Those folks who speak in his defense are asking, in effect, that Polanski get special treatment because he is a successful celebrity. Like some athletes or other public figures, Polanski asks to be afforded a separate form of treatment for his misbehavior because he has entertained the public, and has the money to circumvent the system. One filmmaker, a pseudo-jurisprude, was quoted saying, “Whatever you think about the so-called crime, Polanski has served his time.” Yes, in Paris and Gstaad. The “so-called crime,” to which Polanski pleaded guilty, was plying a 13-year-old girl with champagne and Quaalude, and sodomizing and raping her — he pleaded guilty to unlawful intercourse.
There are two crimes under consideration:
1. Rape. The undisputed facts are that Polanski drugged a 13-year-old and raped her. Why should the prosecutor or judge be persuaded by all the understanding and sympathy from these supportive men (I haven’t heard many women leaping to his defense), filmmakers and politicians, who now speak out for Polanksi? Their testimony would be relevant at the sentencing proceeding; it isn’t as press releases. If the victim, now a young woman, is forgiving today, that may be a factor for the judge to consider. But not the only one. The judge also should ask Polanski how he would feel if one of his children (at 13) was treated like he treated this young girl. I know how I would feel, were she my daughter.
2. Flight. It is a separate crime to flee from the justice system. Every criminal who does so has, perforce, the same specious argument that Polanski now makes — the crime was so long ago, why punish me now? That’s the same logic as the kid who kills his parents and argues for leniency because he’s an orphan. If you get away long enough, the court should forgive your fugitive status? No leniency was shown other escaped criminals in comparable cases — aging Nazis or former draft evaders, for example — even when they have lived exemplary lives while on fugitive status.
Polanski’s cast of legal defenders now includes Reid Weingarten, an influential and successful Washington trial attorney, retained to seek intervention by federal officials. The talented lawyer, a friend and former colleague of the attorney general, will represent Polanski in the extradition process, The New York Times reports. I hope the attorney general, and any approached Obama administration officials, will recall how that kind of interference tarred former President Bill Clinton when he gave Marc Rich a pass from prosecution. His role in that affair was a blemish on the attorney general’s record and an embarrassment in his confirmation hearing. The federal government should leave California justice questions to California.
Polanski has tried every evasion available to a rich and well-connected criminal defendant. Except standing trial and facing judgment. It is time he did that.