Patterico's Pontifications


Polanski Did Not Plead in Exchange for An Assurance That He Would Receive Only 90 Days

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:24 am

There is a meme spreading through the news that Roman Polanski pled guilty “in exchange” for a 90-day sentence. Here is the AP quoted at ABC News:

Polanski pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse. In exchange, the judge agreed to drop the remaining charges and sentence him to prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. Polanski was released after 42 days by an evaluator but the judge said he was going to send him back to serve the remainder of the 90 days. Polanski then fled the country on Feb. 1, 1978, the day he was to be sentenced.

The same language has appeared in other AP stories, such as this one (published in the New York Times).

The story’s clear implication is that a 90-day sentence was part of Polanski’s plea agreement — that he pled guilty only because he had previously received assurances that we would serve only 90 days in prison.

That is absolutely false. The documentary film about Polanski does not make this claim. Polanski’s lawyers do not make this claim. His plea transcript does not substantiate this claim.

According to all those sources, when Polanski plea guilty, he was promised only: 1) that other charges would be dropped, and 2) that the judge would decide the sentence after hearing the arguments of counsel and reviewing the probation report. Polanski acknowledged in his plea that he might receive prison time:

MR. GUNSON: Mr. Polanski, who do you believe will decide what your sentence will be in this matter?


MR. GUNSON: Who do you think will decide whether or not you will get probation?


. . . .

MR. GUNSON: Do you understand that at this time, the Court has not made any decision as to what sentence you will receive?

THE DEFENDANT: (No response.)

MR. GUNSON: Do you understand that the Judge has not made any decision?


. . . .

MR. GUNSON: Mr. Polanski, do you understand that at the time of probation and sentencing, the prosecutor may argue that you should be sentenced to State Prison, or incarcerated in the County Jail?


The sentence was up to the judge, who had the right to send Polanski to prison. In the film, Deputy D.A. Roger Gunson says he was pleased with the agreement because it exposed Polanski to as much as 50 years in prison. Polanski acknowledged in the plea transcript that he understood that the charge to which he was pleading carried a lengthy potential prison sentence.

According to all parties, the alleged promises by the judge to send Polanski for a 90-day diagnostic and then release him were made after the plea, in comments made in chambers. Nobody says that Polanski pled “in exchange” for these assurances, which were made only after his plea.

So can you stop misleading people, AP? Thanks!

P.S. The latest AP story contains this remarkable passage concerning internal e-mails between people working at the L.A. District Attorney’s Office — for whom I work, but for whom I do not speak on this blog:

It is unclear from the e-mails why Los Angeles officials were concerned about Austrian cooperation on a Polanski extradition request. There was no reference to Polanski’s history as a Jewish Holocaust survivor whose mother died in Auschwitz, or the sensitivities about having him pursued in the land of Adolf Hitler’s birth.

Wow. So now the D.A. is insensitive for considering having Polanski arrested in Austria because Hitler was born there? Did I really just read that?



  1. “Sensitivities?” That is rich. If the AP had layers and layers of editors, they would note that this non-sequitur was also a violation of Godwin’s Law.

    Comment by carlitos (35ae51) — 10/22/2009 @ 7:33 am

  2. That is remarkable, even for the AP, which is remarkable in and of itself.

    Comment by JD (07f478) — 10/22/2009 @ 7:36 am

  3. Dispose of that inconvenient transcript down the memory hole, pronto. MiniTru says its doubleplusungood.

    Comment by Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407) — 10/22/2009 @ 7:50 am

  4. Well, I’m a twofer — I’m a prosecutor and the son of a Holocaust survivor.

    Speaking as the former, in my mind, the flight alone would mean that all bets are off, regardless of any promised sentence. The disrespect shown to a judicial system that is the fairest in the world, bar none, alone merits jail time. That it is clear that the plea agreement included no such promise only confirms the desperation of the Polanski supporters as filtered through the AP.

    Speaking as the latter, my late mother, who was tortured by her experiences during the Holocaust, never ever used it as an excuse for anything. She lost a lot but did not use that to obtain anything for which she had not worked. The idea that, as a Holocaust victim, Polanski is entitled to some consideration despite his victimization of a child, is deeply offensive not only to me, but to those of us whose parent(s) survived that inferno and who came to this country and built new lives with new families. These people did not feel empowered to commit crimes.

    And, if I may afforded one last comment, particularly distasteful in the “I’m a Holocaust survivor” defense is that that inferno is being used to mitigate, if not justify, the maltreatment of a 13 year old. How many 13 year olds (and younger) were lost during those six dark years?

    Comment by MIK (4363c7) — 10/22/2009 @ 8:10 am

  5. Is the AP a news provider or an entertainment provider?

    Comment by Corwin (ea9428) — 10/22/2009 @ 8:25 am

  6. Good thing they have those layers of editors and fact-checkers. Otherwise someone might mistake the AP for a leftie blog.

    Comment by Kevin Murphy (3c3db0) — 10/22/2009 @ 8:32 am

  7. Associated Press writers Thomas Watkins in Los Angeles and Veronika Oleksyn in Vienna contributed to this report.

    “The AP did not refer to why they allowed a journalist based in Adolph Hitler’s homeland to report on the case of an imprisoned Holocaust survivor.”

    Comment by Kevin Murphy (3c3db0) — 10/22/2009 @ 8:38 am

  8. The AP, bringing you all the news that’s fit to make up.

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! (408097) — 10/22/2009 @ 8:42 am

  9. Comment by Corwin — 10/22/2009 @ 8:25 am

    Whichever it is, they are failing at it!

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! (408097) — 10/22/2009 @ 8:43 am

  10. (that was my Fox News/Entertainment Provider dig)

    They are getting ‘press’. So I would have to say they are not failing as an entertainment provider. However, their backers (interested in real news) will not be as happy to learn they’ve shifter their mission to entertainment.

    (is this where I place SNARK?)

    Comment by Corwin (ea9428) — 10/22/2009 @ 8:54 am

  11. Back to Amber, Corwin. I think there’s a Unicorn with your name on it.

    Comment by mojo (8096f2) — 10/22/2009 @ 8:57 am

  12. AP is shot through with delusion at all levels. There’s the biased, inaccurate reporters such as those described here.

    Above them are their bosses, who urge the underlings to pursue fluff and sensationalism and bogus investigative pieces over factual reporting.

    At the top are pinhead executives like Tom Curley and Dean Singleton, who trying to force the world back into the cozy monopoly past they grew up with. They haven’t the foggiest of how to deal with competition.

    Meanwhile, the AP falls down on the meat and potatoes coverage that newspapers rely on them for. That’s why newspapers are looking for alternatives to AP.

    While there are doubtless many good individual reporters in AP, the whole edifice they work in is rotten. It will be a good day for journalism when it finally collapses.

    Comment by Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407) — 10/22/2009 @ 9:01 am

  13. #4 MIK:

    And, if I may afforded one last comment, …

    Hell, I’d be happy to buy you a soapbox, if you need or want one.

    Comment by EW1(SG) (edc268) — 10/22/2009 @ 9:01 am

  14. Who needs a soapbox when you’ve got the ‘net?

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! (408097) — 10/22/2009 @ 9:06 am

  15. I heartily laughed when I saw the Hitler reference.

    What in the hell kind of argument is that? Oh man, lies and hitler = LA Times. A real bona fide news organization, unlike those horrible right wing ones, that operate without sensitivity towards the nation’s first black president in the very country Jim Crow was born.

    Comment by Dustin (bb61e3) — 10/22/2009 @ 9:09 am

  16. So how does that work? How many autrian girls do you get to rape if you survive the holocaust? Sigh.

    Comment by A.W. (b1db52) — 10/22/2009 @ 9:17 am

  17. The real offense if to the people who suffered from the holocaust and live decent lives, to be granted this sort of benefit. If this man wants to talk about this, give him his day in court, but to pursue charges at all?

    Do the Jewish get treated better in Austria than the rest? I had never heard of such a thing. I would be shocked to see some asshole liberal insist on such benefits in 2009. Perhaps I shouldn’t be, though. How dare the Jews move on and be successful happy people! They must be aggreived!

    Comment by Dustin (bb61e3) — 10/22/2009 @ 9:21 am

  18. On a related matter, did you see the following in an Oct.17 Reuters report?

    However, he fled the United States before the case was concluded because he believed a judge would sentence him to up to 50 years behind bars despite a plea agreement for time already served.

    Not only was there no “plea agreement for time already served,” the statement that Polanski “believed a judge would sentence him to up to 50 years” is without justification. If Reuters had used “could” instead of “would,” this aspect of the quotation would be OK, but from what I have seen, there would have been no basis for Polanski to believe he would be sentenced to anything approaching 50 years.

    Comment by Tim K (7e41e8) — 10/22/2009 @ 10:45 am

  19. So “Holocaust survivor” is now the same sort of thing as James Bond’s double-ought Licence to Kill? This sort of nonsense is bad enough when the Israelis do it, but I can understand it from them a lot better than I can from this pampered, spoiled media mogul. (Is he even Jewish? This is the first I’ve ever heard of such a thing—and I wonder what would have happened if he’d run to Israel and tried to invoke the Law of Return? The Israelis did hand back Meyer Lansky, but that was because the US government put a lot of pressure on them—would we have considered Polanski worth the trouble?)

    Comment by technomad (eefe5a) — 10/22/2009 @ 11:50 am

  20. Is Polanski supposedly Jewish now?

    Has he had the surgery?

    Comment by Mitch (890cbf) — 10/22/2009 @ 12:17 pm

  21. technomad

    > This sort of nonsense is bad enough when the Israelis do it, but I can understand it from them

    I have never seen the isrealis say that the holocaust gave them a right to kill. what they have said was that after the holocaust, they were not going to put up with any more genocidal a–holes anymore. Holocaust or no, they have a point. they have endured the per-capital equivalent of 17 9-11′s. What do you think would happen if we had anything like that happen to us?

    Comment by A.W. (b1db52) — 10/22/2009 @ 12:32 pm

  22. “According to all parties, the alleged promises by the judge to send Polanski for a 90-day diagnostic and then release him were made after the plea, in comments made in chambers.”

    1. Do “all parties” agree that the 90 day deal was ever actually made.

    2. Of course, if the 90 day deal were actually made (and he and/or his lawyers had some record of it), then Polanski’s flight is still egregious, as well as super stupid.

    On a related point, an apology in advance for what may be insensitive humor:

    MIK writes, “who was tortured by her experiences during the Holocaust, never ever used it as an excuse for anything.”

    For a caring son like you, it was enough for your Mom to remind you, “I carried you for 9 months.”

    Comment by Ira (28a423) — 10/22/2009 @ 1:41 pm

  23. Patterico,

    They can continue hammering away at the facts, but, as Orwell helpfull points out, the anvil always breaks the hammer. Keep up with the good work.

    Comment by Fritz (39197b) — 10/22/2009 @ 2:16 pm

  24. Maybe if Polanski was so traumatized about Austria being AH’s birthplace, he should not have gone there in the first place!!

    Comment by Hangtown Bob (a58188) — 10/22/2009 @ 4:28 pm

  25. Maybe if Polanski was so traumatized about Austria being AH’s birthplace, he should not have gone there in the first place!!

    Comment by Hangtown Bob (a58188) — 10/22/2009 @ 4:28 pm

  26. [...] Tim K. comes yet another article that mistakenly says Polanski pled for time served. This time the [...]

    Pingback by Patterico’s Pontifications » Reuters Errs on Polanski: Claims He Pled for “Time Served” (e4ab32) — 10/22/2009 @ 9:43 pm

  27. Patterico, I take it you understand that AP has taken the position that ANY quote from one of their stories constitutes a copyright violation? They don’t appear to have heard of the “fair use” doctrine. Very brave of you to quote them anyway.

    I really hate AP.

    Comment by Mona (e1e854) — 11/20/2009 @ 1:19 pm

  28. Did you know that Glen Greenwald is one of our generation’s greatester legal minds, and his eloquent prose has been read into the Senate record?

    Comment by JD (d64d94) — 11/20/2009 @ 1:31 pm

  29. Mona,
    AP has done a lot of blustering about fair use, but really hasn’t followed. If the company actually sued, there’s plenty of evidence of AP quoting from blogs without permission.

    Comment by Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (c3b70d) — 11/20/2009 @ 1:55 pm

  30. JD: Yes, I did know that about Greenwald. But what impresses me most is that he recently testified before the highest levels of the Brazilian govt, and will speak again later this month before a committee of the Canadian Senate. You see, he is fluent in Portuguese, and the Cato Institute commissioned him to author a white paper on Portugal’s successful drug policy reforms.

    He’s in big demand for many things, but right now, that seems to be the hottest issue for which he is being engaged.

    Comment by Mona (e1e854) — 11/20/2009 @ 3:11 pm

  31. If the company actually sued, there’s plenty of evidence of AP quoting from blogs without permission.

    Oh, I know. But your typical, middle class blogger receiving a cease and desist letter from AP’s counsel, get’s frightened. And who can afford to defend themselves in federal court against AP? Not many, so their bully tactics generally work.

    Comment by Mona (e1e854) — 11/20/2009 @ 3:19 pm

  32. Oh, and for the record, I agree with everything I’ve read Patterico write about the Polanski case, altho I’m sure I’ve not read everything.

    Comment by Mona (e1e854) — 11/20/2009 @ 3:22 pm

  33. Mona,
    Agreed, but even the dimbulb executives running AP aren’t so dumb as to sue an attorney on top of his facts as Patterico. They don’t have a leg to stand on, and they know it.

    Comment by Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (c3b70d) — 11/20/2009 @ 3:27 pm

  34. #30 is comedy gold.

    Comment by JD (204bee) — 11/20/2009 @ 4:58 pm

  35. 13.#4 MIK:
    And, if I may afforded one last comment, …
    Hell, I’d be happy to buy you a soapbox, if you need or want one.
    Comment by EW1(SG) — 10/22/2009 @ 9:01 am

    Patterico, maybe I’m missing something, but I find EW1(SG)’s comment uncalled for, to the point that I request he/she be put into moderation.

    Brother Bradley- unfortunately not having a case is of little value if one has bucks but the other doesn’t (unless you are a lawyer and can defend yourself, of course).

    Comment by MD in Philly (227f9c) — 11/20/2009 @ 5:11 pm

  36. I would whole-heartedly disagree, but YMMV.

    Comment by JD (6a0bfc) — 11/20/2009 @ 5:24 pm

  37. MD in Philly,

    I’m not sure how familiar you are with EW1(SG), but I took that more along the lines of “Preach it, brother” and supportive of what MIK had said, not anything disrespectful. It took several readings for me to understand why anyone might object. MIK’s comment spoke to accountability and a refusal to play the “victim” card… both of which I’m certain EW1(SG) applauds. If he’s around he can speak for himself, but until then I will go by what I know of his character and offer my perspective.

    Comment by Stashiu3 (44da70) — 11/20/2009 @ 5:29 pm

  38. Stashiu3-
    Thank you for the clarification. With your perspective I feel you are correct.

    My apology to EW1(SG), please forgive my over-reaction.

    I had thought it was more sarcastic, as in, “Well, if you want to make a point of it, why don’t you get a soapbox, for crying out load.”

    I am in and out and haven’t seen anything from EW1(SG) in the last few days. While I didn’t remember him clearly, I did not associate his tag with anything negative, except for my mistaken interpretation of this post. A reminder to ask questions to clarify, first. Yes, JD, I condemn myself for it…

    Comment by MD in Philly (227f9c) — 11/20/2009 @ 5:41 pm

  39. Hey Guys, we’ve got to cut back on all of this self-condemnation thing….
    after all, it’s JD’s rice-bowl.

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! (e373b4) — 11/20/2009 @ 6:16 pm

  40. MD – No sweat. I am consistently anti-banning and moderation. EW1 is one of the good guys. As a friend says, friendly fire sucks, keep your aim downrange.

    Denounced and condemned. All of you. Especially Mona. For reals.

    Comment by JD (6a0bfc) — 11/20/2009 @ 6:33 pm

  41. #30 is comedy gold.

    What is “comic” about Cato commissioning a knowledgeable lawyer who speaks Portuguese to write a white paper vis-a-vis Portugal’s drug policy, and then that author speaks to various governments about his research findings? (scratching head)

    Comment by Mona (e1e854) — 11/20/2009 @ 7:35 pm

  42. “There was no reference to Polanski’s history as a Jewish Holocaust survivor whose mother died in Auschwitz”

    That’s probably because those issues are completely irrelevant.

    Comment by Dave Surls (f3ff35) — 11/20/2009 @ 8:06 pm

  43. Are we sure that “Mona” really exists?
    Sure seems to be a lot of lint around here when “she” starts commenting.

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! (e373b4) — 11/20/2009 @ 9:12 pm

  44. Are we sure that “Mona” really exists?

    Don’t know who you mean by “we,” but Patterico has received email from me with my surname appended. Further, I blog at Jim Henley’s Unqualified Offerings, and Jim knows exactly who I am, to wit: a 53-year-old retired lawyer and grandmother named Mona XXXXXXX.

    God, some of you are bizarre and paranoid!

    Comment by Mona (e1e854) — 11/20/2009 @ 9:27 pm

  45. How do you retire as a grandmother? ;)

    Comment by Stashiu3 (44da70) — 11/20/2009 @ 9:33 pm

  46. How do you retire as a grandmother?

    It’s an intermittent retirement. ;) After enough hours of the two little male monsters fighting (“He’s looking at me!” “Am not. “Yes you are.” “Grandma, he won’t stop LOOKING AT ME!”)I get to send them back to daddy and mommy, and return to the sanctuary of my quiet apartment.

    Comment by Mona (e1e854) — 11/21/2009 @ 12:31 pm

  47. “…a retired lawyer…”

    Thank Goodness, society is saved!

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! (444f28) — 11/21/2009 @ 12:48 pm

  48. [...] is false. As Patterico documents, the judge never agreed any such [...]

    Pingback by AP misstates Polanski plea bargain « Internet Scofflaw (c01b85) — 11/22/2009 @ 10:40 pm

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