« Today's Column: Mourning people as we mourn animals | Main | Chicago Beating Death »

Roman Polanski

In case you live in a cave, thirty-two years ago at the age of 44, movie director Roman Polanski, "hosted" a 13-year-old female date at then friend Jack Nicholson's house. Polanski gave the girl champagne and drugs, and when she was good 'n drousy, he raped her. He later admitted the sexual encounter as part of a botched, wonky, plea agreement with prosecutors in Los Angeles. The agreement called for Polanski to spend 90 days in a secure psychiatric facility, AKA psych jail, being evaluated. Following his evaluation, if the shrinks did not consider him a threat, he'd likely be done with jail, would go on probation, and would have to get counseling, etc.. At the end of his psych incarceration, the judge in the case hinted that he might disregard the plea deal and sentence Polanski to something harsher, in order to appease the public.

So Polanski fled to France, where he was still a citizen. And that's where he's been since, living his life, starting a new family (wife, two daughters), making movies and winning an Oscar, and being hailed as a cultural and artistic icon, till yesterday when police in Switzerland arrested Polanski and held him on that 31-year-old rape case from the U.S.

Pundits and politicians in France and Switzerland are calling for Polanski's release, saying the case is too old to resume, the collective consciousness of the U.S. is too puritanical, and that U.S. authorities should let bygones be bygones.

Friends and fans in Europe and the U.S. say Polanski has suffered enough in life, being exiled all these years from the U.S., being tormented by Nazis during WWII, and dealing with the murder of his first wife Sharon Tate, by Charles Manson and his gang of loons.

So what do I think? Bring him back and lock his Oscar-winning butt up!

Here's my logic:

  • Sure, the judge in the Polanski case back in the day, may have been a fame seeker, but criminal law doesn't require a judge to abide by a plea deal between prosecutors and a defendant, if the judge doesn't think the terms of the deal are just. So whatever his motivation, I can't be too mad at the judge for balking at 90 days in psych jail as a sufficient sentence for the rape of a 13-year-old.
  • If Polanski wasn't famous, this would not be a public debate right now.
  • If a woman whose husband beat her declined to press charges, in most jurisdictions law enforcement would proceed to charge him anyway. So when Polanski's 13-year-old victim - obviously now an adult - says she doesn't want the case against him to proceed, I feel for her desire to move on, but the case should go on. Besides, her judgment may be clouded, since he paid her in a financial settlement from a civil suit she filed against him over the rape.
  • If Polanski wasn't famous, no one would even dream of entertaining his claim that his victim was a real-life Lolita and enthusiastic about their encounter.
  • Even if you fell for Polanski's Lolita defense, how do you justify the booze and drugs? Consensual sex partners don't need to be drugged first.
  • If Polanski wasn't famous, and had instead been your weird, creepy-looking neighbor back in the day, you'd be calling for a new judge to drop the hammer on him. Same goes if he was one of the guys from the trailer park or the projects on the other side of the tracks.
  • If that guy from the trailer park or the projects cited his horrific childhood and adult tragedies as factors in his crime, we'd all tell him - say it with me now - That's all sad, but it's no excuse to rape a child!

Let's review. Regardless of whether the judge was fame-seeking or not, here are a few of the things that troubled him about Polanski's deal: Polanski gave his victim multiple glasses of champagne; fed her quaaludes; performed oral, vaginal, and anal sex on her, even after she said asked him to stop, and even after she said she felt like she was suffering an asthma attack; and had the presence of mind to lie to a visitor who unwittingly interrupted the rape, and told that person he was getting dressed.

Yeah, I thought The Piano was a great movie too. But Polanski needs to face a judge in this country, where he committed and admitted his crime.

PS. Here's a doozy for ya: My Friday column was about two South Florida men accused of horribly mutilating two horses, so they could butcher the animals and sell their meat. I mourned the loss of the animals but said I was disturbed by what appears to be an increasing callousness toward human victims of violent crime. I suggested that we shouldn't care less about animal victims of violent crime, but we should definitely care more about human victims of violent crime. Half the reader responses I received argued that humans aren't real victims like animals, because humans bring crime on themselves. Hmmm, does that enlightened view apply to 13-year-old rape victims too?

Follow me, if you don't mind: http://typepad.com/jamesburnett.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Roman Polanski:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Jeni Hill Ertmer

Sometimes, when I read your posts, I wonder if maybe we grew up in the same house, learning pretty much the same core value system, etc., cause very rarely do I ever disagree with your line of logic. And this instance, I'm still there with your thoughts on each and every point you posted!


I am incensed by all the Polanski apologists out there.

One wonders if their attitudes would change once he found one of their 13 year old daughters attractive.

Rape of a child in my grand order of things, is only below murder by a small degree. Sentencing should rarely vary by a large amount between both offenses.

I wonder at the people that still work with him and how they justify it. I actually feel bad that I've watched two of his films while he was a fugitive. Sadly I didn't know that he directed them before I saw them.


Thank you James.
Oral, Vaginal, Anal rape of a 13 year old child under the influence of Quaaludes --
Throw away the key!

I remember when it happened - and I recall an "interview" done with him after he had escaped to Europe.
Essentially he said that all his accusers were fantasizing about doing the same thing that he had -- and he used the F-word to describe it.

class factotum

James, when I said no horse had ever asked to be stolen, I didn't mean that some humans bring violent crime on themselves. I meant that crimes against animals have no excuse, whereas some human crimes do.

I am going to be a lot easier on someone who shoots an intruder into his home than I am on someone who kills the clerk at the 7-11 as he is robbing it. Self defense is a good reason to shoot somebody. If it's me or the guy trying to hurt me in my own house, I vote for me.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About The Miami Herald | Advertise