I know… I’ll take some heat for this post. Maybe a lot of heat.
However, my heart is heavy and my shoulders feel the burden from a situation where the scales of justice have been unbalanced. I’m a Prudent Gentleman. I have no choice but to bring this situation to light and seek equity in the matter.
As a father and a man, I’ll never be able to comprehend what Roman Polanski did over thirty years ago. For me, the details really don’t matter. What he did was unconscionable.
However, what a judge did in terms of abusing our judicial system leaves me speechless. And, the fact that the problem with both the judge, and prosecutors that continue to compound the problem is both unconstitutional and beyond reason.
In 1977 Polanski apparently engaged in inappropriate conduct with an underaged girl. He cut a plea agreement with prosecutors and served time.
The world knows that part. And, they know that in 1978 Polanski fled the United States for France. We also know he has continued a stellar career as a producer of film classics. However, I’ll not make him a hero here by outlining his victories. Because it could well detract from my point.
However, what is not known in the the world, at least the world known within the continental United States, is that the judge overseeing the Polanski case arbitrarily decided to renege on the pleas agreement after Polanski emerged from prison. Polanski was allowed to plead guilty to one of six charges, and was sent to prison for forty two days of evaluation. Lawyers agreed that would be his full sentence, but the judge tried to renege on the plea bargain. The girls family lawyer, Lawrence Silver, told the judge that his clients were not seeking a prison term for Mr. Polanski, only an admission of wrongdoing and rehabilitation. Later the girls family reached an undisclosed financial settlement with Polanski. Aware the judge would sentence him to more prison time and require his voluntary deportation, Polanski fled to France.
Samantha Geimer (now 45), his victim, said in a 2003 commentary for The Los Angeles Times:
“… he and his most recent film, “The Pianist,” should be honored on their own merits. She added, “Who wouldn’t think about running when facing a 50-year sentence from a judge who was clearly more interested in his own reputation than a fair judgment or even the well-being of the victim?”
Former opponents Douglas Dalton, Mr. Polanski’s lawyer, and Roger Gunson, the assistant district attorney who led the prosecution, together, pin the blame for Polanski’s flight directly on the presiding judge, Laurence J. Rittenband (who stepped down in 1989, and died in 1994). The lawyers fill in the appalling details of what was effectively a second crime, one largely perpetrated by a celebrity-dazzled judge, and the equally gaga news media he courted.
This crime left two victims, Mr. Polanski, who was denied a fair trial, and Ms. Geimer, who was denied justice, and has publicly stated: “Sometimes I feel like we both got a life sentence.”
Polanski was arrested by Swiss officials late last week as he entered the country to receive a filmography award for life-time excellence. He has never hidden and always made himself available to authorities. Polanski has 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. Earlier this year, Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza in Los Angeles dismissed Polanski’s bid to throw out the case because the director failed to appear in court but said there was “substantial misconduct” in the handling of the original case. In his ruling, Espinoza said he reviewed not only legal documents, but also watched the HBO documentary, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” which suggests there was behind-the-scenes manipulations by a now-retired prosecutor not assigned to the case.
Nonetheless, Polanski is currently being held in a Swiss prison awaiting extradition to the United States.
Ironically, it’s apparently being left to the French, Polish and Swiss governments to defend Polanski. In France, Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said he was “dumbfounded” by Polanski’s arrest. He went on to add: “In the same way that there is a generous America that we like, there is also a scary America that has just shown its face.” In Paris, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he hoped Polanski could be quickly freed by the Swiss, calling the apprehension a “bit sinister.” He also told France-Inter radio that he and his Polish counterpart Radek Sikorski wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and said there could be a decision as early as Monday if a Swiss court accepts bail. The Justice Ministry insisted Sunday that politics played no role in its arrest order on Polanski, who lives in France but has spent much time at a chalet in the luxury Swiss resort of Gstaad. That has led to widespread speculation among his friends and even politicians in Switzerland that the neutral country was coerced by Washington into action.
For the moment I am also dumbfounded by our judicial systems lack of credibility in this matter. What Polanski did was clearly wrong. But, it was resolved, whether you agree with that resolution or not, under the scales of justice. However, those scales are upended and bent out of any shape of fair recognition by a single man acting out of his own self-interest, and willing to abuse his authority. Even though Polanski has petitioned the US courts in good faith for decades to review and resolve the problem created by a rogue judge, he will, tragically, never realize a fair trial in this matter. The media has fanned the wrong flames for years.
Meanwhile, lawyers on multiple continents are asking that Polanski be released on bail. So, the best that he can hope for is a return to France where life, liberty and justice will best if awkwardly prevail.
In other news, President Barack Obama is jetting off to Brazil with Oprah to petition the International Olympic Committee on behalf of the city of Chicago in the hopes of securing a bid for the 2016 Olympics.
Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.
Brian Patrick Cork