And about damn time.
As a journalist who was called to testify in the original prosecution of Roman Polanski and who witnessed first-hand the corrupt conduct of Judge Laurence J. Rittenband in handling the case, esnl says three cheers for the Swiss Ministry of Justice.
The Swiss rejected the American request because the United States did not supply all the legal records Switzerland requested, and because Polanski had a reasonable right to think he would not be arrested if he visited the country, Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said.
The simple facts of the case are that the made a plea agreement which he then broke for no legal reason, and only because he had been personally embarrassed.
Yes, Polanski committed statutory rape. He acted deplorably with a 13-year-old. But he made an agreement which all parties agreed to, including the young woman, then broke it. Polanski lived up to his part of the agreement, and even the prosecutor in the case — Roger Gunson, one of the most honorable people esnl has ever met — agrees that judge acted capriciously.
The young woman urged the court to deny the extradition, not wanting an episode from 1977 to subject her yet again to the stalkerazzi who flock like ghouls to any case involving a name you’ve read in the supermarket tabloids.
The media’s coverage of the case has been atrocious. The simple facts haven’t been reported, and the coverage has pandered to the worst elements of celebrity coverage.
Yes, Polanski is a celebrity, but the critical element in the story is the corruption of Laurence J. Rittenband, a man whose best friend was the most powerful organized crime figure in California, and its most powerful political fixer nationally.
For an excellent summary of the case, see Marina Zenovich’s excellent documentary, Roman Polanski, Wanted and Desired. It’ll also give you a chance to see esnl, whose account of the case is featured in the film.
Also, see previous posts here.
The New York Times adds this:
Ms. Widmer-Schlumpf said the American authorities had rejected a request by her ministry for records of a hearing by the prosecutor in the case, Roger Gunson, in January 2010, which should have established whether the judge who tried the case in 1977 had assured Mr. Polanski that time he spent in a psychiatric unit would constitute the whole of the period of imprisonment he would serve.
“If this were the case, Roman Polanski would actually have already served his sentence and therefore both the proceedings on which the U.S. extradition request is founded and the request itself would have no foundation,” the Swiss Justice Ministry said in a statement.
Precisely correct. Polanski did serve the sentence agreed to by the court. Contrary to what media reports have declared, Polanski spent time in state prison as a result of his plea.
He served his sentence. He did not get off “scot free.” He also made a settlement with the young woman in civil court. Justice was done, then undone by a corrupt judge.
An ambitious Los Angeles County District Attorney launched the push for extradition just as he announced his run for the office of state Attorney General. Add a celebrity scalp to his belt and all the attendant press couldn’t have hurt, keeping him the news as a tough prosecutor.
From the Los Angeles Times [emphasis added]:
Swiss authorities said the U.S. had known since 2006 that Polanski regularly visited Switzerland to stay in his chalet in Gstaad yet did not file any action against him until last year. That gave Polanski a reasonable expectation that Switzerland was a safe place for him to be.
“Roman Polanski would not have decided to go to the film festival in Zürich in September 2009 if he had not trusted that the journey would not entail any legal disadvantages for him,” the Swiss justice ministry said.
From Agence France Presse:
The United States cannot appeal Switzerland’s decision to deny its request for the extradition of film-maker Roman Polanski over a child sex case dating back to 1977, the justice minister said Monday.”The United States cannot contest the decision in Switzerland,” said Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, adding that Washington “has accepted” Bern’s move to turn down its extradition request.