Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Long Arm Of The Law

People have asked me various questions about the Roman Polanski situation. And despite the fact that I am not a criminal lawyer, I think I have a pretty good handle on some of the answers. So here goes:

1) He committed the crime (raping and drugging a 13 year old girl) in the late seventies. Hasn't the statute of limitations run? No. The SOL applies to the period of time the State has to bring the charge. Polanski pleaded guilty thereby tolling the statute. There is no SOL on apprehension of a fugitive. So Polanski is, shall we say, SOL.

2) Why did he flee the United States? Rank cowardice is the easiest explanation. But his people say-and who knows if this is true- that the sentencing judge-now deceased-was influenced by an improper communication from a prosecutor not involved with the case to impose incarceration beyond the 30 days in a psychiatric facility Polanski caught initially. But it is said that this was immediately interpreted by Polanski as a potential miscarriage of justice. So before you could say, "Sacre bleu!" he was headed for France.

3) Why didn't the United States ask France to extradite him? I did not know this until the other day but Polanski was born in France which makes him a French citizen. Most countries, the United States included, will not extradite a citizen except for the most heinous of offenses. Statutory rape evidently is not one of those offenses. Besides, it is my understanding that France's concept of what crimes they will extradite over is something of a fluid concept. It could be that France would have been loathe to send an artiste like Polanski back to face the music at the hands of barbarians back in the States.

4) What did it take so long to extradite him? I mean he was running around making movies and stuff while he was on the lam and stuff? Unlike what is shown on cop shows on TV and in the movies, it is really hard to trace money and people. I mean, the entire intelligence apparatus of the United States and Great Britain have been looking for Bin Laden since 9/11. How has that worked out for them?

Further, and I am engaging in speculation here, despite the heinousness of the crime, Polanski was a relatively low level offender that didn't really justify that level of scrutiny. This is especially important when you consider that the victim received a large settlement and forgave Polanski. Besides, L.A. law enforcement was busy fucking up the prosecutions of OJ Simpson and Robert Blake for a large part of this time.

5) So how did they catch him? Polanski's lawyers recently filed a Motion to have his conviction overturned. This was a dubious strategy for two reasons: 1) American courts typically don't view post-conviction motions for relief filed by a fugitive with favor. I mean, when you take a powder you ain't exactly working with the system. So legally it was a dubious strategy in the first place which undoubtedly had the secondary effect if 2) pissing them off according to various news reports and putting Polanski back on the radar screen where lo and behold they found out that the Zurich Film Festival was going to give him an award. They asked the Swiss authorities to pick his ass up pursuant to the extradition treaty between the two countries. Which they did. Nice work counselors!

6) Isn't it kind of ridiculous to extradite a 74 year old man who isn't exactly accused of war crimes? Sure, especially when evidently the prosecutors failed to make him surrender his passport back when he pleaded out in the first place. Which makes them kind of complicit in my view.
But legally, it's a pretty simple case. I am assuming that even in Switzerland Polanski would have a hard time making bail because, well, he's a flight risk. Duh. Once they get him back here in the US they can and will charge him with all kinds of stuff. And he will go to jail. Once again hubris and narcissism is the downfall of yet another smart ass who was squarely in the cross hairs of The Man.

Somebody put on my Facebook page that Woody Allen has come out in his defense.


1 comment:

Polycarp said...

Laurence Rittenband was a fine judge before whom I argued motions several times. It is inconceivable that he engaged in improper conduct. He'd been a sitting Superior Court judge for at least 20 years before the Polanski case and had handled many, many high profile cases. He had an impeccable reputation and had lots more smarts than to play footsie with the D.A.'s office on a case where he already had a guilty plea.

What Rittenband wanted to do following the psychological evaluation was to sentence Polanski to an additional 48 days in a prison--not what you'd call an unreasonable sentence for statutory rape. Polanski will almost certainly be imprisoned longer than that in Switzerland while his extradition is appealed.

One of the reasons we sentence criminals is to deter other crominals who are thinking of committing the same crime. Pedophiles looking at pretty girls don't get much of a deterrent from the news these days. Roman Polanski raped a 13 year-old and has lived a free man in France for 31 years. Brian David Mitchell kidnapped 14 year-old Elizabeth Smart and raped her several times daily for nine months, and has convinced at two judges that he's too crazy to stand trial. Phillip Garrido kidnapped 11 year-old Jaycee Dugard and raped her repeatedly over nearly two decades.

I'm willing to bet that there are lots of pedophiles who look at the stories of Polanski, Mitchell, and Garrido as success stories.

So I think Roman Polanski should be sentenced severely for statutory rape, charged with evading capture and eluding serving his sentence, and set up as an example.