Roman Polanski is facing yet another push to force him back to the United States to face an unjust judicial system exploiting his celebrity to draw political approbation.
This time it’s a second push by the right wing government of his native Poland that’s out to exploit a 39-year-old miscarriage of justice — a debacle about which we have first-hand experience, having reported on the case as it developed and having interviewed all the participants who appeared in the case [though we didn’t talk to Polanski until two decades later].
We have posted extensively about the Polanski case, and for a backgrounding on our perspective, we would direct your attention to a series of four posts: part one, part two, part three, and part four.
One thing we’ve noted throughout the years we’ve followed the case are the frequent inaccuracies in media coverage, and we’ll highlight that continuing tradition in this poost about the latest twist.
So on to the latest development, starting with this from New Europe:
Oscar-winning film director Roman Polanski faces a new extradition challenge from Poland to the United States. Well, in theory.
In reality the new Polish government announced on Tuesday it would be challenging a Court ruling made in October 2015, days before it came to power. Polanski’s extradition in connection with a sex conviction in the United States is seen as an opportunity for the PiS government to show its moral credentials, just as the Minister of Justice has appropriated the office of the Public Prosecutor against the ruling of the Constitutional Court.
Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said Polanski was “accused of and wanted for … the rape of a child.” The prosecution of Polanski is, according to the Prosecutor-Minister, a “litmus test” that no one is above the law.
The story included this important information:
For his crime, Polanski spent 42 days in prison after his initial arrest in 1977. He then was allowed to flee overseas and has not returned to the United States for over 40 years.
No quite accurate, but it did include the critical fact that Polanski spent time in state prison.
The inaccuracy comes from the the declaration that, having done time, he was “allowed to flee overseas.” No, he wasn’t. He fled without permission, but for quite understandable reasons.
Next, from the New York Times:
Mr. Polanski was arrested in 1977 on charges that included the rape of a teenage girl at the home of the actor Jack Nicholson. That August, he pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor under a deal that allowed him to avoid conviction on other, harsher charges, including sodomy and rape.
He fled the United States the next year, after learning that the trial judge in California, Laurence J. Rittenband, had decided to revise a plan to limit his sentence to a 90-day psychiatric evaluation, a portion of which Mr. Polanski had already served in a state prison. (The judge, who died in 1993, once vowed to remain on the bench until Mr. Polanski returned.)
In 2009, a California appeals court panel suggested that Mr. Polanski could be sentenced in absentia to time served, opening the way to a possible resolution of the standoff. But the plan was rejected by the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Wrong again. The psychiatric diagnosis could take a maximum of 90 days, but in no cases that we covered or in the experience of any of the attorneys we interviewed did the exam take longer than 50 days.
There’s plenty more, after the jump. . .
BBC News simply stated:
The director, who lives in France, fled the US ahead of sentencing in 1978 after admitting having sex with a girl aged 13.
Agence France-Presse played it like this:
Polanski is still wanted by the US for sentencing over the 1977 statutory rape of Samantha Geimer after a photo shoot in Los Angeles.
She was 13 at the time. Polanski was 43.
He pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, or statutory rape, avoiding a trial, but then fled the country fearing a hefty sentence.
No mention that Polanski spent time behind bars, the sentence agreed to by the judge, Polanski, his attorney, the young woman at the center of the case, he family, and their attorney.
Deutsche Welle had the best explanation, and offered it in the first paragraph of its story:
Filmmaker Roman Polanski has stayed out of the US ever since a 1977 child sex conviction in Los Angeles, when he pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl during a photo shoot. He served a short sentence in jail after a plea bargain but fled the country soon afterwards, fearing his plea bargain could be overruled and turned into a hefty sentence.
NBC News was close in terms of accuracy, though the critical information was offered well down in the body of the story:
Under a plea deal, Polanski agreed to plead guilty to unlawful sex with a minor and served 42 days in prison. But fearful that the judge would overrule the deal and give him more time, Polanski took off for France.
The reason the judge had second thoughts, as he explained to me, was that he was “catching hell from the wives of the members of my club,” the Hillcrest Country Club, where he socialized with the elite of the Los Angeles/Beverly Hills Jewish community.
It’s illegal for a judge to consider anything not presented in court, and his admission to us of his reasons for deciding Polanski needed more time in prison was an admission of judicial misconduct pure and simple.
We told our story to documentary filmmaker Marina Zenovich for her 2008 documentary Roman Polanski, Wanted and Desired, a film we can highly recommend.