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October 9, 2009

Top 10 Worst & Overused Defenses Of Roman Polanski

There has been a lot of coverage - both on the blogs and in the "mainstream" media - on Roman Polanski lately. We weren't sure if we should even bother to address it, because really, what could we possibly say that hasn't already been said? But yet, the fucked up comments keep coming and coming and the campaign to have him freed is still going on. We were shocked by the amount of people, many of whom are celebrities that have been publicly voicing their support for Polanski. (Well, okay we weren't that shocked by the fact that Woody Allen is on his side, but a lot of the other names were extremely surprising and upsetting.)

So here are the top 10 things we wish people would stop saying about Roman Polanski and why...

1. “It wasn't rape-rape” (or any other variation on that phrase)
First of all, we wish people would stop referring to what Roman Polanski did to Samantha Gailey (now Geimer) as "sex". It was rape. Rape is not sex.

Yes, we know that technically he was never convicted of "rape”. The actual charge was "unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor" but that does not mean that what went down between him and that girl was consensual. This wasn't a one-night-stand or an affair. He used drugs and intimidation to rape and sodomize a child.

He was originally charged with a handful of felonies: "rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under 14, and furnishing a controlled substance to a minor". The District Attorney’s office reduced the charges significantly as part of a plea bargain agreement mainly because the victim's family wanted to spare her the trauma of testifying at trial. That doesn’t mean we should forget what he was actually accused of doing to her.

Whoopi Goldberg may have “clarified” her recent statements about Polanski, but there are still a lot of people who just don't believe what he did qualifies as real rape. Sorry, but it does. He forced oral, vaginal, and anal intercourse on a 13 year old without her consent. That’s rape. Not “rape-rape”... rape.

Each state has different terminology that they use and while some of it is a bit misleading, it's important not to get lost in semantics. The exact same actions that qualify as "unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor" in California, would be called "second degree sexual abuse" in Alabama, “second degree sexual assault" in Connecticut, "first degree sexual assault" in Nebraska, "fourth degree rape" in Delaware, "first degree rape" in New York, "statutory rape" in Tennessee, and just plain old "rape" (yes, rape-rape) in Idaho, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.

Regardless of what the California Penal Code calls it - what he did still is not okay.

2. "He's so talented."
Okay, he's pretty damn talented and has had a pretty accomplished career, but so fucking what? Chris Brown is talented, but that doesn't make it okay for him to beat the crap out of Rihanna. Kanye West is talented (well, maybe) but that doesn't make him any less of a douchebag. Yes, Roman Polanski is talented, but that doesn't mean he should get a free pass for doing lots of fucked up stuff. One's talent shouldn't matter when it comes to committing a crime, especially one as severe as raping a child.

And truth be told, we think his talent has been strongly over-exaggerated. The myth of Roman Polanksi the genius filmmaker who was so wrongly persecuted is just that - a myth. It is as if the movie industry has become one great big cult of personality, a bunch of Polanski-worshiping sycophants. Is he really deserving of all this flattery and praise? He made some great movies, but he also made some crappy ones. And you know what, a lot of people have done great things too and we don't give them all "get out of jail free" cards.

It's also annoying how much of his allegedly wonderful body of work was created during his last 30 years abroad. It doesn't seem fair that he was able to continue creating "art" all the while that he was a fugitive from justice and then that "art" can be used as a defense of why he should be forgiven and cleared. If he had just gone away and quietly lived the rest of his life in secretive exile, would we look back and say "hey, do you remember Roman Polanski? He made a few good movies and then he raped that little girl and disappeared" instead of putting him on a pedestal for everything he's done while avoiding imprisonment? And for that matter, if he had never committed this rape and had just randomly decided to retire to France and stop making movies, say, after his wife was murdered, would anyone today still really remember or care? Would high-profile celebrities still be actively campaigning for him to come back to the U.S. to make movies again, or is it all about this romanticized notion of the misunderstood and unjustly persecuted man who needs his fellow "artists" to rush to his defense?

It's one thing to use his talent as a way to rationalize working with him (we still think it's disgusting) but we can't understand how people could use his talent to defend his actions.

3. "He's had such a rough life!"

His pregnant wife was murdered by members of the "Manson family" and he's a Holocaust survivor... so yes, we should all feel some sympathy for his tragic past. But, there are a lot of people who have suffered tragedy and don't use that as an excuse to drug, rape and sodomize teenagers. If anything, you'd think that having been witness to so much victimization in his life, Polanski would have more empathy and compassion than to victimize other people.

Yeah, his life was pretty shitty... but what kind of an impact do you think his actions had on Samantha Geimer's life? And we're not just talking about the rape (which was traumatic enough) but also the fact that his evading punishment for decades has kept his name repeatedly in the media - therefore ensuring that her name (and the details of the incident) is also repeatedly in the media, causing her repeated trauma. It's a little hard for us to give a shit about poor poor Roman Polanski and his hard hard life because we're focused on the little girl he raped and how hard her life was because of it.

4. "It was a one-time incident."

Although Polanski's lawyer had argued that the incident was a one-time mistake, Polanski's actions contradicted those claims. While Polanski was in Europe before his sentencing (he was permitted to travel abroad to complete a project before being sentenced) he was photographed with another teenage lover, actress Nastassja Kinski, age 15.

He has repeatedly incriminated himself and shown no indication of regret. He was even quoted in a 1979 interview:
“If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But… f—ing, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to f— young girls. Juries want to f— young girls. Everyone wants to f— young girls!”
Yeah, he seems totally remorseful about that “one-time” incident. Just because actual charges were only brought against Polanski this one time does not mean it had never happened before. We don't think anyone would be shocked if it came out that he had had "unlawful intercourse" with several teenagers over the years before this particular incident and was just lucky enough not to have been arrested earlier.

5. "Everyone was doing that back then."

It was a different time... everyone else was doing it... so that makes it totally okay then! Some people may feel that it's unfair that he's (maybe) being made an example of, while others who were guilty of similar actions were seemingly let off the hook... but so what? We don't how many celebrities were having sex with kids back in the 70's – sadly, it was probably quite a few - but we do know of one particular celebrity who was... Roman Polanski.

A lot of people also seem to be under the mistaken impression that it was legal to have sex with teenagers and although the victim was below the age of consent, she was "almost old enough". Wrong again! The age of consent in California was 16 (it is now 18). She was 13. It doesn't matter if she was 13 and 364 days. She was still 13! It has been reported that she "appeared older", but she was 13. And he knew that she was only 13. He raped a child.

It doesn't matter how many people did the same thing and unfortunately got away with it... what matters is that he did it and it wasn't okay and therefore he deserves to be punished.

6. "There was judicial misconduct on his case!"

Yes, there were a lot of issues involved in Polanski's court case, but judicial misconduct was never actually proven and still wouldn’t necessarily let him off the hook.

There's a lot of talk about how he was supposed to receive no jail time and then the judge was allegedly going to throw the book at him... except... that wasn't actually true. The plea agreement called for the judge to decide punishment based on the arguments of the attorneys and a probation officer's report. The report recommended no time behind bars (citing the "he had such a hard life" defense), but the judge was never under any obligation to accept the recommendation. Just because everyone expected him to only get probation doesn't mean that's what was going to happen and doesn't mean it's unfair if that isn't what happened.

As for the misconduct - allegedly, prosecutor David Wells had "advised" Judge Laurence Rittenband on how to renege on the plea bargain with Polanski. (He was featured in the film Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired describing how he had spoken to Judge Rittenband, but has now taken it back, claiming that he had embellished the story for dramatic effect.) The California Code of Judicial Ethics forbids judges from engaging in ex parte communications where only one side of a case is represented and although Wells was not actually a prosecutor on the case, he was an L.A. deputy district attorney at the time. If Wells did in fact speak to Rittenband, judicial misconduct may be determined - but that still wouldn't necessarily give Polanski a free pass.

Frankly, we don't think a jail-free deal should never have been on the table at all. The maximum penalty for the lesser charge that he plead guilty to would've been four years. That's a hell of a lot less jail time than if he was convicted with the actual crimes of which Geimer had accused him. Anyone who thinks that it's unfair if he didn't get off scott-free for raping a kid, can go fuck themselves.

And okay, maybe he wouldn't have plead guilty if he knew he would actually see jail time... so it's possible that he did get a raw deal. But then so did the child that he raped. Forgive us if we don't have a lot of sympathy for him on this one. He could have withdrawn his guilty plea and argued judicial misconduct then if he actually did get more jail time than was agreed up... but he didn't stick around long enough to find out.

Also let's not forget that he fled the jurisdiction and remained a fugitive for three decades, which would also demonstrate some "misconduct" on his part. (The expression that comes to mind on this one is "two wrongs don't make a right"... well that and "Pot Kettle Black".) We're not suggesting that members of the justice system should be allowed to behave unethically or illegally, but if you're going to run away to Europe for 30 years to avoid going to jail then you should probably lose your right to complain about ethics and legality. At this point, even if the plea bargain had been reneged on back then (it's unclear whether it was going to be, but the fact remains that it hadn't been yet because he never showed up for sentencing) his flight would violate the terms of the deal anyway and give just cause for the D.A. to withdraw the deal.

Perhaps the funniest part of this whole ordeal (if you can find any humor in a rape case, which is unlikely) is that Polanski had the balls to try to have his case dismissed from overseas. Yes, he was a fugitive from the law trying to file legal claims. Luckily, the Fugitive Disentitlement Doctrine dashed his hopes because under it a court doesn't have to adjudicate a claim made by a fugitive who won't appear because... he's a fugitive. (That is, he would have had to appear in court to state his case.) Sorry, but if you shit on the law you can't expect the law to have your back when you want it.

7. "He already did his time."
Really? When exactly did he do his time? You mean when he became a fugitive from justice and was living the good life in Europe? Apparently some people think that living in France (and continuing to have a successful career) is just like going to prison. We get annoyed by the people who describe his 30+ years abroad as having lived a life of "exile". He was in a beautiful country, protected by their government, continuing to make popular movies, win Academy awards, and date teenagers. Poor poor guy.

Also, what "time" are we talking about? The original charges could have sent Polanski to prison for up to 50 years or had him deported. Under the terms of the plea agreement, he was ordered to report to a state prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation prior to sentencing, but was released after 42 days so he could finish a movie in Europe. (Hm, wonder if all rapists get to call a "time out" so they can finish up work... in another country?) Everyone expected Polanski to only get probation at the sentencing hearing, but the truth is the plea bargain did not guarantee that he wouldn't see any jail time. He knew all along that he could be sentenced to real time in prison, but when he got wind of the rumor that the judge was considering giving him an actual sentence he fled the country.

So when everyone keeps saying he "did his time", what are they talking about exactly? He was never actually sentenced - so do they mean the time that he thought he'd get, the time he probably would have gotten, or the time he deserved to get? According to the California Penal Code, the charge to which he plead guilty is punishable by up to one year in a county jail two to four years in a state prison. Polanski certainly didn't do any of that time... He didn't do any time. (Sorry, but that month and a half of pre-sentencing "evaluation" doesn't count.) Since he jumped bail, the prosecution would have plenty of just cause to renege on the plea bargain agreement and just throw the book at him. (They could throw an extra three years to his sentence for his flight from court and the jurisdiction without permission.)

Oh and you know Geimer won a civil suit against him but then he crapped out on actually paying her the settlement. So um, yeah, he didn't do "his time" in any capacity.

8. "She knew what she was doing" tied with "Her mother is to blame."

There has been so much victim-blaming and slut-shaming in regards to this case, that it's actually disgusting. Polanski's supporters have put great emphasis on the victim's "reputation" and that she wasn't a virgin. Oh my God! She had sex before? So then it's totally cool that Polanski raped her! Yeah, whatever. Even if she was a sexually active 13-year-old, it doesn't mean that she had to sleep with a 44-year-old dude. Even if she had drank alcohol or taken drugs before... it doesn't mean he had the right to rape her. Even if it was consensual sex (it wasn't) he still committed a crime.

And then of course, there's the bashing of the victim's mother... stemming from the irresponsible ("Why would she let her daughter go to a photo shoot alone with him?") to the devious ("She was trying to advance her daughter's career") to the downright ridiculous ("She sold her to him for the night." WTF). Now we don't believe that her mother was necessarily to blame. She may have been an overbearing, irresponsible stage mother (or maybe she wasn't, we don't know) but we don't think she purposely put her daughter in danger. But even if she did, so what!? Does that suddenly absolve Polanski of his crime? At worst, they are both to blame... but no one held him at gun point and made him drug and rape a 13-year-old girl. He made that choice.

9. "The victim doesn't even want this pursued anymore."

We think it's important to acknowledge the difference between Polanski's victim, Samantha Geimer denying that the rape took place (she hasn't) and wanting to be able to make the whole ordeal "just go away". Thirty years is a long time to have to deal with an unresolved rape constantly being rehashed in the media. In fact, we’re sorry for continuing to rehash it here.

Geimer has been quoted as saying that the "great publicity" that the case repeatedly receives - in particular the "lurid details" and criticisms of her and her family (you know, the victim-blaming and slut-shaming) - causes her continued harm and feelings of re-victimization. In 1997 she told People: "He did something really gross to me, but it was the media that ruined my life." It must also be especially hard for her to hear so many celebrities publicly support and praise the main who violated her. So fuck you once again, you stupid sycophants!

In February 2009, she filed papers requesting to have the charges against Polanski dismissed. In her statement, she said:
"I am no longer a 13-year-old child. I have dealt with the difficulties of being a victim, have surmounted and surpassed them with one exception. Every time this case is brought to the attention of the Court, great focus is made of me, my family, my mother and others. The attention is not pleasant to experience and not worth maintaining over some legal nicety, the continuation of the case."
So obviously she just wants it to be over and wishes that the District Attorney's office would make that happen by dismissing the case. But you know what would also make that happen? If Roman Polanski would just give up and serve his jail time - and if all his defenders and apologists would just shut the fuck up already - then this would all be over. In fact, this could have all been over a long time ago if Polanski hadn't spent the last few decades hanging out in Europe.

In 2003, Geimer said in an interview "I wish he would return to America so the whole ordeal can be put to rest". It isn't fair that he should be let off the hook for his crime just because his prolonged absence has slowly tormented his victim for the past 30 years, to the point where she would rather forgive him than deal with the invasion of privacy and victim-blaming any longer. If he truly felt any remorse for the horrible things he did to her, he would've surrendered a long time ago and let her finally find some peace. The fact of the matter is, he committed a crime so the D.A.'s office is well within their rights to continue the case regardless of how she feels. She can choose not to testify against Polanski, but even if she wishes for the charges to be dropped, unfortunately she doesn't get to make that decision.

10. "It's been so long..."
While California does have statutes of limitations on some sexual abuse crimes, they would not apply to this case. Statutes of limitations refer to the amount of time between the commission of a crime and the indictment. Polanski was arrested, charged, and plead guilty. There is no statute of limitations on this case. And since he fled the jurisdiction, any statutes would have be tolled anyway.

Yes, it has been a long time... but that's all the more reason why this should be finished already. The fact that Polanski has avoided extradition for over 30 years is not a good reason to dismiss the charges. It's just all the more reason why he should finally be punished. Justice is long overdue.

Some people have asked "what were they waiting for?" An opportunity. Having dual citizenship from Poland and France, he was "safe" there... It may have seemed as though they were inactive in pursuing Polanski, but that's not completely true. The District Attorney's office has made previous extradition efforts (including an attempt to arrest Polanski when he was in Israel in 2007) but Polanski often avoided traveling to countries that might extradite him.

It's unclear whether his recent attempts to have the case dismissed on the basis of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct prompted the D.A. to push for his arrest, but it would be justifiable if that played a role. How exactly is the court supposed to defend themselves or put the allegations to rest if they can't adjudicate because he's off in Europe being a douchebag fugitive?

We are appalled by the number of people have come out in support of Polanski, but it's not shocking that so many of them are French... He's a French citizen and the age of consent there is only 15, so maybe 13 isn't as scandalous as it is here. But the fact of the matter is, they don't get a fucking say! Sorry, but random French filmmakers don't get to decide how our government should handle their sexual abuse cases.

But maybe things are looking up? The French government has dropped its public support for Polanski, saying that he is "neither above nor beneath the law". Switzerland has already denied Polanski's request to be released on bail - duh! - because he's an obvious flight risk. A number of celebs have publicly spoken out against Polanski. (And because we think he's cool, here's Jay Smooth's take on it.)

Tomorrow PAVE (Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment) is holding rallies across the country and abroad in response to the celebrities that support him. SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) is also boycotting Polanski's supporters and there is also a petition going around against Polanski and his followers here. So if you want to get involved, you can sign a petition and look for the protest near you, you can join the boycott of Polanski and his supporters, or you can just speak up and challenge people when they say one of the stupid things on this list.


sexgenderbody said...

Thank you! I am with you every step of the way on this and probably a couple others, if I cared at all to think about it.

Great job, ESC.

Anonymous said...

Think they're gonna quit beating the dead horse now? I doubt it.

TheLineMovie said...

Yup! Totally agree. Thanks for the round up. Aside from the Manson/Hitler/Chinatown thing, my personal favorite is that everyone wants to f- young girls... I mean "everyone" means old, horny straight men who behave with impunity, right?

Anonymous said...

huh. the newscasts never even mention there was rape involved, or the age of the girl, they only say he's charged with sex with a minor. No wonder no one knows what to think.

I do think they should stop the useless publicity of the case though. If they're not even giving us accurate information, why can't they just leave the girl and her family alone to live their lives, and report on the case once its finally over and done with?

ceirdwenfc said...

Just two quick comments:

To the second anonymous: I watch MSNBC and they've mentioned the age of the victim and called it rape and said what Whoopi Goldberg said was ridiculous (this was on the Morning Joe program.)

The second point, in general, can I just remind people that Michael Vick has spent more time in jail, which reiterates to me that animals are more important than children to many people in this country.

Dollface said...

Great points! This post needed to be written, because I'm so sick of all these excuses.