September 30, 2009

The Polanski debacle: Polish schizophrenia?

Poland has just enacted mandatory chemical castration of pedophiles convicted of raping children under the age of 15, after they finish serving their prison terms. That makes the Eastern European nation's punishment of sex offenders among the most severe in the world. In remarks that were criticized by human rights groups, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk defended the new legislation by describing pedophiles as "degenerates" and "creatures" who do not deserve to be called human.

But prison and castration are only for garden-variety sex offenders, not celebrities like popular icon Roman Polanski. Both the president and foreign minister of Poland are appealing to U.S. authorities to drop criminal proceedings against the film director, who fled the United States in 1977 after pleading guilty to a criminal charge stemming from the rape and sodomy of a 13-year-old.

What, no prison? No castration? Not even a teensy fine, or a bit of probation or community service?

I'm always amazed with the blatant double standard that continues to be applied to wealthy and famous defendants even in the current cultural climate of sexual hysteria. Non-elite men are sent to prison for far less serious offenses, and when they get out they cannot find jobs or housing due to lifelong residency restrictions. Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, Polanski fans try to excuse an acknowledged crime by blaming the victim and the criminal justice system or citing the passage of time.

Excerpt from Roman Polanski's 1977 presentencing probation report

As Los Angeles blogger Patterico -- a prosecutor with the District Attorney's Office that prosecuted Polanski -- points out, it's pretty nervy to argue that the case should be dropped because it is more than three decades old, when the only reason it is ancient is because Polanski fled prior to sentencing. Patterico goes on to correct a lot of other bias and misinformation in the media coverage painting Polanski as a victim of overzealous and vindictive prosecutors:
There is a tremendous amount of misinformation flying about with respect to this case: people saying Polanski had a "trial" (he pled guilty); that the terms of his plea bargain provided that the judge would give him time served (it left the sentence up to the judge); that he didn’t know the girl's age (he swore under oath he did); that the age of consent was 14 (... it was 18); that the statute of limitations applies (not when a defendant flees pending sentencing); and that Polanski never did it again (we don't know that, and I don't believe it). I've never seen anything quite like it.

He got a lenient plea deal largely because the prosecution was worried about the girl's willingness to testify in the face of international publicity surrounding a trial in which Polanski's team planned to paint her as a 13-year-old harlot -- an example of fame stacking the deck. And that victim now supports dismissal of the case ... now that she has settled a civil suit with him for an undisclosed amount -- an example of wealth stacking the deck.
Over at Salon, Kate Harding also has a hard-hitting reaction to Polanski's celebrity supporters and the "bizarrely skewed" coverage of the case. "REMINDER," she starts out by saying:
Roman Polanski raped a child. Let's just start right there, because that's the detail that tends to get neglected when we start discussing whether it was fair for the bail-jumping director to be arrested at age 76, after 32 years in "exile" (which in this case means owning multiple homes in Europe, continuing to work as a director, marrying and fathering two children, even winning an Oscar, but never -- poor baby -- being able to return to the U.S.). Let's keep in mind that Roman Polanski gave a 13-year-old girl a Quaalude and champagne, then raped her, before we start discussing whether the victim looked older than her 13 years or … how awesome his movies are.... [L]et's take a moment to recall that according to the victim's grand jury testimony, Roman Polanski instructed her to get into a jacuzzi naked, refused to take her home when she begged to go, began kissing her even though she said no and asked him to stop; performed cunnilingus on her as she said no and asked him to stop; put his penis in her vagina as she said no and asked him to stop; asked if he could penetrate her anally, to which she replied, "No," then went ahead and did it anyway, until he had an orgasm….

Her conclusion is equally on target:

Roman Polanski may be a great director, an old man, a husband, a father, a friend to many powerful people, and even the target of some questionable legal shenanigans. He may very well be no threat to society at this point. He may even be a good person on balance, whatever that means. But none of that changes the basic, undisputed fact: Roman Polanski raped a child. And rushing past that point to focus on the reasons why we should forgive him, pity him, respect him, admire him, support him, whatever, is absolutely twisted.

* * * * *
In case any of you wisely skeptical readers would like to see the contemporaneous facts for yourselves, here are links to copies of the original documents at the Smoking Gun:
Postscript -- new developments since the above post:

At the Daily Beast, prosecutor Marcia Clark (of OJ fame) writes that a fellow prosecutor lied about the plea deal, undercutting the basis of Polanski's legal defense. The New York Times reports on that new angle: retired DA David Wells, "who triggered claims of official corruption by telling a documentary filmmaker he had coached a judge in the case, now says he made it all up."


researcherone said...

Hey Karen,

I was searching your blog and just noticed this. Thank you for the insight.

I do have a few questions, though:

1) I heard that he had been evaluated by a host of psychiatrists who unanimously clarified that he was NOT a pedophile. Is this true, or is it an inflated conclusion? After all, he apparently never had sex with a prepubescent

2) Um, Poland states that an adult who has sex with anyone under the age of 15 as a "pedophile"? Where did THAT come from? I thought pedophiles are/were those who have a preference for PREPUBESCENT children.

3) As for the question as to whether or not he raped again afterward, he apparently had two consensual relationships with older adolescent girls--Charlotte Lewis and Natasha Kinski--during the 1980s. They were 15 and 16 respectively, and they were legal in France. Are these instances deemed "rapes" as well?

Again, thanks for the links. I have been looking for the formal documentation on this case on and off for a while. I will definitely look into them further.


researcherone said...

By the way, I agree with you wholeheartedly on the double standard (favoritism?) regarding celebrity and wealthy defendants. Although it irks me, I am neither surprised nor confused as to this sort of behavior and the attitude behind it. This is the real world in which we live, and I doubt that it will change any time soon.