Everyday Ethics

Everyday Ethics


Polanski Arrested En Route To Zurich Film Festival: Belated Justice?

posted by hfields

roman-polanski-in-wing-collar.jpgAccording to CNN, legendary film director Roman Polanski was on his way to receive a lifetime achievement award in Switzerland when he was grabbed up by police on a warrant issued in 1978. Said the Zurich Film Festival that is now sans guest of honor:

“Roman Polanski, who is one of the greatest film directors of all time, would have been honored for his life’s work in Zurich today. However yesterday, on Saturday, he was taken into custody while attempting to enter Switzerland due to a request by U.S. authorities in connection with an arrest warrant from 1978.”


Polanski had pleaded guilty to having unlawful sexual intercourse with 13-year-old Samantha Geimer back in ’77, then fled the country to evade his sentence. There have been rumblings over the years that his case was mishandled, however. According to the Huffington Post’s article, Polanski had asked a U.S. appeals court in California to overturn a judges’ refusal to throw out his case. He claims misconduct by the now-deceased judge who had arranged a plea bargain and then reneged on it.”

And even his victim seems to wish the whole thing would just fade from memory. Says the CNN news article:


“Polanski’s victim is among those calling for the case to be tossed out.
Samantha Geimer filed court papers in January saying, “I am no longer a 13-year-old child. I have dealt with the difficulties of being a victim, have surmounted and surpassed them with one exception.
“Every time this case is brought to the attention of the Court, great focus is made of me, my family, my mother and others. That attention is not pleasant to experience and is not worth maintaining over some irrelevant legal nicety, the continuation of the case.”
Geimer, now 45, married and a mother of three, sued Polanski and received an undisclosed settlement. She long ago came forward and made her identity public — mainly, she said, because she was disturbed by how the criminal case had been handled.”


But really, it’s not only up to her, despite the sympathy we must feel for Ms. Geimer and the delicacy she deserves. The way I see it, Polanski committed a crime and it sets an awful precedent to allow him to skate free. All these years he’s been making  art, living it up in Europe, while being lauded and well compensated for his talent. Basically, he didn’t like how his case was being handled, so he decided he was above the law — an option the average person doesn’t have the resources to take, much as they might wish to. Never did he have to face up to his actions — until now.

I hear a lot of outcry that he’s a special case – so talented, so much tragedy in his life. As the Huffington Post reports, the French cultural minister responded to Polanski’s arrest by saying he was “dumbfounded” by Polanski’s arrest, adding that he “strongly regrets that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already experienced so many of them.” It’s true, the man had had a lot to deal with before the incident with Geimer. Once upon a time, the whole world was agog at the news of his wife, actress Sharon Tate’s grisly murder by Charles Manson’s followers, and as a child, his mother perished in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

But I don’t know. I don’t see how the things done to you excuse the things you do to others — particularly 13-year-old girls you ply with champagne and a sliver of quaalude. 

So: be honest: did you watch any of the movies he’s made over the years since he evaded justice? (He won the Oscar for “The Pianist” in 2002, most notably, though he was unable to enter the United States to accept it.) Do you feel he deserves to serve out his prison term now, or have some sort of deal cut for him? Do you think he’s an example of an unrepentant Hollywood elitist? Or do you think he got a raw deal in the first place? Does talent excuse bad behavior? Do the tragedies of Polanski’s past excuse his own misdeeds? Do the celebrities who’ve continued to flock to work with him in the years since his flight from justice bear some culpability as well? So many ethical questions attend this fascinating case…

Weigh in below!


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Comments read comments(14)
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Pema

posted September 27, 2009 at 11:28 am


This man should be locked up for the rest of his life. I question the sanity of his supporters.



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Christopher Gillen

posted September 27, 2009 at 12:11 pm


Try him, convict him, and sentence him to a five movie contract with Paramount.



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MWorrell

posted September 27, 2009 at 12:23 pm


It would simply be an irresponsible and reckless act to allow this man to go free from justice. It’s more ethical to abandon a law entirely than to deliberately enforce it selectively.



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Mark

posted September 27, 2009 at 1:25 pm


yfxhdt
Why is there discussion of who he is and his accomplishments as a film maker. or the fact that his victim has put this behind her. This man admitted that he drugged and molested a child. Period ! Look at your own children, any child. The magnitude of his actions are horrendous. Sharon Tates murder in no way negates his heinous crime. This could have caused the death of a child (drug overdose He committed “sodomy rape” of this child as well. I suspect anyone that would offer a defense or excuse for polanski.
What would Sharon Tate think of him now ?



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Pierre Cottrell

posted September 27, 2009 at 3:27 pm


1° Polanski had no way to know that the girl was under age.
In fact, her mother had been pimping her for years.
2° He did flee U.S. Justice. But that was after six weeks
at Chino, a facility that housed members of the Manson Family



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Your Name

posted September 27, 2009 at 4:32 pm


I agree with everyone, except Pierre for obvious reasons. No way of knowing? Ridiculous. And even if she had not been underage, he still raped her, a heinous crime in and of itself. And what? You don’t like your punishment so you flee the country? What if everyone had that option? Think of the world then. I’d be really interested in hearing what people, especially Hillary and Paddy, think of the actors who have chosen to work with him over the years with full knowledge of his crime: Adrien Brody, Johnny Depp, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Hugh Grant, Kristin Scott Thomas, Harrison Ford, Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Catrall, James Belushi,and Tom Wilkinson just to name a few. All actors I personally like, or like as actors–I can’t say how feel about them as people, although based on their choice to work with Polanski I have a feeling we wouldn’t roll with the same crowd.



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James Nicola

posted September 27, 2009 at 5:19 pm


Whether Polanski knew the girl was 13 or not is unclear. His lawyers apparently argued that he thought she was past the age of consent – but that he thought the age of consent in California was lower than it was. Anjelica Huston, who was in the house at the time, said that she thought the girl was somewhere between 18 and 25, an and that Polanski did as well. The girl’s mother said that Polanski was aware of her age, which, given that it was not the first time they’d met, seems more likely.
The history of the case, aside from the squalid events themselves, is interesting. When charges were brought it was apparently thought that they would be very difficult to prove, particularly given that the girl was already sexually experienced and that there was evidence of consent; as such most of the charges were dropped and a plea deal was arranged. Polanski agreed to plead guilty to the most minor charge – unlawful sexual intercourse – and he was to be sentenced to time served. Note, please, that he has not pleaded guilty to, or been convicted of, raping or drugging the girl. It is agreed that he had sex with a girl who was underage – whether he knew she was underage has never been shown, nor have any of the more lurid allegations.
Execution of the sentence was delayed with the court’s agreement, while Polanski finished a project in Germany. While this happened, the judge, one Rittenband, was then reported to be preparing to renege on the plea agreement. This would have been a very odd course of action for any judge to take; the only explanation that has been proffered, which seems to be generally accepted, is that the judge was a publicity hungry, showboating fool. The victim, Samantha Geimer (nee Gailey), has herself condemned the judge, stating that “The judge was enjoying the publicity and didn’t care about what happened to me. . . . He was just orchestrating a fun little ‘show’ that I didn’t want to be in.” . The prosecutor in the original case, agreed that the judge had acted improperly and stated that “I’m not surprised that he [Polanski] left under those circumstances.” Indeed, Superior Court Judge Espinoza stated some time ago that there had been prosecutorial and judical misconduct in the original case, but refused to dismiss the case in Polanski’s absence, though hinting strongly that it would be dismissed if he appeared.
All in all, I see no benefit coming from this possible extradition – which probably won’t be successful, in any case. It is going to cost a substantial amount of taxpayers money. Even if the extradition request is successful and a trial occurs, it is unlikely, given the judicial misconduct, and the passage of time, to result in an actual sentence. Most importantly, as Hillary said, the person who should be considered most highly in this, Samantha Geimer herself, who is now a perfectly normal forty something mother with three children, does not want this to happen. She has stated that she most of all wants the media fuss to go away, stating that “He [Polanski] did something really gross to me, but it was the media that ruined my life.” She has said that he should be able to return to the US without charges being brought and has, in fact, appealed to the court to dismiss the charges. “I have survived, indeed prevailed, against whatever harm Mr Polanski may have caused me as a child”…”I think he’s sorry, I think he knows it was wrong. I don’t think he’s a danger to society. I don’t think he needs to be locked up forever and no one has ever come out ever – besides me – and accused him of anything. It was 30 years ago now. It’s an unpleasant memory…(but) I can live with it.”
First, do no harm. There is no way this ends up helping any identifiable, and no way in which it will not do damage. The mooted benefits to society from seeing him come to trial are minimal, at best, and there are many ways the money could be used to better benefit society without more harm being caused. The victim’s wishes should be honoured, and the case dropped.



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James Nicola

posted September 27, 2009 at 6:32 pm


This transcript – http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0302/24/lkl.00.html – of Larry King’s interview with the victim and her lawyer may also be interesting. It’s notable that the both of them are very clear that the judge, by reneging on the plea agreement, acted improperly thereby effectively railroading Polanski into fleeing – and that the judge even gave a press conference afterwards where he said that that was what he was hoping for.
The victim’s lawyer also notes that the statute of limitations has passed on everything except the minor charge Polanski pleaded guilty to originally. As such, even if the extradition request is honoured, even if he was brought back and the case wasn’t dismissed on the grounds of misconduct, even if he was eventually sentenced – all he could be sentenced for, according to the victim’s lawyer, is the charge he pleaded guilty to originally, and given that the prosecutor, the victim, the victim’s lawyer, and his lawyer all agree that there was a plea bargain in place to limit this to time served and that they were all happy with this then and now – after all that, all he’s likely to be sentenced to is time served. Does anyone really think that this outcome is worth the time, trouble and expense?



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Hillary Fields

posted September 27, 2009 at 8:16 pm


James – do you think it’s ethical to flee the country to escape the sentence because the judge reneged on his deal? Would it, hypothetically speaking, be OK with you for the average citizen to do as much at will?



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James Nicola

posted September 28, 2009 at 9:07 am


Hillary – In the specific circumstances of the case I believe the most ethical course for Polanski to have taken would be to stay in the US, and if the judge ruled unfairly to appeal that judgment with every resource he could muster, and to try and ensure the judge was disciplined appropriately. A bad judge does substantial damage to society; more perhaps than almost any other criminal, and their misbehaviour needs to be fought. That said, such behaviour would have been heroic, and I think expecting heroism is unreasonable. Therefore, I do not think it was unreasonable for Polanski to flee the country before he could be done an injustice. And while I don’t like extending my judgment on the individual circumstances of a case to hypothethicals – in general terms, yes, if the non-existent ‘average citizen’ was about to be done a substantial injustice by the state I think it’s reasonable for them to flee. Before forming this judgment, though, I would want to be convinced that there was a substantial injustice about to be done. The fact that the prosecutor, victim, victim’s attorney and two other judges seem to have agreed this was the case is sufficient to convince me of this in this instance.



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Kristin T.

posted September 29, 2009 at 4:07 pm


If Polanski goes free what kind of message does that send?? That’s it is okay to rape a young girl, jump bail, run to a foreign country and hide from the law for thirty years!!! I don’t care if he raped her thirty years or two days ago, it doesn’t make any less guilty of the crime. And the fact that he has high Hollywood contacts or is a big name himself, he isn’t above the law and should be held responsible for his actions.
What is this world coming to that a man can rape a thirteen year old and get away with it?? Lock him up and throw away the key.



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KES

posted September 29, 2009 at 11:58 pm


This is a case of a 45 year old having sex with a 13 year old. This is not a case about two teenagers under the age of consent having sex, or an 18 year old having sex with a 17 year old.
This is the definition of rape. It doesn’t matter if the girl was “experienced.” It doesn’t matter if she had “consented” (since a minor cannot give consent). It doesn’t matter if Polanski (or anyone else) thought she was over 18 at the time. It doesn’t matter if Polanski had sex with her (raped her) previously. It doesn’t matter if the victim or her family did not want to press charges at the time or even if the victim wants the case to be “tossed out” now.
This isn’t about the charge he pled guilty to or even the sentence that was handed down. That is a discussion about the law. This is about ethics.
Are we as a society going to give him a pass because it was 30 years ago? Because he is a celebrity film director? Because of all the lame justifications many have proffered as a defense? Do we feel the same way about other (alleged?) sex crimes – R Kelly? MJ? What about Murder/Manslaughter – OJ? Stallworth? Why should it matter what this person does or how many fans or supporters trot out in front of a camera in support?
What does this say about our society, and the pedestal that we put these people on?



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Your Name

posted October 5, 2009 at 1:10 pm


James, just a little legal technicality the lawyer should have maybe pointed out (and maybe you should have realized before you go copying and pasting the rhetoric) — statute of limitations on the original allegations are not applicable in this matter. Polanski pleaded guilty to a crime and fled before he was sentenced. There is no time barr on the matter because it’s still an active evasion. He was convicted, but not sentenced of a crime. In addition to that crime, he’ll now be charged with fleeing justice. So no, sorry, it’s not just some “minor” crime as you said. And frankly, I’m unsure as to why you would ever classify a 45 year old man having sex with a 13 year old girl as a “minor” crime.
If Polanski feels he was treated unjustly during the trail — so be it. He can appeal his conviction just like everyone else in the American justice system. I don’t care who he is or what movies he has made. He deserves no special treatment. As for your comment that staying here and battling the judge’s supposed misconduct would have been heroic – I strongly disagree. It’s called being an adult and facing consequences. With regard to the outcry over the judge’s failure to adhere to the plea bargain — judges are under absolutely no obligation to adhere to plea bargains that are struck between a defense attorney and a prosecutor. Just ask Bank of America, who as you’ll know if you follow the news, had its settlement thrown out by a judge.



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Debra Rincon Lopez

posted October 16, 2009 at 7:40 pm


It’s time to make him pay for his crimes. He has been FREE long enough. He shouldn’t have ran away from this long ago. They need to throw the book at him. No matter what happen’s, it’s a longtime coming that’s for sure!



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