Different rules for the rich & famous? Nah!

Like many, I’ve always been intrigued by Roman Polanski’s story.  Born in France, but raised in Poland, Polanski survived the Holocaust by hiding in a barn in Poland’s countryside.  His father survived the Austrian concentration camp he was forced into, but his mother died at Auschwitz.  Polanski went on to become a famous and successful director of Polish films.  After conquering the Polish film industry, Polanski moved west to France and England.  It was in England that he meant and married the American actress Sharon Tate.  They married in January 1968, but in August 1969 Tate — along with their unborn child and several others — was brutally murdered in a house in Hollywood by members of the Manson family.  Polanski was in London at the time and was, originally, considered a suspect depsite the improbability of it.    

So, wow, quite a story, right?  Well, then we all know what comes next.  In 1977, he rapes a 13-year-old girl he is supposedly photographing for some version of Vogue. 

When I was at Sundance in January 2008, the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired was being screened.  I dutifully lined up to see it, but was turned away as were many others.  It was an incredibly popular film there.  The good news, I was told, was that it had already been picked up by a distributor so that meant I would be able to see it at a later date.  That date was last night.

The documentary contains interviews with Polanski’s defense attorney, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case, the victim, the victim’s attorney, Polanski’s friends (including Mia Farrow), a gossip columnist at the time of the rape case, and even Polanski himself.  The film is more than sympathetic to the rapist.

Polanski was charged with several crimes, including rape by the use of drugs and sodomy.  The victim, through her lawyer, expressed her desire for a plea agreement.  After all, she was 13 years old and folks were figuring out who she was; she was being harrassed and wanted to put the incident behind her.  The ADA stated he was not interested in plea bargaining, so the victim’s lawyer went to Polanski’s lawyer who also said he had no interest in it.  That was before the girl’s underwear was found and analyzed.  After that, Polanski was very open to a plea.  The ADA acqueisced in the victim and her family’s wishes, and Polanski pleaded guilty to the least serious of the sex charges: unlawful sex with a minor.  Apparently, the sentence he faced for this crime was “indeterminate,” which seems to me that it could range from probation to fifty years’ imprisonment.  This is where things go even more awry.  I won’t go into too many details, but will say this: the judge may have been a little wacky, a little corrupt, a little unreliable and a little susceptible to public pressures, but Roman Polanski spent 42 days in a state prison for psychiatric evaluation before being sentenced and that is all the time he has ever served.  The judge sentenced him to 90 days in the facility, but he was released early, presumably because he was not actually crazy.  Apparently, this really pissed the judge off.  According to the film, the judge had been prepared to give him the 90 days and then sentence him to probation, but because 90 days turned into 42, all bets were off.  Now Polanski may have faced some time in county jail or something more serious.  Though the judge still seemed all over the place in what he wanted.  Putting aside the oddness of this (90 days is perfect, but 42 is outrageous!), it still seems to me to have been a &^%#$#* great deal for a rapist.  Polanski’s lawyer tells him that he can’t trust the judge and that they can appeal whatever sentence he is ultimately given, but that appeals take time and he will have to be in prison during the appeal.  Now, I know nothing, really, of California law, but I do know that’s it’s not terribly uncommon for a defendant to be free on bond pending an appeal when the sentence he received was small, like the one Roman would probably have gotten (had he gotten any time at all).  I’m also not sure why Polanski’s lawyer waited so long to move for substitution of judge when, by all accounts in the film, the judge was not to be trusted by either party (when the defense attorney finally did move for substitution – after Polanski had fled – the ADA did not dispute the motion).  In any event, hearing the news from his lawyer, Polanski gets on a plane to France and has never returned to the States.  He can’t.  He’s a fugitive and were he to do so, he would be arrested.

So, here we have a man who, at 44, with an incredibly successful film career, chose to rape, drug and sodomize a 13-year-old girl and then flee from the country when it came time for him to face his sentence.  Now, all these years later, he is requesting to be forgiven by the American justice system from which he ran.  And people are lining up to help him.  The victim, it is said, now wants the case to be dropped because she is sick to death of it.  I understand this position and I sympathize with it.  But I’m fundamentally disgusted by the actions of this pig of a man.  He is unapologetic about the rape (having flounted his relationship with a 15-year-old in the years prior to the rape, no one should really be surprised) and frank in his admiration for young women and girls.  He was famously unfaithful to Tate and seems to continue to do just as he pleases.  His career was certainly not harmed by his criminality (having  won a best director Oscar for The Pianist in 2002).  All that has happened to him, really, is that he is not allowed into the United States — a country not his own — without risk that he will be rearrested, taken to court and forgiven in front of a camera.  Yup, that’s right.  The film ends stating that the latest negotiations broke down because — despite California’s readiness to close the case — Polanski wouldn’t agree to appear if there was a camera in the courtroom.  Yeah, because this guy is so afraid of publicity.

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10 Responses to “Different rules for the rich & famous? Nah!”


  1. 1 rose February 10, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Kate I saw this movie. It was on hbo or something. Yes I had a similar response to it. It’s like you can’t even believe each part of the story though. The whole thing with the crazy judge (he really was crazy–kate didn’t go too much into it but he was insane) was just like icing on an already quite kooky cake.

  2. 2 gracieandkate February 10, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Yeah, I had trouble describing his craziness because he was all over the map — ok, we’ll do this deal; oh! I’m really angry Polanski was having a beer in Munich; ok, we’ll settle for this; oh, I want to hold a press conference. I mean, it was all so odd, but I’m not sure what it amounted to. I certainly think he was treated MORE fairly than anyone I’ve ever seen convicted of rape. He was allowed to work on movies and travel abroad before sentencing! Eeks. So weird. And I think you’re right, too, Rose — I think HBO picked it up.

  3. 3 gwendolyngarden February 10, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    That sentence is ridiculous.

  4. 4 gracieandkate February 10, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Ha! I thought you meant a sentence I wrote and I was like, “Wait! What? What did I say? What sentence?” Oh, you mean THAT non-sentence sentence.

    It just irks me because he has all these people defending him and acting as though he were treated unfairly because he’s Roman Polanski when I would say he received some kid glove treatment because he’s Roman Polanski. And after all that, to ask to come back and have the sentence commuted or whatever…it just seems like the height of arrogance. It seems to be flaunting that different rules apply to him.

  5. 5 Heather February 10, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    You have been busy since I last checked the blog, so here are my abbrevaited comments:
    -polanski seems terrible, and i’m still not sure what sentence gwen is referring to. wait, his 90 day sentence that wasn’t even that? oh. i too was thinking grammar.
    -someone probably mentioned it, but wouldn’t daschle be paying someone to do his taxes? i was also confused about what obama’s mistake was. i thought maybe it was his mistake not to have him audited, or maybe he forgot to ask him if he’d paid his taxes?
    –interesting review of revolutionary road. we saw frost/nixon and really liked it.

  6. 6 gracieandkate February 10, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Yeah, I’m not sure if I mentioned that in my comments or not…but I was definitely thinking of it. Making that much money definitely seems like an accountant would be a necessary thing, so I’m even more unsure how it all “slipped” by. I LOVED Frost/Nixon. Loved it!

  7. 7 Heather February 11, 2009 at 8:58 am

    I know. I sort of wish I could go hang out with nixon in cali. not that the movie portrayed him as someone you want to hang out with, but it was quite intriguing.

  8. 8 gracieandkate February 12, 2009 at 9:35 am

    I cried a lot for him, which I know is hard for peeps to understand sometimes. I know he was a gigantic jackass, but also such a lonely man.

  9. 9 gwendolyngarden February 12, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I am tired of you being sick. I assume you aren’t coming to bc, right? I MISS you though. enough with this sickness.

  10. 10 gracieandkate February 13, 2009 at 10:33 am

    I know. I’m here today and I feel like death still. Where in the world did this cold come from? Go away! On a positive note, I got my tax refund!!!!!!!!!!


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