Advertisement

Justice must be served in Polanski case

Roman Polanski is one of the foremost film directors of our time. He is also a child rapist and fugitive from justice. For more than three decades, he has been on the lam from the law. But the law has caught up with Polanski, who was arrested in Switzerland at the behest of authorities in Los Angeles, who are seeking his extradition.

The story is familiar by now. Polanski, director of the nouveau-noir classic "Chinatown" and other cinematic gems, drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl in L.A. 30 years ago. He had agreed to plead guilty and accept time served (42 days in jail) as his only punishment -- itself something of an abomination. When Polanski learned that the judge was considering rejecting the plea deal in favor of a long sentence, he fled to France, which has refused to extradite him and where he holds citizenship.

Advertisement

Like a Roman Polanski movie, this is a tale in which there are few good guys. The crime itself was monstrous and can in no way be excused as a byproduct of the tragedies in Polanski's personal life (his mother was killed by the Nazis, and his wife, Sharon Tate, was a victim of the Charles Manson cult). The judge, by most accounts, was a publicity hound eager to further his career by making an example of Polanski.

But what are we to make of the French officials, fellow artists and supporters who have expressed outrage over the arrest and have formed an unofficial "free Polanski" movement? Is there no worthier cause for their energy and passion? What seems to be lost on so many of these people is that Polanski is no victim. He raped a child. Does that deserve a 50-year sentence? Perhaps not -- although, speaking as the father of a teenage daughter, it does not strike me as completely out of bounds.

In any case, the law is the law. If a sentence is harsh, there are ways of correcting it: through the time-honored legal mechanisms of appeal, parole and pardon. Fleeing justice is not an acceptable solution.

Here's something else I'd like to know. In all these long years, did Roman Polanski do anything tangible to remedy his grievous behavior? Keep in mind that long experience shows that someone who preys on children is unlikely to do so only a single time. Do we know for a fact that he managed to stay away from young girls? Did he voluntarily seek treatment for his apparent problem? Did he ever make a contribution to any of the many organizations that assist child victims of sexual abuse? Has he ever even expressed remorse for his crime?

By all means, enjoy Roman Polanski's movies. But don't for a minute imagine he's some persecuted hero.

[Photo by AFP/Getty Images]

Advertisement
Advertisement