I know every other blogger weighed in on this a few weeks ago,
but I had Wanted
and Desired, the documentary about the original trial, in my
Netflix watch now queue, and I wanted to see it before I
pontificated. I got around to watching it last night.
I was pretty sure the current difficulties Polanski is in
aren’t an example of the creeping police state mentality that
the cases of Gates
neighbor seem to be, since this involves someone who has
actually been convicted of something. But I couldn’t tell from
the news reports what the actual story about plea bargains and
time served was.
If you’re interested, you should watch the documentary. But
the short version is that he was indited on a series of
charges, and the one he was willing to plead to was “unlawful
intercourse”. This is less serious than rape, but can still
lead to a 20 year sentence in state prison.
The sentencing problem the judge faced was that there were
enough issues with the conduct of the trial that he didn’t want to give a sentence that would
be appealed. But he thought Polanski should serve some time in
jail. The only sentence that couldn’t be appealed was the 90 day
“evaluation”, which in Polanski’s case took only 42 days.
The judge was outraged that he had achieved only 42 days in
jail and was trying to bargain for more time in jail when
Polanski decided he didn’t trust these bargains and left.
The documentary focuses on the views of the two principal
lawyers in the case, the prosecutor, who looks a lot like Robert
Redford, and the defense attorney, who looks something like Sam
Waterstone. Of course, what you really want is the point of
view of the victim and of Roman Polanski, both of whom are
interviewed, but understandably don’t want to talk about the
more painful aspects of the issue.
My gut opinion is that this is not the way to protect 13 year
old girls from being exploited by older men. This isn’t an
example of random police power, but certainly does indicate that
the intersection of the courts with the media and the political
system can lead to undesirable results for both victims and
So if Polanski manages to not come back, I won’t be outraged by
any miscarriage of justice. If he does end up coming back, I hope
any additional sentence can be mostly time served in the Swiss
jail, which I would guess is a lot more civilized than the
California State Prison. (I’m not the only person who thinks
that — the reason the 90 day evaluation got done in 42 days was
that the prison officials were concerned that they wouldn’t be
able to protect him.)