Polanski Reactions

Atrios:

I think our society has become a bit hysterical about teen sexuality, and that age limits and punishments for statutory rape have, in some states, started to get a bit exteme even if such relationships are inappropriate.

But the undisputed facts of this case are that she was given booze and drugs and raped. There may be other procedural legal issues as I said, but I really can’t believe people are minimizing what happened. What is wrong with these people?

50 Comments

  1. If it was apparent the crime he committed was the primary reason for his extradition I wouldn’t have a problem with it. As it is he’s being used as a peace offering from the Swiss to alleviate current US pressure pertaining to their banking practices. In addition, when given the history of the case, it would certainly seem to be a matter of baring the fangs of the united states justice system to the world.

    To summarize: I take issue with the tactics used to arrest Roman Polanski and the situation surrounding his current extradition. I take no issue with him being tried and punished for the terrible crime he committed. With the exception of the disparity in treatment between him and certain other celebrities accused of similar crimes, but that’s more an annoyance with how other celebrities have more or less completely gotten off.

    Given that he never admitted to the rape (to the best of my knowledge) and only that he had unlawful sexual contact with a minor is it even likely he’d be convicted for anything but statutory rape? Unless I’ve missed something important (which is very likely) I don’t see Polanski doing more than a token amount of time in a minimum security federal prison. Far less than he deserves for the crime of rape alone, much less rape of a minor.

  2. ANZ: – Actually no, he pled to a lesser charge. I have heard, but have not confirmed, that one of the reasons he fled was because he feared the plea would be thrown out, but I do not have the facts, or a law degree.

  3. He pled to the lesser charge as part of a plea bargain. The judge had to approve the plea agreement, though, and may have indicated that he wasn’t willing to do so due to the girl’s testimony that Polanski drugged and raped her. That’s when the director skipped town.

  4. I have been following the case here in Switzerland. I do not see any basis for the argument that Switzerland has been trying to do the US a favor by arresting him. As it has been discussed here thoroughly, the US handed over a an arrest warrant and told Swiss authorities when he would arrive (people still speculate how they knew). And the Swiss authorities did what they had to do as is defined in contracts between the two countries. Yes, it should have happened earlier, but not matter, I am glad it did.

    The idea this is a peace offering to the US is just insulting Swiss and US authorities.

  5. The judge had to approve the plea agreement, though, and may have indicated that he wasn’t willing to do so due to the girl’s testimony that Polanski drugged and raped her.

    From what’s I’ve read over the last couple of days, the judge had no choice in accepting only the lesser charge – the other charges were dropped. So the only sentence (then and now) could be for the charge of unlawful sex with a minor. Given that he was never tried over the drug and rape allegations, it would have been (and would be) unlawful for the sentencing to take those into account. From various reports, though, it looks like the judge could have issued a sentence of up to 50 years based solely on the single charge that was ultimately brought…

    My impression is that Polanski feared the sentence would have been higher than bargained for because the judge was actually going to take the more severe charges into account even though technically forbidden to do so (ie that he was going to reject a bargain that he might have accepted if the victim had not made the morte severe allegations). At this point it’s all speculation, but that’s what I infer from Polanski’s claims that the prosecution had ‘groomed’ the judge.

    As KingTaco has observed, though, whetever the facts of the case all charges other than that of unlawful sex with a minor were dropped, so legally at least he is ‘only’ guilty of statutory rape. Of course, he’ll now be likely to face charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice etc… for which (I predict) he’ll probably face stiffer penalties than for the original crime.

  6. Oh and for those seeking vengeance: over at Twitter, you can see fellow director Brett Ratner hitting on Polanski’s 16 year old daughter.

  7. Circe, I made it absolutely clear, the US told Swiss authorities when he is going to pop up at the border and handed over an arrest warrant. Why didn’t do this before I do not know. Why they had to issue a new arrest warrant I do not know.

    Anyway, I think it is utterly naive to believe that handing over Polanski will ease pressure on Swiss banks. And Swiss authorities are not that naive. If they want to suck up to the US, they would accept more Gitmo detainees (Switzerland already takes 3-4, you’re welcome).

  8. Amanda, more and more I get the feeling you’re just acting out because the word rape came up and have no idea what’s going on in this case. In the original trial Polanski only plead guilty to unlawful contact with a minor. If he ever openly plead guilty to the rape specifically I am unaware and request you share your source for that information.

  9. King Taco,

    You do realize that the man pled guilty and then fled the country. So if you’re supporting him you’re supporting fugitives…. or at least celebrity fugitives.

    And to side with someone who used a plea deal to get out of deeper shit, whose victim has testified that he drugged her and then raped her makes you nothing short of a rape apologist.

    Stay classy Taco.

  10. @Leo: you might not like the way the justice system works, but that does not mean you can just throw it out the window the minute it doesn’t work out.

  11. Leo, your short comment is annoyingly full of fallacies.

    Firstly, KingTaco has explicitly disavowed support for Polanski (‘I take no issue with him being tried and punished for the terrible crime he committed’) so that’s that claim out the way.

    Secondly, supporting one fugitive (which he doesn’t anyway) is not supporting all fugitives (or even all celebrity fugitives).

    Thirdly, in the eyes of the law Polanski is guilty of no more than unlawful sex with a minor and evasion of justive (or whatever charge will be brought for his actual flight). The fact of a plea bargain does not constitute proof of the other charges.

    This last is not irrelevant; in fact it’s at the crux of the matter: would another person found guilty of that charge have been pursued so relentlessly? If not, has Polanski been pursued for over 30 years because ‘he drugged [his victim] and then raped her’? That would mean he’s been pursued for a crime for which he was never (and will never be) tried, but in the name of an offense to which he pled guilty… which is immoral and illegal, though likely unprovably so.

    There’s also the question of ‘why now?’, with the suspicion that this is political grandstanding, a PR stunt for American Justice, or (pace Thomas, above) a side-game in the US/Swiss banking battle. All of which possibilities are uncomfortable, especially given the resources involved in this thing.

    And notice: none of the above constitutes a defence of Polanski.

  12. The article is neither interesting nor good. Legal scholars in Switzerland pretty much unanimously agree he will be extradited. There are very few precedents where this had not been the case in the past. Also, I do not think that courts will be influenced by what is referred to as “…the European uproar..” in the article. There is no such thing. Even the majority French think he should be extradited according to a recent report. I do not see any fundamental divide between the US and Europe on this one.

  13. Indeed, Thomas. As much as certain media elements would like it to be otherwise, I think the vast majority of Europeans who’ve bothered to learn anything about this are pretty disgusted by Polanski. There’s certainly nothing resembling an “uproar” that I can see.

  14. I fail to see how anyone is defending Polanski. At the minimum he skipped out on his trial, so he is a fugitive from the law.

    If his plea wasn’t accepted he still needs to stand trial for rape, and the flight from justice.

    If the US never submitted arrest warrants to the Swiss until now the Swiss had no obligation to arrest him before. Blame the US for this failure, not the Swiss for upholding their half of the signed treaty.

    And all the arguments about how he felt he couldn’t get a fair trial with that judge are just nonsense. Many people don’t get an initial fair trial in the US, but we do have an appeals process in case that happens.

  15. @Thomas: there is a discrepancy between the legal situation and the political situation. As has been pointed out before – and not just by this article – it remains to be seen if the Obama government is willing to whip up a shitstorm of dubious diplomacy over a decades-old case that might not even end in a conviction.

    Besides, the French may think he should go to prison, but the big offense, in their eyes, is that the US went around France’s back to get at one of their citizens. A major faux pas on America’s side, since it’s been trying to repair relations with France.

    And as far as the Swiss go – willing to extradite is going to bite them in the ass. I’m suprised they went along with it in the first place, because this could easily be perceived as a major threat to their cherished neutrality.

  16. @Circe:

    So is the French government going to pull all its troops out of Afghanistan because of this? Are they going to refuse to deal with NATO or take part in global summits? This is an opportunity for some French political figures to sound off at little risk. You’ll note that all Sarkozy said about the situation is he wanted a speedy resolution — because this really doesn’t matter one bit to the interests of the French government. After all the crap that went on over the last eight years, they’re gonna be mad that we nabbed a fugitive they were harboring? Give me a break.

    As far as Switzerland’s “cherished neutrality” is concerned, how does following through with the obligations of a treaty they signed constitute violating wartime neutrality?

    This is a director, not a high-ranking political or military figure.

  17. @Circe: I do not know what the Obama administration is going to do with this case once it is handed over. Little diplomacy is need to get him extradited.

    But I do not think you understand bilateral agreements on extradition. Unless there is a major fuck up in the paperwork or it is to be expected that he would be treated inhumanely, he will be extradited. The Swiss judge will mainly check the paperwork. There is very little room for interpretation. The judge assigned here is a hardliner.

    And as for the “cherished” Swiss neutrality: please do not use concepts you do not understand. Neutrality as it has been declared by Switzerland is very well defined (even if it is antiquated) and certainly does not extend to extraditions. Otherwise it would be a safe haven for criminal fugitives of all kinds.

    (I just now read Angry Sams comment making a similar point. But maybe Circe will have to read it twice to absorb

  18. Listen, folks, judges do not “approve” plea deals. The state prosecutes crimes, and may offer a lesser charge if the defendant agrees to plead guilty to it. Thus saving the state the trouble of having to actually try the case, which 1) costs money, 2) takes time, and 3) may end up in a not guilty verdict.

    Judges have no authority or power to order that particular charges be brought. That’s entirely the domain of the prosecutor.

    Oftentimes, as part of a plea agreement, the state and defendant will agree to a particular sentencing recommendation. But sentencing is entirely within the judge’s discretion — subject only to the bounds of the maximum sentence allowed under the law that has been violated.

    And judges are not bound by a sentencing recommendation contained within a plea agreement between a defendant and the state.

    In this case, Polanski was originally charged with rape, but pled guilty to the lesser charge of engaging in unlawful sex with a minor. The judge did not have to approve that deal. In fact the judge had nothing whatsoever to do with that deal, aside from ensuring that Polanski admitted to facts supporting the charge. Beyond that, the judge’s only obligation was to hand down a sentence.

    To whatever extent Polanski, his lawyer, and the prosecutor agreed that the sentence would be light, that’s completely irrelevant. The judge was not part of that agreement; the judge made no promises to Polanski with respect to sentencing; the judge was free to sentence in whatever way he felt was warranted.

  19. outeast said:

    “Given that he was never tried over the drug and rape allegations, it would have been (and would be) unlawful for the sentencing to take those into account.”

    Not exactly. In the federal system judges are expressly authorized to consider “uncharged criminal conduct” when delivering a sentence. I realize that this was not a federal case, but some states may have similar provisions. And even without an express authorization to consider such things, from a practical standpoint, a judge is free to consider whatever the hell he wants to consider when imposing a sentence. He has no obligation to be candid or forthcoming about his reasons.

    I appreciate your idealism, but I assure you idealism has no quarter in most American courtrooms.

  20. Will, I’m only (very slightly) familiar with federal criminal procedure, but I’m pretty certain that in federal jurisdictions when a plea agreement occurs the court has the right to accept it, reject it, or defer decision pending review of the presentence report. Is this not the case in California?

  21. That’s technically correct, Angry Sam, but the only bases to reject a plea would be things like mental incompetence of the defendant, or the defendant’s failure to admit to facts supporting the charge pled to.

    Another basis I suppose would be that the facts at issue simply do not match up with the crime charged, but that would be a rarity to the point of almost being inconceivable. It would require some sort of incompetence on the part of the prosecutor. I’ve practiced in federal court for quite a while and never seen anything even close to it.

    It’s not so much that the judge accepts or rejects the plea agreement as much as it is the judge accepts or rejects the defendant’s ability to plead guilty in the first place, to any crime.

    The judge also must go to great lengths to ensure that the defendant is made aware of the consequences of his plea, both in terms of what may happen to him as a result, and in terms of what constitutional rights he’s given up by taking the plea. If the defendant indicates that he is not willing to give up those rights, the judge cannot accept the plea.

    In any event, the judge in Polanski’s case was not in a position to accept or reject the plea. He had already accepted the plea and sent Polanski off for a 90 day psych evaluation prior to sentencing. For reasons I’m not aware of, the psych eval ended after 42 days, after which Polanski fled (prior to his sentencing) — because he apparently believed the judge was going to go hard on him.

    The only point I’m trying to make with all this is that the Polanski apologists who have suggested that the judge reneged on some non-existent agreement are absolutely wrong, both in theory and in practice.

  22. @Thomas: Gee, you think you could lay off the ad hominems? Just because I happen to disagree with you does not make me stupid.

    Which brings me to my next point: neutrality is not a fixed concept. It can, on occasion, be a matter of perception. The Swiss and the US went behind France’s back. Why the US should be bothered by this has been made clear, but the Swiss fucked up their relationship with the French too – their direct neighbour. Add to that that the Swiss have, on occasion, refused to extradite others to America, and this can definitely be perceived as a slight against the French. That’s the whole point in international politics – and the most complex factor in this whole debacle – truth is a relative and most flexible factor. Why do you think the French government knocked on Clinton’s door mere hours after Polanski was arrested? They were furious about being passed over. I strongly suspect the White House wasn’t even aware that they were pursuing this case, and would have had serious second thoughts if they had known. They’ve been awfully quiet so far.

    @Will: where did you get this information? The original DA might have taken a step back – which seems odd timing, considering the fact that the documentary in which she made said lies has kicked up a shitstorm before – but Geimer, her attorney, and Polanski’s attorney have made similar statements. It would not be in their best interests to lie about this.

    Though, I’ll admit, the bottom line here is that there is such scant legal precedent that whatever will happen, it will almost certainly be a first. There is no way to predict what will happen.

  23. I believe we are holding Polanski to the same standards that we should hold all convicted criminals, that they should be punished regardless of their celebrity status.

    How is it a slight to France anyways? Roman was dumb enough to go to a country with extradition treaties, he obviously thought he is too important to face justice for the crimes he commited.

    He fled on bond, that is reason enough, I think its sickening that apparently people are defending him because they feel that in Europe they are more enlightened in regards to sex. Defending that behavior is a sickness in itself, imagine if that was your daughter that was drugged and sodimized. I would demand justice and all of you would as well. He violated our laws and its time to face our justice, other considerations have no bearing.

  24. @joeypeeps: I’m really tempted to go into this again. Like the fact that they’re making an example out of him. Or the fact that everybody’s now pretending that the judge was something of a misunderstood hero. Or the fact that the victim isn’t exactly thrilled that this is going on either. Or the fact that they’ve had a gazillion opportunities to get at him, but never did until 32 years later, in effect punishing his family more than punishing Polanski. Or the fact that his 42-day sentence was as much as anyone in the seventies would have gotten on a sexual misconduct charge.

    But I suspect that won’t do any good.

    Signing out.

  25. @Circe: Yes, sorry that was unnecessary.

    Neutrality as declared by Switzerland is a fixed concept. There is no room for interpretation. Switzerland does not take any side in an armed conflict and in return its territorial integrity is guaranteed.

    The relationship between France and Switzerland has been slightly strained for a while now. But this has nothing to do with neutrality. Just because Switzerland is neutral does not mean that we cannot have any disagreements with other countries.

    And guess why it has been strained lately? No, it is not because we make the far better cheese, it is because of the banks. And some say Switzerland wanted to do the US a favor vis a vis the dispute regarding the banks. Switzerland could as well have done France a favor by not arresting him.

    I think some put far too much importance on Polanski. This is not a geostrategic but a legal problem. Let’s just see Polanski for what he is, a 73 year old pervert waiting for extradition. I would be surprised if heads of state were actively negotiating a solution.

  26. Circe,

    I’m sorry, why are you defending a fugitive who had inappropriate contact with a 13 year old when he was in his 40s?

    Hope you don’t have any daughters.

  27. Will

    In the federal system judges are expressly authorized to consider “uncharged criminal conduct” when delivering a sentence.

    Seriously? How in hell can that be legal? You guys don’t have the presumption of innocence?

    Crumbs. I’m gobsmacked.

  28. outeast,

    This is a complicated question with an even more complicated answer. It’s off topic and sure to bore just about everyone, but I’ll try to be brief.

    The way criminal laws usually work is that the legislature/executive will enact a criminal law and declare what the maximum penalty is for violating that law. For instance, a first offense DUI carries a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail (hypothetically speaking). The state will prosecute violations of that law and the judge will then sentence accordingly, subject to the one-year statutory maximum.

    Sentencing has traditionally been the sole province of the judge. The judge may consider whatever he or she wishes when imposing a sentence. The defendant doesn’t even get to ask why.

    Back in the ’60s, the US federal government enacted what are called the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The guidelines are essentially a massive forumla that judges were forced to utilize when determining a sentence. The guidelines contain a plethora of factors and considerations that must be evaluated by the judge. For instance, a defendant will receive a lesser sentence under the guidelines if he has demonstrated “acceptance of responsibility” for his actions. (This is usually accomplished by pleading guilty.) Similarly, the defendant will receive a harsher sentence if he does not exhibit acceptance of responsibility.

    The goal of the guidelines was to eliminate the disparities between sentences received by defendants convicted of the same crime. The result of the guidelines was to take the actual process of determining the sentencing entirely out of the hands of the judge.

    One of the factors to be considered under the guidelines is uncharged conduct from the underlying case. As applied to the Polanski case, it would allow the judge to consider the rape and drugging, even though that’s not what Polanski pled guilty to.

    (Polanski was not a federal case, though, so I’m just using that as an example. That said, several states utilize sentencing guidelines that are similar to the federal guidelines.)

    Just a few years ago the US Sup Ct declared the sentencing guidelines to be unconstitutional. The effect of that decision was to make the guidelines advisory rather than mandatory. Nevertheless, the vast majority of federal judges still utilize the guidelines.

    Yes, allowing a judge to consider uncharged conduct when sentencing a defendant has an impact on the notion of presumption of innocence. But like I said earlier, you don’t find a lot of idealism inside American courtrooms.

    That said, the presumption of innocence still does exist, and every single criminal jury in the US (in both state and federal court) is both instructed about and ordered to uphold the presumption by the judge and by the lawyers before, during, and after every criminal trial.

  29. circe,

    “Or the fact that his 42-day sentence…”

    The 42 days he served during the psych eval was not his sentence. It was before his sentence was even delivered. Judges occasionally seek such evaluations regarding convicted criminals prior to sentencing so that they (the judge) will have as much information as possible about the defendant before he is sentenced.

  30. I’m sorry to say, I think this flamewar has jumped the shark. Let’s put it all behind us. You all are right, and we are all friends again.

  31. @Circe… Who cares, those “facts” have nothing to do with anything. Courts and the law run on true facts, not emotions. I’m glad they’re making an example out of him. He violated our laws and he fled punishment and then flaunted his “liberated” lifestyle in our faces from overseas. It doesn’t matter that time has passed, he is owed the justice of his actions.

  32. Oh outeast, you have no idea. The guidelines are an absolute disaster. Here are a few other gems:

    The judge may increase a sentence if he believes that the defendant perjured himself in the course of a trial. This usually happens if the defendant takes the stand and testifies in his own defense, but is later convicted by the jury. The reasoning being, the jury did not believe the defendant, therefore he lied (under oath — i.e., perjury).

    A judge can deliver a longer sentence if he believes the defendant had a leadership role in a group-offense, like a conspiracy. Or if a gun was used (even in a non-gun crime).

    Whether or not a victim was especially vulnerable is a factor that can considered.

    And as I said, there’s the acceptance of responsibility (AOR) thing. You’ll get less time if you accept responsibility. Really the only way to do that is to plead guilty. If you go to trial and are convicted, you’ll almost never get AOR. The effect is that there is a massive incentive for defendants to plead guilty, because the amount of time they’ll have to serve will be significantly higher if they don’t plead and are convicted by a jury. Nevermind the fact that you have a constitutional right to a jury trial.

    Occasionally a defendant will plead guilty but even then won’t get AOR. Interesting fact: Michael Vick was one such person.

  33. KT: Yes, I “jump” at the word rape – many people do, and everyone should. I may not know the intricacies of the American justice system, but I don’t deserve to be shut down and shut out of the conversation.

    So what if my argument is simple. As far as I see it, it’s a pretty simple case. The man raped a girl (not a woman, not someone of consenting age); he did it in a heinous way with massive coercion drugs and violence; he then skipped country to avoid sentencing.

    If, like Jeff, you are tired of the conversation and want it to go away, too bad. Until the victims of rape are treated fairly and with respect, until women are believed and not blamed, until technicalities are not found to get a man off, the societal conversation about rape will not go away.

    Because it never goes away for someone who is raped, however much you would like it to.

  34. Knee-jerk reactions don’t equal conversation. You’ve pretty much shown, several times, that conversation isn’t your goal anyways. Which is fine, if your goal is to yell rape from the top of your lungs that’s well within your right. Don’t mask it as any kind of real argument though, particularly when nobody is disagreeing that it happened or that it was a terrible thing. So have fun being a rape promoter.

  35. How is bringing the concience of women’s right to the fore a “rape promoter”? From what I can see, all you’re fond of is pushing people’s buttons. I’ll say it again – nothing comes of shutting up about a problem.

    The only person who is a rape promoter is someone who uses the word “but” in their arguments. “I disagree what he did, but…”. There is not “but”, only the one you’re talking out of.

  36. I’m still waiting for an answer to a question I posed:
    How many years have to pass before forcible rape (she said NO) becomes O.K.?

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