Anne Applebaum writes of “The Outrageous Arrest of Roman Polanski” — even though her post shows that she doesn’t have the slightest clue about the facts of the case. Because the Washington Post (like the L.A. Times) has the habit of revising content without telling readers that it has done so, I am going to quote her entire post:
Of all nations, why was it Switzerland — the country that traditionally guarded the secret bank accounts of international criminals and corrupt dictators — that finally decided to arrest Roman Polanski? There must be some deeper story here, because by any reckoning the decision was bizarre — though not nearly as bizarre as the fact that a U.S. judge wants to keep pursuing this case after so many decades.
Here are some of the facts: Polanski’s crime — statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl — was committed in 1977. The girl, now 45, has said more than once that she forgives him, that she can live with the memory, that she does not want him to be put back in court or in jail, and that a new trial will hurt her husband and children. There is evidence of judicial misconduct in the original trial. There is evidence that Polanski did not know her real age. Polanski, who panicked and fled the U.S. during that trial, has been pursued by this case for 30 years, during which time he has never returned to America, has never returned to the United Kingdom., has avoided many other countries, and has never been convicted of anything else. He did commit a crime, but he has paid for the crime in many, many ways: In notoriety, in lawyers’ fees, in professional stigma. He could not return to Los Angeles to receive his recent Oscar. He cannot visit Hollywood to direct or cast a film.
He can be blamed, it is true, for his original, panicky decision to flee. But for this decision I see mitigating circumstances, not least an understandable fear of irrational punishment. Polanski’s mother died in Auschwitz. His father survived Mauthausen. He himself survived the Krakow ghetto, and later emigrated from communist Poland. His pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered in 1969 by the followers of Charles Manson, though for a time Polanski himself was a suspect.
I am certain there are many who will harrumph that, following this arrest, justice was done at last. But Polanski is 76. To put him on trial or keep him in jail does not serve society in general or his victim in particular. Nor does it prove the doggedness and earnestness of the American legal system. If he weren’t famous, I bet no one would bother with him at all.
Ha. If he weren’t famous, he never would have gotten a slap on the wrist for anally raping a 13-year-old girl.
Or didn’t you know that, Ms. Applebaum? Because I missed that part in your recitation of the “facts” — which, by the way, inaccurately states that he had a “trial.” He did not. He pled guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, in return for the agreement to dismiss several other charges, including rape and sodomy.
UPDATE: Well, well. It turns out that Applebaum’s husband is a Polish politician who is currently actively lobbying for Polanski’s freedom. Seems that Applebaum did not mention that. Details here.
UPDATE x2: As I make clear on the sidebar and in other posts on this issue, while I work for the Los Angeles County District Attorney, I do not speak for him in any official capacity whatsoever. I write this post as a private citizen, and I express no opinion on what sentence Polanski should receive.