Sep 282009

Roman-Polanski1Picture this: A 40-something dude dopes a 13-year-old girl with quaaludes then rapes her vaginally, orally and anally then flees the country to escape prison. Given, for three decades, Roman Polanski fastidiously avoided traveling to the US (the country which would arrest him) as well as the UK (and other places that might extradite him) — it appears, surely, he  worried he’d eventually get caught. Such was the case this weekend when he was finally arrested.

If you’ve been to Funky Brown Chick before, you know about Manly Mondays–weekly nods to men, masculine topics and other testosteronely bits. Also, if you’ve hung around here a while (and/or know me personally), you’re familiar with my love of film and you’re likely aware I used to work international affairs before moving to New York and pursuing a career that fed my passion for the written word. So, naturally, what better Manly Monday pick could I write about today than what Esquire magazine calls a “30-year-old case, on sex, justice, and the American way.” So, here we go …

It seems no one doubts Roman Polanski has had an incredibly unfair share of misfortune. A Jew having escaped wartime Kraków ghettos only to learn his mother would later perish in Auschwitz, his childhood wasn’t without horrors. He could’ve been a tortured soul when he came to the U.S. as adult and directed his first film, the occult flick Rosemary’s Baby. (I rented it ages ago and loved it. My reaction to it was similar to my impressions of reading Stephen King: “I’m probably taking in the product of a brilliant, albeit possibly disturbed, mind.”) In any case, Polanski’s misfortunes likely might’ve seemed to diminish as he career took off and he married the beautiful Sharon Tate. Nineteen months after the wedding, on August 8, 1969, his 8-1/2 month pregnant wife, Tate, was brutally murdered by Charles Manson’s gang. They weren’t targeting her. Out for blood, it was just dumb luck she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Almost full term, her killer testified she got “sick of listening to her, pleading and begging, begging and pleading” to give birth to Polanski’s child before they took her life. Upon hearing the news of his bride and only baby’s death, I can only imagine Polanski must’ve felt cursed. What did he do to deserve such horrible fate? Sadly, the answer is probably: absolutely nothing. Life, unfortunately, isn’t fair.

Enter the rape of 13-year-old kid, Samantha Gailey. I’ve neither heard nor read anything that suggests he’s innocent. Gailey (now Geimer) testified he did it, and Polanski admitted his guilt. Having said all that, after watching confessions & testimonies contained in the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted & Desired*, I get the impression no one believes Judge Rittenband gave Polanski a fair trial. Reporting for the Washington Post, critic Tom Shales has said, Rittenband’s “bungling of the case was so outrageous.” Of Polanski’s recent arrest, French Minister of Culture and Communication Frédéric Mitterrand commented he “strongly regrets that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already experienced so many of them.” Indeed. Although justice should be blind, I’m often sympathetic when people who — through no fault of their own — are unfairly burdened with extra heapings of the shittiest of life’s (mis)fortunes. They deserve a break. Though, the key phrase there is through no fault of their own. He pleaded guilty to raping a child, and life has its odd synchronicities. Quoting The Guardian: “Just as 13-year-old Samantha Gailey was unfortunate enough to run up against Polanski in horny, Austin Powers mode, so Polanski was unlucky to be then dragged before Rittenband.”

“So,” several friends have recently asked, “what do you think about this Polanski stuff?” I’m neither or judge nor a lawyer, so I’ll refrain from speculating about the legal technicalities of the case. I only know what I’ve seen in the press — which, of course, is not without its flaws. So, I guess my final answer isn’t resolute at all. I don’t know what to think of it yet because I’m still turning it around in my head. The incidents are truly unfortunate–for everyone involved. That said — whether you’re a bystander reading the news, a survivor of teen sexual abuse, someone with children of your own, a film buff who thinks Polanski got a raw deal, or whatever — I want to hear from you. As I’ve said many times, the world is most interesting when people respectfully disagree. Feel free to use the comments section below to do so.

Psst! I highly recommend the documentary. It’s available (FREE!) streaming online to Netflix members. Click Roman Polanski: Wanted & Desired.

  18 Responses to “Sex Crimes: What Should Happen to Roman Polanski?”

  1. I guess the question is if he were someone other than famous with the same life story and history – how would the courts treat him? In this case the victim has asked for clemency and the trial was at best convoluted – does he deserve to be punished? Does a new trial mean new pain for the victim? What would do no harm and still serve justice?  I too am torn.  What does the law say? Has the statute of limitations run on this? Is it possible for him to get a fair trial at this late date? Justice delayed is justice denied – so is there even a point in a trying him now?

  2. He should go through sentencing, like anybody else would. If his attorneys felt the case had retrial merits, they should have gone for that at the time. He’s guilty, has admitted his guilt, and then fled sentencing. And what child molester hasn’t had a helluva tough life? It’s not something that well-adjusted, happy people do.

    For the record, I love his movies and think he’s brilliant. And guilty. I’m willing to give up whatever more films he has to offer the world, you know? It’s <i>Chinatown</i>, not the Bill of Rights.

  3. I just read an article written by Samatha Gailey right before Polanski won for the The Pianst basically saying they made a deal, he admitted his guilt, please move on. I guess it’s one of at least two she’s written about it. I say if the victim has moved on, we should, too. Here’s a link to that article:

    LA Times

  4. On one hand, I feel sorry for him and all of the horrible things that he went through. But even with that, it does not give him a pass to  break the law. Some of our greatest entertainers, directors, authors, etc. have been brilliant in their crafts, but dysfunctional and disturbed in other aspects of their lives. If the victim, however does not think that he needs to be punished any further, then that is her right to feel the way she does. I don’t know how anyone could go through what she went through and not still be affected by it in some way, but maybe  she is a stronger person than most. Anyone who takes advantage of a child is sick– Polanski is brilliant, true, but he is a sick individual.

  5. The victim in this case has indeed said that she wants the case to just be overwith–not out of forgiveness toward him, but because the publicity means that people dredge up the details of the case all over again, which is upsetting to her. What we forget is that this is not a civil trial, but a criminal one–i.e. he committed a crime against both the individual (the victim) and the state (a society that says it’s not okay to drug and rape 13-year-olds). If we make prosecuting and sentencing of rape dependent upon how the victim feels about the case as opposed to a legal standard, that opens up the so-called gray area–and really, let’s just not.

  6. As a “survivor of teen sexual abuse” as you write in your column my verdict is: sex with children IS wrong, let alone rape of a 13 year old. Nobody should be above the law, whatever status they have or whatever past they carry. What I find interesting is that hadn’t he been a famous film maker, nobody would hear of him and he would most likely have already been sent to jail long ago. But simply because he is talented in a job in which talented people become famous, and was rich enough to be able to run away, we are still discussing 30 years later if he should be sentenced or not. Blargh, I simply dont get it. Let’s keep on following that logic and soon we will all be happy to admit that paying taxes is indeed only for ordinary people and OJ is a hero.

  7. this just in: it seems that his own consul dimed him out….. in passing his lawyers made a
    statement claiming that it seems no one was interested in their client in all these years and
    since all in toto knew of where he was ay all times…  that in all these years… no one busted
    a move. well.. one NEVER throws down the glove on Johnny Law.. they knew where he was
    going ….. and met him…..
    now…. since a lot of water has flowed under the bridge …. the lines may be blurred … did the judge have murder in his eyes…. were all parties in a agreement as to the event at hand..
    had he stayed in the USA…. he would have been Manson’s bitch…. now … if he done the deed….. he should as was said in Mutiny on the Bounty… ” may he hang from the highest
    yardarm in Portsmith’s harbor…”… but if a ” good time was had by all…” then all the squares
    go home…
    you got to remember the times… everything went and …. boy howdy, it did… and since all this time
    has passed…. who can say … what is live and what is Memorex…..

    give him his day in court…..

    lamesabassman…. and let the chips fall where they may….

  8. I don’t quite understand what I have read of the french reaction. It seems to be “He is talented, let it go.” There is more to it than that, but that seems to be the general gist. He has had over 30 years to have lawyers working on his case, to make some sort of deal. He did the crime. He plead guilty on one of the counts. Ok, the vicitm wants it droped. Fine. Come back, go through the system, get it worked out. We worship celebrity here just like Europe. But I think he wants to pay no price for his crimes. While I would consider having to live with the french punishment, I don’t think he would consider having to live there these past few decades that bad, and he has still worked, made money, enjoyed praise and acclaim. I think many Europeans would not consider being unable to travel to the U.S. a punishement. But you can not avoid paying for a crime for this long and just think it should go away just because time has passed and some people think you have talent and some really shitty other things have happened in your life.

  9. I love younger men. I have dated only men at least 10 years younger and as much as 17 years younger than me for many years. I love the energy and a nice tight bod. Older men just aren’t the same, different mentality. I seem to have more in common with younger guys. They’re actually more fun and are usually more interested in me. I’m flattered. I think younger men like cougars because they have no agenda, don’t usually want to get married and are usually very independent and don’t need a man to take care of them. I meet younger men on this website: ——-

  10. I don’t like people’s attitude toward this case. He raped a 13 year old girl when he was 40, that is a serious crime and he should be sentenced. If he were not a white celebrity no one would object to him going to prison. He has had some horrible things happen to him in his life, but that doesn’t excuse what he has done. If we were to go into the past lives of most child molesters we may find that they had some horrible things happen to them as well. Everyone made fun of R Kelly and demonized Michael Jackson and we aren’t even sure if he actually did anything, so why should Roman get a pass?

  11. It seems like we are focused on the wrong thing. I don’t care what happened to him as a child or any other misfortunes he may have had. There is no excuse for the crime he committed and plead guilty to. If we are going to look at all his misfortunes let just go to every prison and start asking prisoners about their past. I am sure most of them experienced horrific childhood and traumatic experiences. Having sex with minor is a crime! And he also should serve time for fleeing.

  12. I am puzzled by the reaction, from Whoopi Goldberg calling it not “rape rape” and once again talking down to the lovely and righteous Sherri Shepherd, to the great legal scholar Debra Winger getting upset that this would interrupt her film festival over this minor indiscretion and of course one cannot ignore pervert Woody Allen’s outrage.  Yuck!  They make me sick.

    I don’t care if the case involves a film director, pop star or priest, the rape of a child is always wrong and in the US against the law and I am sick of the apologists.  If we want our children to do right, then we must do right by our children.   

  13. ^^^^^I agree with NBM.  And to No Non, I agree that everyone who was abused in some way as a kid, does not grow up to be  an abuser. Polanski made the decision to do what he did and obviously, he planned it. He needs to be held accountable .

  14. SMH: Lots of great questions. You ask: “Is it possible for him to get a fair trial at this late date?” Honestly, I don’t know. And, you’re right — I think this case would play out quite differently if he wasn’t a famous director.

    Autumn: Ditto. I love his movies and I think he’s a brilliant director. Haven’t seen Chinatown either. I sooo need to rent it.

    Howard: Oooh, thanks for the link!!

    puma73: Yeah, that woman is VERY brave.

    Autumn: Good point. Over at ModerateLeft, Jeff Fecke eloquently reminds: “I understand the victim’s feelings on this. And I sympathize, I do. But for good or ill, the justice system doesn’t work on behalf of victims; it works on behalf of justice.” Also, on Slate, Kate Harding has really poignant commentary about sexual violence in general:

    Roman Polanski [...] performed cunnilingus on her as she said no and asked him to stop; put his penis in her vagina as she said no and asked him to stop; asked if he could penetrate her anally, to which she replied, “No,” then went ahead and did it anyway, until he had an orgasm. [...] Everyone makes a bigger deal of her age than her testimony that she did not consent, because if she’d been 18 and kept saying no while he kissed her, licked her, screwed her and sodomized her, this would almost certainly be a whole different story — most likely one about her past sexual experiences and drug and alcohol use, about her desire to be famous, about what she was wearing, about how easy it would be for Roman Polanski to get consensual sex, so hey, why would he need to rape anyone?

    Antonio: Above anything else, I really admire and appreciate your honesty! Just sent you a personal email as well. :)

    lamesabassman: Yeah, I’m sure he HAD to know it would eventually catch up with him. Curious to see how this plays out.

    Steve: I agree on the “come back and settle it” stuff. Having lived in Europe over a period of four years, I would agree: “I think many Europeans would not consider being unable to travel to the U.S. a punishment.” :)

    lisa: Spam?

    JJ: You ask: “Why should Roman get a pass?” He shouldn’t. I agree with what Steve said above: come back, go to court and face this thing head on.

    No Nonsense: Yep. Plenty of people had shitty childhoods — some waaaay more severe than others.

    Nauseated Blonde Man: Beautifully stated: “If we want our children to do right, then we must do right by our children.”

  15. For a moment I thought I was losing it, because I think he should be extradited and sentenced and that the LA prosecutors office should also be held accountable for the mismanagement of this matter.

    He was not in hiding except in plain sight but they delayed all this time and failed to act or exercise due diligence. The saddest part is that the victim has had to relive this every day any time Polanski’s name was mentioned and the media chose to reference the events of that night.

    I imagine she has forgiven him in order to put the events of that night behind her. Forgiveness is not about letting the perpetrator off the hook but rather letting go of the anger, shame, hurt and rage so as to heal and not stayed tied to the event and have it shape the remainder of your life.

    Forgetting for her in this case was even more impossible because of it being constantly re-hashed in the media. So much for rape shield laws. If for no other reason than the pain his actions and subsequent flight and the repeated rape in the media have caused the survivor he deserves jail time not to mention the chilling effect it has and will have on rape victims. No one in their right mind if raped will want to report it if there is even a chance that they will be treated as she has been.

    If he were dare I say Joe the Plumber or Jose, Leroy or Abdul or Vinnie his happy self would have never had the opportunity to flee – he would have had to surrender is passport and remain in jail until the trial was and immediately remanded over for sentencing.

  16. I found this on another blog I go to sometimes.  She said it better than I can. And it is a pretty damn good blog too.

    The story was commented on endlessly last week in newspaper, talk show and blog. I took in all the ways people excused his behavior, amazed that they chose to stand by him with little concern for the girl he raped. Throughout it all the thought sputtered in the back of my mind but never quite took hold — why is this upsetting me so?
    Then I read this: “Let us be absolutely clear: Those shielding Polanski are choosing the sex abusers over children. It is an either-or choice.” The reason for upset became clear. Just like my mother did for my father, that group of petition signers, columnists and commentors made the choice to protect the abuser. Having done so, there is no protection left for the one abused. Their concern cannot go both ways.
    It was just one instance, I thought, one instance that took place some 30-odd years ago. But for each case visible due to celebrity how many similar yet silent tragedies happen every day? How many times in 30-odd years have 13-year-old girls (or adult women, or girls, or boys, or grown men) had their refusals ignored, then watched in amazement as friends, family and strangers shielded the very person who caused the abuse? Dozens of times? Hundreds? Thousands?
    My parents had two miscarriages before I was born. Tenaciously I clung to that bloody field, unwilling to be washed away. But my half-alive dreaming siblings had it right, I think. They gave up when the getting was good. They let go; they went back into that vast queue of souls waiting for placement with another family, a better family. They must have known not to come into that godforsaken stew of abuse and denial. Why I didn’t follow their example is a mystery to me.
    In the bluntest possible terms, then: After reading that piece I sobbed. I stood on the deck at midnight in the rain trying to stop, trying to remember that it was long over and that his case had nothing to do with my own troubled history. I failed; I stayed there wet and cold until the worry that my neighbors would call the cops on the crazy woman out in the rain forced me back inside.
    If there is any lesson to come from this sorry mess it is this: Every time you make an excuse for a rapist, an abuser, a person who got “carried away,” past victims watch. They listen.
    And they are hurt once again.

  17. smh: Yeah, you’re probably right about “Joe the Plumber or Jose, Leroy or Abdul or Vinnie.”

    Steve: Oooh, I like AAG’s blog! :) She’s filled with good stuff.

  18. I think he should do the time for the chrime !!

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