The Troubling Case of Roman Polanski

I was puzzled yesterday when I saw syndicated columnist George F. Will chortle on television about national sovereignty. He thinks that's what the people want. They want their government to feel secure in its power. Call Will a crypto-royalist.

Will was talking about Arizona's new immigration law, of which I will say more in another essay. For now, I'd like to test the Will thesis: Do we the people really give a hoot about sovereignty? The answer is, of course, yes, but we fear it when it is directed at us; we love it when it is directed at what we fear. Hence, leave my loved ones alone, but keep me free from meddling darkies sneaking across the border. Will, of course, is a churlish white guy; he has difficulty fathoming a world of lovable Mexicans.

This schizophrenic attitude is on display in the Roman Polanksi case.

Polanksi, you will recall, was convicted of raping a 13-year-old after liquoring her up. The party took place at Jack Nicholson's house. He pleaded guilty, and then fled the country before sentencing in 1978. He's not been back in the United States, so far as we know, since. We fear child rapists.

The film director has not been living in hiding these past thirty years. But California prosecutors only recently decided they needed to do something about Polanski's flight from justice. They seek extradition of Polanski to the United States.

But a funny thing happened along this twisting and turning road. The victim in this case, Sandi Gibbons, lost interest. Oh, it helps that she was paid a handsome settlement of her civil suit. The sum, though not confirmed as actually paid, is rumored to be $500,000. But more fundamentally, Ms. Gibbons just wants the whole sorry saga to be ended.

So Ms. Gibbons did what a crime victim has a right to do. She filed a petition in court. She told the California appeals court she wants the case against Polanski dismissed. She is the victim after all, right? And victims have a right to be heard, right? Don't we fear governments that forget the very people they serve?

But here is how it really works in most courtrooms in the United States: victims have a right to be heard, but the government has the right to decide. The admixture is a perverse abdication of responsibility by prosecutors.

I saw it first-hand again the other day. The prosecutor in a case I am handing was "open to the possibility of a walk" for my client. In other words, if the man entered a guilty plea, the state would consider no prison time. But first, the victim had to be consulted. When the victim wanted jail time, the state said it's hands were tied? Prison was now a requirement. Who is calling the shots in this case?

A prosecution pits the state against an individual accused of breaking the law. In most crimes, there is a victim. The victim, we say, has a right to be heard on the disposition of any case. But being heard is not the same as dictating terms. Many prosecutors simply do a victim's bidding. It is easier that way. There are fewer angry phone calls and meetings; less fuss come time for the annual review of a prosecutor's performance. Many, if not most, prosecutors play pimp to a victim's rage.

Doesn't the Polanski case disprove this rule? After all, the victim has been heard. Her plea has been considered. But the state is still acting. It's sovereignty has been injured. It needs its pound of flesh from a 76-year-old man.

This is where George Will's remark comes into focus. The state cares about sovereignty, it's power to act within the sphere of its influence. Attacking the state's sovereignty is like, well, taking a child's virginity. It is an insult not easily forgiven. The state must prove that its orders cannot be ignored. Polanski must be crushed.

But where Will is wrong is that the people aren't jealous to guard the sovereignty of the state. That jealousy belongs to the government. It will use anything to protect its power. The state will even turn on the people it serves.

Hence the paradox of the Polanski case. It pursued Polanski initially because of the harm it did to the victim. Presumably she and her family had input into the prosecution. The state then stood behind the angry family and told us all it was acting on their behalf. But when the victim lost interest, the state did not. Now the state stands alone telling the victim it know best. The state must act to vindicate its sovereignty.

I enjoy Polanski's films, but deplore his conduct with Gibbons. In a prudish way, I think less of Jack Nicholson, an actor an admire, merely because the rape took place in Nicholson's home. The ease with which I assign guilt by association startles me. But troubling as I find Polanski's behavior to be that conduct palls in comparison to the acts of the state of California, who use the victim just as much as did Polanski. He raped a girl in a private act of lust; California rapes her anew in a symbolic display of power.

Only fools, and George Will, love the state's desire to assert its sovereignty. The state is a fiction that can easily become all too real a menace when it forgets its function. Who is sovereign? We the people. We have constitutions to keep the state from getting to big for its britches and our comfort.

Comments: (1)

  • Are you being funny with Sandi Gibbons? Wrong Name...
    Are you being funny with Sandi Gibbons? Wrong Name.
    I believe there was a kind of backlash in California’s Justice stemming from the Manson murders that included Polanski’s beautiful American wife Sharon Tate and unborn child, and his friends.
    As far as California Justice and the press were concerned, Roman Polanski was guilty because he was married to Sharon Tate who had been brutally murdered in California, and because Roman Polanski had made films (not his own original written material) that had gone so far as to show a devil having sex with a woman.
    The World’s press and Californian law enforcement got confused by Roman Polanski’s excellent visual portrayal of the devil having sex with a woman in Rosemary’s Baby, then the horrifying Manson murders that involved his American wife and child, and 10 years later the Los Angeles authorities confused the devil with Roman Polanski himself.
    Los Angeles Prosecutors and other human beings are not very bright sometimes and seem unable to distinguish between the character of a person who is telling a story, and the subject matter of that story.
    Los Angeles prosecutors are looking for modus operandi and may try to equate dark subject matter of a movie such as Rosemary’s Baby, with the person who is telling and directing the story in a magnificent way.
    But this correlation between storyteller and story is not an absolute and is not a definite indication of the storyteller’s character.
    10 years after Rosemary’s Baby and Sharon Tate’s horrific death certain Los Angeles police and prosecutors confused Polanski's wife's brutal murder, plus the devil shown in the movie Rosemary’s Baby, with the story teller Roman Polanski, and the real events in his life that he did not cause.
    So then Polanski was made out to be the devil for having sex with an underage girl in California, and the devil’s attributes were assigned to Polanski through using Samantha's age, her mother, and Charlotte Lewis’s help, even though all of this dehumanization of Roman Polanski to transform him into a devil is not justified at all!!!!
    Throughout time it has always been that before others do brutal harm to someone, the person is dehumanized and stigmatized. This should stop now in Roman Polanski’s case – whether the dehumanization is unconscious or not!!!!
    This reminds me of an earlier crime against Roman Polanski, another bait and switch incident that Polanski had faced in Poland after the Second World war where Roman Polanski nearly lost his life to a serial murderer who lured Polanski under the ground to steal his bicycle and who nearly killed Polanski in the process.
    It seems that Samantha and her mother Susan Galley, the California Judge Laurence J. Rittenband, Los Angeles prosecutor David Wells, 9th Circuit Judge Trott, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley and his office 33 years later plus actress Charlotte Lewis have wanted to steal Polanski’s fame, good name and his money, and his freedom all for a casual sexual encounter for which Roman Polanski was not entirely responsible.
    Enough is Enough
    Posted on June 20, 2010 at 7:33 pm by Anonymous

Add a Comment

Display with comment:
Won't show with comment:
How many sides does a triangle have?
*Comment must be approved and then will show on page.
© Norm Pattis is represented by Elite Lawyer Management, managing agents for Exceptional American Lawyers
Media & Speaker booking [hidden email]