual.

    At this point, I’m wondering about some kind of restorative justice worked about between the perpetrator and the victim (or if you want, the double victim).

    I’m willing to bend on the mother’s motivation, but at the very least I think she had stars in her eyes and was neglectful. I don’t have to ask my mother if she would have let me go off with some man, no matter how respected. Having read the girl’s story again I was struck by her passivity – I even wondered about prior molestation, but she may simply have been extremely compliant (not like me at that age). Women are not all the same.

    I do think, as I’ve said, that society is overcompensating for the flat-out injustices of the past by expecting women to exact blood revenge like Pallas Athena. Polanski is not the point, really; the point is that our legal system is slanted toward preventing further injustice via the conviction of an innocent person, rather than meting out “justice,” in many cases, by incarcerating the guilty. It took me a long time to get back to saying, with true conviction, that I would rather a guilty man go free than an innocent man be locked up. And it alarms me that Americans seem to be going in the other direction (though I understand the frustration). Yet I do believe Polanski is guilty of a crime.

    What to do about all this is another matter. I think this whole thing is a Kafkaesque travesty.

  54. #54 Greg Laden
    September 30, 2009

    …. so, to be more clear, Heraclides, there are no standing charges linked to a victim other than the state. There is only a conviction with sentence still to serve (and we speak of that as a single thing a judge simply hands on but it is actually itself fairly complicated) and there is a charge by the state (flight).

  55. #55 Greg Laden
    September 30, 2009

    Kristine: I think (maybe) part of why it all seemed so strange back then was because it was a different society. Look at the Playboy humor of Hugh Heffner. Look at the stand-up comedy and other cultural touchstones of the time. If you were a woman in hollywood with a career behind her and working at the age of, say, 30, it means you fucked a lot of directors. I have no idea if that was true or not, but everyone always said it of everybody back then. This particular rape may have happened at the tail end of that period, but that may be a kind statement and quite inaccurate. By the time the mother dropped the girl off she must have been resigned to what was likely to happen, eventually, though she may have been (justifiably) surprised that her 13 year old was going to have to pay that much that early in her career.

  56. #56 Stephanie Z
    September 30, 2009

    Heraclides, this may be a question of us using different terminology, but where do you live that a conviction would be overturned once the victim forgave the guilty party?

  57. #57 Jason Thibeault
    September 30, 2009

    Greg @55, I have every confidence that the charge of flight would be the stage on which cowboy justice will be meted out, and any disparity between the treatment of rape of a 13-year-old back in the 70s and today, will be nullified by this ad-hoc dispensing of justice. Aside from concerns that any such sentencing would set bad precedents, I would not shed a tear for Polanski himself.

    Frankly, I can’t even think of his works as anything particularly special — we don’t know whether other directors attached to the projects he directed would have done better, worse, or equally good of jobs with the materials at hand. Yeah, they’re good movies, but, the overwhelming question is, “so?” Better to mete out the sentence as your justice system determined was appropriate thirty years ago and finally close this chapter with the criminal behind bars.

  58. #58 Irene
    September 30, 2009

    I can’t recall seeing even one of his movies. He must be a horrible director. Lock him up!

  59. #59 Katherine
    September 30, 2009

    The only thing we should be discussing is that he plead guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor and that he then fled the United States. Everything else is irrelevant. Jon #2

    What kind of mother would let a highly respected, world famous photographer/director, take her daughter on a photo shoot. Jose #27

    Lock up your daughters in a cage so the bad men can’t get to them for the rest of their lives.

  60. #60 starsea
    September 30, 2009

    This somehow reminds me of the Michael Jackson case. Now that he’s dead, (and the victim statements have become a little “fuzzy”), public opinion seems to have changed.

  61. #61 Jason Thibeault
    September 30, 2009

    Katherine @59: right. Exactly right. A man raped an underage girl, and pled guilty, was therefore found guilty, then fled before sentencing could be carried out. Everything else is insignificant minutiae.

  62. #62 Kristine
    September 30, 2009

    Everything else is insignificant minutiae.

    Including the victim’s feelings, Jason?

    Including judicial misconduct?

    Including the fact that neither she nor Polanski wanted life in prison for him? Including the fact that the victim criticizes the judge for going back on his word?

    It’s okay to suddenly decide to bring cameras into the courtroom for the sentencing? This was before victim identity shielding laws.

    Maybe Polanski should have fought the charges, instead of pleading guilty to spare her? He’s certainly being punished for it. I’m beginning to wonder if the judge counted on him running.

    It’s insignificant that the Justice Department prosecutor whose ethical misconduct screwed up the Ted Stevens trial (and I thought he was guilty, too) is behind this?

    People want vengeance! Against Polanski, or Hollywood itself? Don’t look for your pound of flesh in this case. You are probably going to be disappointed as to how this all plays out. Expect it to get messier, not more simple.

  63. #63 D. C. Sessions
    September 30, 2009

    I have every confidence that the charge of flight would be the stage on which cowboy justice will be meted out, and any disparity between the treatment of rape of a 13-year-old back in the 70s and today, will be nullified by this ad-hoc dispensing of justice.

    Jason, I’m not sure that bothers me all that much.

    Two reasons:
    1) Flight for more than 30 years isn’t all that common, so the question is largely moot as a precedent. To the extent that it does set a precedent, “don’t do this” isn’t the worst possible.
    2) He took a gamble. If he’d come back to a time when (for instance) an abortion charge was considered no big deal vs. 1969, his “time machine” would have gotten him a much lighter sentence as a result of being sentenced according to today’s views. As it happens, he lost. I can’t get too stressed over his losing a gamble while living (very) well in the meantime.

    By and large, I’m not big on class warfare. I try as hard as possible to avoid any considerations of wealth and privilege where criminal justice is concerned — but I’m not blind to the fact that the poor are at a horrible disadvantage in this country’s “justice” system, even before you consider all of the official ways that the law doesn’t even consider evil done by the privileged to be crimes in the first place [1].

    Polanski had every possible break, in ways that you and I couldn’t have dreamed of. He had the best lawyers money could buy, and they negotiated a sweetheart plea deal [2]. Even then, let’s not overlook that he had the money to hop a first-class flight to France and spend 30 years there in luxury [3]. Again, he had lawyers advising him on his options and the strategic situation.

    Now, maybe his case points out some imperfections in the US legal system — I won’t say that there aren’t any. However, I’m going to schedule worrying about him a little lower on my priority list than the young woman who got caught at 14 blowing her boyfriend and is now, for life, a registered “sex offender” prohibited from working as a teacher, from living near a school, whose neighbors get notices that a “sex offender” has moved into their area [4].

    Oh, and maybe a bit lower than worrying about a Supreme Court that has no problem with executing someone after uncontested evidence of innocence turns up because “the system” has already exhausted avenues for appeal.

    Well, maybe one or two other things. As soon as those are out of the way, I’ll see if I can spare some time for Roman Polanski.

    [1] How many people went to jail over last year’s financial meltdown, even after lining their own pockets with others’ life savings? Yup, like that.
    [2] Think about the likely fate of the victim’s hypothetical 14-yo boyfriend had an LA cop found the two boinking (her on top) in a park.
    [3] Not quite hiding in a cabin in the woods, wearing furs and living on squirrels knocked over with a slingshot.
    [4] And maybe one of them comes to welcome her with a shotgun. It’s happened.

  64. #64 bob sallamack
    September 30, 2009

    The current words of the victim in this case have to be ignored. The victim obtained a cash settlement from Polanski and I see no indication from Polanski or his attorneys that they are willing to release the confidential agreement that the victim had to sign in order to receive this settlement.

    The only words of the victim that are valid are the testimony that she provided under oath to the grand jury.

    I seriously doubt that even in our jaded society Polanski would have ever been allowed to direct another film after 1977 if the full details of his raping a child of 13 had been made public.

  65. #65 Jason Thibeault
    September 30, 2009

    Kristine @62: Including the victim’s feelings, who was dragged through the mud by investigators and wants to hush everything up to avoid further pain? I understand her intention to shut things down and avoid a life sentence for the man who admitted to having raped her thirty years prior, as she’s already learned to live with the fact that he “got away with it” back then. But if her feelings weren’t taken into account during the sentencing, why should they be accounted for 30 years after the sentencing was supposed to take place?

    Why should anyone have the right to criticize the judge for “going back on his word” that Polanski would only get time-served for the rape of a thirteen year old? Who says he actually did any such thing? Would any such thing justify his fugitive-of-justice status for thirty years?

    Do I think it’s an easy question? Hell no. I know what I’d LIKE to see — justice served after being delayed by someone who decided he didn’t like the outcome of his fair day in court and thought he could take it upon himself to leave the country. Do I want to see a pound of flesh? No. I don’t like that he did it, but he may even regret it now. He might have even paid his penance by mere virtue of being blocked from travelling to countries he loved. He’s certainly paying a delayed, karma-like price now though.

    Since we all agree that laws stating that statutory rape of a minor is illegal, and we all agree that when someone says “no” and the person continues to penetrate several orifices, that constitutes rape outright, and we all agree that rape is illegal and reprehensible and deserving of punishment, why the hell does he get to escape the sentence he already got (light though it might be, by virtue of being a plea bargain) for that rape? And why SHOULDN’T he face new trials for skipping the country against federal law?

    Like I said, everything outside the fact that he’s already been convicted of one crime, and committed another in escaping justice, is minutiae. If he wanted to appeal, he could have done so while the statute of limitations was still around. He might even have won. He forfeited that option when he fled and stayed fled for as long as he did.

  66. #66 the real Coochie Snortcher
    September 30, 2009

    Jose': Statistically, fathers are not only less likely to abuse or sexually abuse, or allow others anywhere freakin’ near our daughters so the girls can be abused, but also, children in general are LESS LIKELY TO BE ABUSED when in the care of their biological father–and the overwhelming majority of abuse happens to children from female caregivers, or at the hands of a trusted female associate.

    “Lock up your daughters in a cage so the bad men can’t get to them for the rest of their lives.” Yeah: Lock them in a cage with Eve Ensler for a minute, right?…

    and WTF? “The current words of the victim in this case have to be ignored.” Really? So, we cherry pick actual victim/survivor opinions just so that we can broadbrush a social/moral crusader imperative over the whole thing? I imagine her words NOW take on a specific modern currency because she is not only an adult, but also because she is independent of 1) her exploitative/predatory mothers influence and 2) the influence of police questioning under duress

  67. #67 José jo
    September 30, 2009

    Statistically, fathers are not only less likely to abuse or sexually abuse

    I don’t know if this is true or not, but how does this apply to what I said? My reaction would have been the same regardless of the whether it involved her mother or father. I disputed the idea that Polanski was known sexual predator at the time. It’s a father/mother independent opinion.

  68. #68 Heraclides
    October 1, 2009

    @50: I did not dismiss the charges or anything else, as you made. My “whatever” was in reference to that I don’t I’ll ever really understand the legal system in the USA.

    @52: Thanks. Makes sense.

  69. #69 DuWayne
    October 1, 2009

    Heraclides –

    It wouldn’t matter who said what when. In the U.S., in criminal matters, the state is always plaintiff. The feelings of the victim are often taken into account when charges are made, but that is not even always the case. In statutory rape there is no consideration – if it can be shown that an adult (or sometimes another minor – yes some states are that fucked up) had sexual relations with a minor, they are prosecuted for it.

    And as others have pointed out, this case is compounded by a felony committed outside the context of the original crime anyways. Fleeing the jurisdiction – essentially escaping from prison, though he wasn’t in prison yet – is a totally separate crime.

    To put it into a different context, say person A assaults person B. Person A is out on bail awaiting trial and decides to run for it. While A in on the run, evidence comes out that B actually started the fight and A was merely defending himself. Technically A is still a fugitive, guilty of the felony of escaping from jail (someone out on bail is legally still a prisoner). Now if A comes in, the felony charges of escape are likely to be dropped because he wasn’t guilty of the original crime and had a legitimate fear of being incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit. But that is not a certainty. By the letter of the law, A is still guilty of a felony.

  70. #70 banzay
    October 1, 2009

    freedom of Roman Polanski!!

  71. #71 Alex
    October 1, 2009

    If the law’s changed from when the crime was committed, then he has to be tried under the old laws surely, since ex post facto law is unconstitutional.

  72. #72 the real meme
    October 1, 2009

    Jose': yes, you are right, in this instance Polanski as ‘predator’ is what you were disputing–except that the child WAS NOT independent of a mother who pimped her into that situation. And remeber: your words are tinged (tainted?) with the modern ‘now’ language, not the ‘then’.

    In order to show you the fact that biological fathers are less likely to abuse kids, I would have to link-spam this post, but here is one clue

    http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/usermanuals/fatherhood/chapterthree.cfm

    Our culture tends to narrowly define what is and isn’t rape and abuse, and always circumscribes the actions of rape as ‘male’ behavior, while dismissing the fact that women rape differently, and use other forms of coercion to make the same point that all rapists seem to be making–‘power’ over someone who is vulnerable.

    So all this circular talk about Polanski as a perpetrator is actually Polanski as an accessory at best to the actions the mother herself tokk with the child for 13 previous years.

  73. #73 the real meme
    October 1, 2009

    Jose’, From the report: “CPS reports in 2003 indicate that in 18.8 percent of the substantiated cases, fathers were the sole perpetrators of maltreatment; in 16.9 percent of the cases, the fathers and the mothers were perpetrators; and in 1.1 percent of the cases, the father acted with someone else to abuse or neglect his child. Mothers were the sole perpetrators in 40.8 percent of the cases and acted with someone besides the father in 6.3 percent of the cases.31 This means that fathers were involved in 36.8 percent of child maltreatment cases and that mothers were involved in 64 percent of child maltreatment cases.”

    So, it has a whole lot to do with it.And notice the utterly unnaccountable ‘now’ language, and how the father is paired with the mother to inflate the appearance of culpability. Wome expose children to many many other situations of harm where tha father is not even present, and that certainly isn’t accounted for here either–situations like the one here, ‘now'(then?) with Polanski.

  74. #74 the real meme
    October 1, 2009

    and finally, Jose’ http://www.deltabravo.net/custody/abusers.php.
    I also stated incorrectly above–what I menat to infer was that men are les likely to be primary abusers, and that sexual abuse and violence id defined by male anatomy, i.e. a penis, rather than the multitude of other sexual violence scenarios where women excell at not only abusing children, but also at hiding that abuse through coercion.

    So as someone suggested in one of these threads, the girl was ‘docile’, and possibly abused at earlier points in her life, but I sugest that primary abuse was at the hands of the mother, who callously put the girl with Polanski.

  75. #75 Kammy
    October 1, 2009

    @72 the real meme: “So all this circular talk about Polanski as a perpetrator is actually Polanski as an accessory at best to the actions the mother herself tokk with the child for 13 previous years.”

    Firstly what proof is there that the mother was pimping her out?

    Secondly, the only way you’re Polanski as an accessory idea works is if he was not an independent actor, able to understand where he was in the world and make choices for himself. Which is hogwash, of course. Polanski was not an automaton under the thrall of the evil mother, forced to carry out her will. I mean if he was just some dumb animal that could not reason or choose, how the hell did he make all those films?

    No. Polanski was an adult able to make choices and he chose to give in to his desire to rape a child. Here are his words after the fact: ““If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But… f—ing, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to f— young girls. Juries want to f— young girls. Everyone wants to f— young girls!”” (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/michaeldeacon/100011795/roman-polanski-everyone-else-fancies-little-girls-too/). Therefore he is subject to the laws of the land in which he loves to sell his self wanking movies.

  76. #76 Kammy
    October 1, 2009

    You’re in the third paragraph @75 is supposed to be your. I have apostrophe issues. :)

  77. #77 José
    October 1, 2009

    If you were to present true evidence that 80% of the time a man has sex with an underage girl, they were duped by a pimping mother lying about her daughters actual age, it still wouldn’t matter. There’s no evidence I’m aware of to support that’s what happened in this case.

  78. #78 the real Cochie Snorcher Catcher
    October 1, 2009

    Kammy @ “Firstly what proof is there that the mother was pimping her out”

    I really, really can’t believe you asked that. I use the word pimp in an actual street sense: “no girl ever hit the block before her mother pimped her there first.”

    Um, Hmmmmm…let’s see: she put the girl out on the block and into the hands of some guy with a camera–now unless you are one of those dress up the little girlies types, or a youth beauty pageant fan, I don’t know how you could see it any other way. I mean–unless your definition of a pimp is exclusively defined as a ‘male’. Second, I imagine your definition of pimp is entirely defined by the raw transaction of man selling woman for sex and profiting from it. But there are multiple ways to envision what is and isn’t a sex act, or a transaction, right? Or is that definition always man bad, woman pimped out and used by men?

    So “Polanski was not an automaton under the thrall of the evil mother, forced to carry out her will” may or may not be true, because I don’t know his childhood, but I do know he developed a fondness for the females he could have power over–and as most of us know, abused people can develop a tendency to abuse.

  79. #79 the real Cochie Snorcher Catcher
    October 1, 2009

    Jose’, you might well be right about the evidence–but it boils down to the paradigm shift where “then” we believed men, and “now” we believe women. Then, women who were raped “asked for it” and men gave it to them.Women were not to be believed.

    Now, is a whole different paradigm that needs to be explored–the fact that men are not to be believed, or listened to, or heard.I have a feeling that inasmuch as you would like to dismiss anything P says, you have acknowledged a similarity in the story from both participants.

    So the point is that listening to his story might well be a good idea–but for legal reasons, he and so many other rapists are not to be believed, at any cost–they must remain silent about causal factors, and especially silent about the childhoods that brought them to being what they are–which reminds me of the big fat sex offender who lives across the street from me–he, too “raped” a 13 year old girl–after she brought weed to his house. It was only “rape” when her drug addict mother heard about it, because the girl had been staying at his house regulrly, and drug dealer mom needed to villainize someone for her bad parenting that led the girl there in the first place.

    Which is why I sat through the story that ‘sex offender’ told me,and the stories of others as well–they reveal some ugly truths about our social order, rather than the rapists themselves.

  80. #80 José
    October 2, 2009

    you might well be right about the evidence–but it boils down to the paradigm shift where “then” we believed men, and “now” we believe women.

    The fact that those were the attitudes of the day, and that he still felt the need to plea guilty, only hurts Polanski.

    I have a feeling that inasmuch as you would like to dismiss anything P says, you have acknowledged a similarity in the story from both participants.

    Her version rings more true to me. They are very similar, but the fact that they both include a reference to that girl stating she has asthma, when she didn’t, lends credibility to the girls assertion that she was not receptive to his advances.

    And even if it was consensual, the circumstances of the case seem to make it very unlikely that he was not aware the girl was underage, and was therefore well aware that he was committing a crime.

    He also plead guilty, and I don’t buy the argument that he was innocent, but only plead guilty to protect the girl. If it was consensual sex as he claims, what exactly would the girl need to be protected from? I think I’m a pretty good-hearted person, but there’s no way in hell I’d ever plead guilty to anything in order to protect a girl who was falsely accusing me of rape.

    And there are several other reasons I tend to believe her version, none of which are because she is a woman, and he is a man. There are many cases I’ve heard of where the woman’s story doesn’t quit add up. This is not one of those.

  81. #81 Kammy
    October 2, 2009

    @78 the real Cochie Snorcher Catcher: I understood you were using the word pimping colloquially.

    My specific question was: What evidence do you know of that the mother was hoping that by having sex with the director it would help her daughter’s career? You must have some kind of evidence because your point seems to be largely based on that assumption. But if we’re just guessing (and I suspect you are) as to her state of mind, we could just as easily guess that she thought she could trust someone so admired and revered not to force himself on a child.

    Even if we all accept as irrefutable truth that she was hoping Polanski would have sex with the girl, in order to further the career, it does not excuse Polanski’s actions. No matter his childhood, the difficult time he had losing his parents, or his wife and baby being murdered. If we accept that logic than practically no one who has commited rape or murder should be punished. Unless that bit only counts for gifted movie directors?

    “I mean–unless your definition of a pimp is exclusively defined as a ‘male’. Second, I imagine your definition of pimp is entirely defined by the raw transaction of man selling woman for sex and profiting from it. But there are multiple ways to envision what is and isn’t a sex act, or a transaction, right? Or is that definition always man bad, woman pimped out and used by men?”

    I’ll just leave you to keep dancing with the strawmen there…You seem to be having a pretty good time with it. Wouldn’t want to ruin it.

  82. #82 the real Coochie Snorcher
    October 2, 2009

    Jose’, “There are many cases I’ve heard of where the woman’s story doesn’t quite add up.”

    Yup. Me too, which is why I took the time here to point out. Presuming that these type of blog posts have any serious intention other than to further villainize men, I like to point out alternative possibilities in the dialogue so that the usual knee jerks at the very least are refuted on some level.

    But the fact that even he mentioned the asthma sounds like he isn’t trying to make himself out to be a good guy, but in his telling, he is using the language of the day, as is the girl.

    She is a hapless Penelope, strapped to the tracks, and wholly innocent, unaware that she might get fucked. What 13 year old girl would EVER think of that?!

    His language is that of a man trapped in a paradigm of sexual necessity–male as desiring young sex object, and thus drawing his power from female association, rather than other means, and unfortunately for him, employing ‘responsible,accountable’ male language.

    Kammy: “What evidence do you know of that the mother was hoping that by having sex with the director”

    The evidence is the social climate of ‘then’. If we accept the feminist paradigms, that is what was going on ‘then’–mother as procurer and pimp to patriarchy. Now of course, it’s the other way around: mother as pimp to matriarchy, and all of her friendly clanswomen…not strawMEN anymore …

  83. #83 Kammy
    October 3, 2009

    @82 the real Coochie Snorcher “Kammy: “What evidence do you know of that the mother was hoping that by having sex with the director”

    The evidence is the social climate of ‘then’. If we accept the feminist paradigms, that is what was going on ‘then’–mother as procurer and pimp to patriarchy. Now of course, it’s the other way around: mother as pimp to matriarchy, and all of her friendly clanswomen…not strawMEN anymore …”

    That’s not evidence of any individual’s state of mind. That’s you projecting a thought process on someone, which is also what you were doing when you said you imagined my definition of pimp. I’m going to keep calling it strawman. You can go with politically correct strawperson if you like.

Current ye@r *