It’s been a while since director Roman Polanski was a major topic of conversation. Whenever he has a project — especially when he won the Best Director Oscar for the movie The Pianist — there’s a lot of discussion about why authorities have never been able to bring him back to the U.S. to face sentencing for having sex with a minor.
Polanski has French citizenship, so France has always declined to extradite him to the United States. He also has a home in Switzerland and was known to travel pretty freely there.
So I really have to wonder why U.S. law enforcement chose now, as he was arriving for a film festival in Switzerland, to arrest him 32 years after he pled guilty to what was, in essence, statutory rape? (The actual charge to which he pled guilty was unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, not rape. A distinction without a difference?).
Officials claim that last Saturday was the first time they knew exactly where he would be and when, hence the arrest.
Really? In three decades? Polanski hasn’t exactly been hiding in caves like Osama bin Laden or in Saddam Hussein’s worm hole.
Of course, Polanski should be held accountable for what he did — if you have sex with a 13-year-old girl after you’ve plied her with champagne and Quaaludes there isn’t really a word for what kind of person you are. It’s an act so unforgivable, in fact, that it should have been a priority in 1977 when Polanski skipped bail to have someone track him then until they found him. We’ve had some pretty good technology for a long time, so a minimal amount of resources should have been needed to find him at his house in Switzerland, especially since the United States knew that Swiss officials would extradite.
So I have to keep asking, “Why now?” Who decided their career was going to be made on the arrest of a 76-year-old man on a 32-year-old charge?
As the professors liked to remind us in law school, justice delayed is justice denied. Real justice could have happened if law enforcement had taken tracking down a child sex offender seriously in the 1970s. They didn’t care much then about the impact their inaction could have on a young girl in the months and years immediately after the crime. So one can only wonder what the impetus was to pretend that bringing Polanski in now is somehow justice for the victim or society.
The lukewarm attempt of our justice system to pursue a high profile case such as Polanski’s itself feels criminal in its attitude toward women and girls. It would be encouraging to see this effort as a step toward taking crimes against girls and women more seriously, but it just feels like just an attempt to break into the 24/7 news cycle to improve someone’s resume.