Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Roman Polanski Purge

In which I vomit out all of my feelings about Roman Polanski, in hopes that I never have to think about him again.

I don't give a rat's ass about Roman Polanski. I have no stake in this battle. I've seen one or two of his movies, yeah yeah. He's done some stuff.

But this is about a crime that he committed. I'm not going to go into detail about what he did, because there are extremely graphic details about it all over the internet. You can find the details if you want them.

My problem with the whole Roman Polanski discussion is that there's a couple of points that are being completely ignored. So here's my attempt to correct the record.

Point #1 - This is not about whether Polanski is guilty. It's about him fleeing the country.

There is no question about whether Polanski is guilty of a crime, so quit with all the cute dithering about how it wasn't rape-rape and the age of consent in California. Polanski pled guilty in a court to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. By his own words, he is guilty.

Because of some stuff that happened between the judge and the prosecuting attorney, Polanski thought his plea bargain might not hold up, and so he fled the country. Let me say that again. He left the goddamn country because he thought that the judge might not give him a fair shake. He is a fugitive from justice. The whole legal discussion underway right now is about whether he should be brought back to the United States to face justice. It is not appropriate to be rearguing the merits of the case, because the case is not the issue. Polanski's flight from justice is the issue.

And that brings me to my second point -

Point #2 - The Roman Polanski discussion is all about class privilege.

Think about the case itself. Why was the victim anywhere near Polanski? He was a successful director, a rich man, a famous man who traveled in posh circles. He had been asked to guest-edit the French edition of Vogue, and he was taking pictures of "women" - ostensibly for the magazine. The victim - a "woman" who was only thirteen years old at the time - hoped to be featured in the magazine.

The private photo session that led to the rape happened at the home of his buddy Jack Nicholson, who left him the keys while he went out of town.

I don't know what Polanski was thinking at the time, whether he thought he could get away with it because of his fame, his connections. But the whole scenario happened because he was a rich man, a powerful man, and that was probably the reason why the victim's mother trusted her with Polanski. That was why the two were in the same room at the same time.

And then he was arrested, and then he pled guilty, and he was offered a plea bargain. Circumstances changed, the plea bargain appeared to be crumbling, and he made a decision. Did he ask for a new judge? Did he go public with his charges that the prosecutor was up to no good? No. He left the country.

Most of us do not have the option of leaving the country when it suits us. We have to face our crimes, our mistakes, our failures. Not so for Polanski. He could start over again. He could use his wealth and his good friends in Hollywood to continue in his chosen career.

Who are his defenders now? Harrison Ford. Woody Allen. Harvey Weinstein. Martin Scorsese. Debra Winger. There are more. Some see it as artists defending a fellow artist. Or you could see it as the rich and comfortable, defending the rich and comfortable.

Think about it. Think about what's not being said in the news stories. Now think about your average poor defendant. Would he have the choice to flee the country, set up a comfortable home in Europe, continue to practice his trade in a very public way for three decades? Not on your life.

Judges change their minds frequently. Miscarriages of justice occur. There are people who die in prison after being convicted falsely. People are identified by mistaken witnesses. People cry for DNA tests and are denied them. This happens in our country. It is not a perfect system, but it is our system. It needs to improve. This is a true statement.

The phrase "throwing yourself on the mercy of the court" is for the poor. For the rich, like Polanski, there are other options. If you don't like what the judge has to say, just skip the country and set up shop somewhere else. Those who can afford to ignore justice will ignore it.

Those who will defend Polanski need to think about this. If you believe in the justice system of our country, you believe that no one is above the law. If you support Polanski in this, you believe that the justice system is only for the poor unwashed masses, and that the rich are not obligated to accept justice when they can simply find another country who will treat them better, somewhere else where they can wipe their slate clean, where they can start over as an artist instead of a felon.

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