Roman Polanski is in the news yet again as Poland mulls an extradition request from the United States. It’s the sexual assault case that will not die, stretching over almost 40 years, countless attempts at dismissing the charges, scores of film industry supporters, and a loud conversation on the Internet that ensures Polanski’s name never stays out of the public eye for long. It’s time to bring Polanski back to the U.S. at last to face a court of justice, not least because the 81-year-old director won’t be around forever, and he needs to finally be held accountable for his crime.
Roman Polanski was convicted of raping a 13-year-old—and he needs to finally do his time
If Poland does the right thing, the long arm of the law might finally pluck Roman Polanski out of exile.
Polish authorities wait til Roman Polanski has one foot in the grave to "consider extradition" *MOUTH AGAPE*
— WonderCem (@LegendaryOneder) January 20, 2015
Polish prosecutors request extradition of Roman Polanski still a rapist http://t.co/0tMcFAxXMO
— MM (@creekbear) January 20, 2015
In 1977, Polanski was charged with furnishing a controlled substance to a minor, perversion, sodomy, committing lewd and lascivious acts upon a child of under 14, and rape by use of drugs. He took a plea bargain for “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor”—statutory rape—in exchange for having the other charges dropped. After being ordered to attend a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation and completing it, Polanski was asked to appear in court for final sentencing. But instead, he fled the United States for France, taking advantage of his protection from extradition, and he’s been hiding in Europe ever since.
Polanski has somehow ended up being cast as the victim here, living in “exile” in Europe in the undoubtedly harsh and miserable conditions of multiple homes, cradled by film industry elite.
This isn’t about whether the statute of limitations on the case has expired—he’s already pled out to avoid a trial and the question isn’t whether he committed the crime but why he failed to appear for formal sentencing, which likely would have included some jail time followed by expulsion from the United States. Polanski has somehow ended up being cast as the victim here, living in “exile” in Europe in the undoubtedly harsh and miserable conditions of multiple homes, cradled by film industry elite—the filmmaker has continued to make movies, win awards, and make the industry circuit.
Polanski has made some of the most beautiful, and influential, films of our time. Rosemary’s Baby (1968) remains an enduring classic, as does Chinatown (1974). Just two years after he raped Samantha Geimer, he directed Tess, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Director. The Pianist (2002), 2003 Best Picture winner, and Venus in Fur (2013) have both been internationally acclaimed in the U.S. and abroad. His artistic talent isn’t in dispute, but it’s possible for a great artist to do terrible things, and by all accounts, that’s what he did to Geimer; testimony from the case indicates that the terrified 13-year-old begged him to stop as he committed multiple sex acts against her will, an activity that is generally known as “rape” in the public discourse, though the legal system may call it “unlawful sexual intercourse.”
His supporters from around the world include a disturbingly long list of well-known figures like Tilda Swinton, Woody Allen, David Lynch, Salman Rushdie, and Martin Scorsese, who treat him like a persecuted hero instead of the rapist he is.
But being talented and producing incredible works of art doesn’t exclude you from accountability for your crimes. Polanski accepted a plea deal, admitting to his crimes in exchange for a lesser sentence, and he needs to face up to sentencing. His decision not to has been supported and facilitated around the world not just by national governments but by heavyweights in the industry, especially in Europe, where many French dismiss the case for extradition, and the Polish have embraced him as a cultural icon. His supporters from around the world include a disturbingly long list of well-known figures like Tilda Swinton, Woody Allen, David Lynch, Salman Rushdie, and Martin Scorsese, who treat him like a persecuted hero instead of the rapist he is.
Polanski has filed a series of requests for dismissal, including in 2008, 2009, and just last year. Every time, the Internet has been ready with opinion pieces and commentary to remind the world that Roman Polanski committed a horrific crime for which he hasn’t been sentenced, which may play a role in how the court has ruled consistently against Polanski. Each request has been denied, with the judge mandating that Polanski appear in court, something he refuses to do for fear of facing penalties at last.