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Roman Polanski: Crime pays!

By Nicholas Stix
web posted August 8, 2005

Convicted pedophile-rapist and fugitive from justice Roman Polanski just got away with one … again. But he had help.

Two weeks ago, the London High Court awarded the convicted fugitive $88,000 in a libel lawsuit. Traditionally, in the English–speaking world, no court would ever hear a libel or defamation case brought by a convict, much less a fugitive convict, but we live in a brave, new world.

In 1978, Polanski was convicted of "having sex" with a 13-year-old girl.

Polanski had lured his victim, 13-year-old Samantha Geimer (who has since revealed her identity), a young model, to a "photo-shoot" for French Vogue at his friend Jack Nicholson's house. Conveniently for Polanski, Nicholson was away at the time. Polanski plied his victim with champagne and Quaaludes, and then raped her, afterwards telling her, as rotten.com recounted, "Don't tell your mom." The victim failed to cooperate, however, and did tell her mother what Polanski had done to her.

The crime was clearly plotted out. In the typical case, which is unfortunately all too common, a phony "talent agent" or "photographer" sets up a desperate, young (say, 20), "MAW" -- "model, actress, whatever" for a rape (and sometimes murder), after inviting her to come over for a "photo-shoot." But the sophisticated, citizen-of-the-world Polanski was even sleazier than the profile: He set up and raped a 13-year-old. (Samantha Geimer was alone with Polanski, without any parent or adult guardian present to protect her. What could her parents have been thinking?)

Polanski was charged with rape of a minor, rape by use of a drug, committing a lewd act upon a person less than 14 years of age, oral copulation, sodomy and furnishing drugs to a minor. He copped a plea to unlawful sex with a minor, but fled the country on the eve of his sentencing hearing.

Polanski's crime was not statutory rape. According to the laws in California (and the rest of the Union), the victim has to be of a certain age before she can be considered able to voluntarily form a decision to have sex with an adult, at which point the incident can be classified as statutory rape. If you sleep with a 13-year-old -- even without drugging her -- you're guilty of first-degree rape, just as if you had used violence.

(Screen historian Leonard Maltin misrepresented the case. In a passage reprinted from Maltin's 1994 Movie Encyclopedia on Polanski's biography page at imdb.com, he claimed, "He was embroiled in a scandal over having sex with an underage model in 1977; rather than face the charges, he chose to flee the country." No, Mr. Maltin; he had already pled guilty. Rather than face punishment, he chose to flee the country.)

The genius judge in the case permitted Polanski to remain out on bail, after being convicted. The rapist then fled the country for our alleged ally, France, where he has remained at liberty ever since. The French have great reservoirs of understanding for pedophile-rapists – as long as they committed their crimes in America.

In 2003, in an attempt apparently at removing any ambiguities the public might have had about Hollywood's respect for morality, the law, or children, the movie fraternity awarded Polanski an Oscar as best director for The Pianist. The crowd at the Academy Awards show gave the convict a standing ovation, in absentia. For some reason, Polanski did not appear to collect his statuette. (That moral paragon, Harrison Ford, accepted it for him.)

Oh, yes, now I remember. He would have been arrested on the spot, and taken off to prison, had he appeared. And since Polanski had violated the terms of the plea bargain, all six charges would have been back in play, plus a charge of flight from justice. Polanski could conceivably have spent the rest of his natural life in prison, as the bride of someone named "Killer."

But Polanski wasn't satisfied with getting away with child-rape, with flight from justice, or even with his soiled Oscar. He demanded respect for his good name. I kid you not. And so, when Vanity Fair magazine in 2002 published a story claiming that in 1969, the future pedophile-rapist-fugitive had "touched [Swedish model] Beatte Telle's leg and told her he would ‘make another Sharon Tate' out of her in a New York restaurant shortly after Tate - his actress wife - had been murdered by followers of Charles Manson's cult," that was just too much for Polanski's finely-tuned sense of morality. He insisted that he had never touched Telle's leg. And so he sued Vanity Fair in a British court.

That should have been the end of it. After all, since we have an extradition treaty with the UK, had Polanski set foot on British soil to press his case, he would have been scooped up by Scotland Yard, and sent, manacled (but not in a way that would have titillated him), on the next flight for the States. In any event, the jurists should simply have dismissed Polanski's suit as frivolous.

The Crown's courts wouldn't possibly aid and abet a fugitive convict in his attempt to enrich himself, while evading justice … would they? After all, when you ask a plaintiff's attorney where his client is, and he says, 'Your Lordship, my client cannot appear in court, as he is a convicted pedophile-rapist-fugitive, and will be immediately arrested and extradited, should he appear on British soil,' bells are supposed to go off in your head.

Unfortunately for us and our cross-Atlantic cousins, the British courts suffer from some of the same maladies as our own. And so, after permitting the pedophile-rapist-fugitive to testify from France via video hook-up, London's High Court found for the convict, er, plaintiff. The judges brought shame on themselves, on the London High Court, and on the United Kingdom, which has earned a reputation as the frivolous libel lawsuit capital of the world, where the judges consider no lawsuit frivolous – as long as the plaintiff is wealthy.

Although Beatte Telle refused to testify on Polanski's behalf, she did publicly say that he had not touched her leg or even spoken to her in the restaurant, and had only stared, dumbstruck, at her. Apparently, her public statement was sufficient for the alleged jurists.

Since we now live in a multicultural, interconnected world, in which U.S. Supreme Court justices cite foreign laws as precedents in their opinions, the Polanski verdict has all kinds of interesting legal potential. Might we now see libel suits brought by, say, the Nation of Islam mass murderers -- J.C. Simon, Jesse Lee Cooks, Larry Green and Manuel Moore -- currently in prison for the early 1970s' "Zebra murders"? How about Saddam Hussein? His attorney, Ramsey Clark, could bring suit against everyone who ever said nasty but unproven things about his client. The possibilities are endless.

Nicholas Stix can be reached at add1dda@aol.com.

 

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