The Roman Polanski mess is becoming divisive, that’s for sure. Last night I appeared on Joy Behar’s new talk show on Headline News. Joy is on the fence, although I think she’s leaning toward extradition. The other panelist, Jeanine Pirro, kept shouting “Rape!” Yours truly took a milder stand.
Sources close to Polanski tell me, as we all know by now, that he will fight extradition. But what caused this situation? Switzerland, I think, has a lot to answer for. They’ve harbored U.S. fugitives for years. Marc Rich – an evil man who conducted business with enemies of the state and wouldn’t pay millions in taxes — lived there from 1983 until Bill Clinton pardoned him in January 2001. No one went near him, and Rich ran a worldwide billion dollar business with offices right under the FBI’s nose in White Plains, New York. I mean, who’s kidding who?
The answer is: more and more, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office was embarrassed by Polanski. First there was Marina Zenovich’s excellent documentary, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.” The film showed the lunacy of Polanski’s original judge, Lawrence Rittenbrand, and the malfeasance of the court.
Then starting last January 2009, Polanski’s lawyers — emboldened by the film — started filing motions against the court. Samantha Geimer, Polanski’s victim, also filed to have the charges dismissed. I am told that all through this year, Zenovich was filming in the courthouse. All of these things were like taunting the District Attorney: “Come and get me.”
Zenovich, by the way, has flown with her film crew to Switzerland. She’s making the sequel to “Wanted and Desired.”
You can read just about anywhere what Polanski did to Geimer in 1977 when she was 13 years old. It was obviously wrong. He made a plea bargain, served 43 days in prison, and expected that a final deal had been made with prosecutors. When he learned that Rittenbrand was going to ambush him, Polanski fled the U.S.
There are many things to say in Polanski’s defense thirty-one years later. He has never been accused of anything else. He is not a threat to the community, or the world. He’s been happily married for twenty years and has raised a family. It’s not unreasonable to say that this was an isolated moment in his life. Thirty-one years. As a judge said in a case I was once attending, where only 14 years had passed, “Murderers get off in less time.”
Indeed, in Los Angeles, celebrities accused of murder walk around as free men. O.J. Simpson is only in jail because of an unrelated case, in another state. Robert Blake lives a good life. It took two trials each to put away both the Menendezes and Phil Spector.
Without question it’s time to let the Roman Polanski story be over. He’s done his time. To paraphrase the Eagles’ “Desperado,” his prison was walking in a world all alone.