Polanski – Investigated and Revisited09.29.09
In order to get more of a grasp on the Polanski situation, I just watched the documentary “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” and it shed some light on the case that I hadn’t known and I don’t think is widely known to the general population.
Apparently, Polanski made a deal with the prosecutor. He pled guilty to unlawful sex with a minor in exchange for the rest of the charges to be dropped, which included rape, giving a minor drugs, sodomy, and perversion. The law apparently is very vague on what kind of sentence to give to someone guilty of his crime – six months to fifty years. And no one convicted of that crime had been incarcerated in the year preceding Polanski’s conviction. The recommended sentence was probation.
Long story short, the judge in the case was an attention hound and didn’t want his image tarnished by looking like he was soft on Polanski or if the outcome ended up making Polanski look like he got the best of the judge. The prosecuting attorney wasn’t going to push for incarceration. But, the judge couldn’t be trusted to adhere to his word regarding what Polanski’s sentence would be, and could’ve included forcing Polanski to agree to voluntary deportation after spending 48 days in county jail. Or worse.
So Polanski fled to France.
I didn’t know the entire story. In fact, I knew very little. All I had really heard was Polanski, rape, and 13 year old girl. I also didn’t realize that he was actually convicted of a lesser charge and only fled before sentencing. I thought he had fled after being charged with all those original crimes. If he ends up back in California, it’s unlikely he will be handed a stiff penalty at this point. According to the documentary, the two lawyers (the prosecutor and Polanski’s counsel) both approached a new judge regarding the case who agreed to simply give Polanski probation were he to return… only if it were a televised event.
I have to say I’m much more conflicted on my opinion of this case than I was before. It’s never as black and white as it’s made out to be. It’s hard to see how having sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old – which by our society’s definition cannot be consentual – would only bring the punishment of probation, much less when drugs and alcohol are involved. But I’m not sure that is Polanski’s fault as much as it’s an indictment on the justice system and the law, in general. It also shows just how different things are treated when celebrities are involved.
Polanski’s case makes me wonder why the prosecution would even think of a plea bargain with so much evidence stacked up against him. One reason: the victim. She didn’t want to go on the stand. She was a 13-year-old girl not wanting the spotlight, not wanting the ridicule. She wanted it to be over with. It’d be hard to convict if the victim was refusing to testify. Getting Polanski convicted of anything at that point would be better than going to trial and watching him exonerated of all charges.
I don’t know how I feel about this case anymore. The girl ended up filing a civil suit against Polanski and then forgave him. At what point does that end up being enough? When should the state simply stay out of people’s affairs if they can deal with them on their own? Especially when the victim is a traumatized teenager who could arguably be affected even worse with a long, drawn-out, public trial. I don’t think there’s a clear answer.
Regardless of how a victim feels, when a person breaks the law, there should be consequences. The idea is that the law treats everyone the same and objectively. We all know that’s not really true since people run the justice system and people are inherently flawed, some more than others. And this is evident in the Polanski case with the self-serving judge making a show of the whole ordeal, which did made a mockery of justice.
Either way, Polanski ran off. He didn’t want to risk excessive punishment so he fled and avoided all punishment. Had he stayed and taken the sentence from the judge, he may have only gotten the 48 days in jail and then deported, so he would essentially be right where he is now. Or he could’ve stayed and maybe the judge gives him a year in prison to help the judge’s public image. Or more. Who knows? Would it have been fair? Well, if he were incarcerated solely for the judge’s personal image reason, no, it would not be fair.
But I can’t exactly see spending a year in prison excessive punishment for having sex with a middle-schooler by any means. In fact, one could consider that getting off fairly light. At the same time, what does that say about justice system when the sentence doled out is simply for the judge to save face instead of the being proper punishment for the crime committed?