07/15/2010 11:02 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What Lindsay Lohan Can Learn From Roman Polanski

As Lindsay Lohan prepares for her 90-day stay in jail, she might do well to consider the infamous 90-day sentence of another famous celebrity, Roman Polanski. Now that the Swiss government has denied Polanski's extradition, it's worth remembering one incident in the Polanski case that arguably is what led to the thirty-year mess he -- and the L.A. District Attorney -- has been in.

By September 28, 1977, Polanski had already been sentenced to a 90-day psychiatric examination at Chino state prison, but the sentence had been stayed until December. So Polanski went to Munich to conduct some film business and was caught by a UPI photographer at the Hofbrauhaus puffing a cigar and surrounded by beautiful women. When judge Laurence J. Rittenband saw the picture, he took it as a personal affront, and after Polanski was released from Chino (after serving 44 days at the recommendation of state psychiatrists), Rittenband arguably still held a grudge, and Polanski wound up fleeing the country. (This is all detailed in Marina Zenovich's terrific Emmy-winning HBO documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired) It was the late Judge Rittenbrand's behavior and alleged vindictiveness that ultimately led to the Swiss authorities releasing Polanski this week.

As for Lohan, she might have only served a day in jail if she hadn't taken a much-publicized trip to the Cannes Film Festival, partied till all hours of the night, claimed that her passport had been stolen, and missed her flight home. By skipping her court date in such a public and contemptible way, she incurred the wrath of Judge Marsha Revel and got sentenced to 90 days in jail. The parallel is striking: Celebrities followed by paparazzi in Europe angering the judge in LA. Oops.

So before Lohan reports to jail next week, she might do well to think about Polanski's plight (and flight): On the one hand, maybe she should contritely serve her sentence and move on with her life.

On the other hand, maybe she should grab one of her passports, flee the country, move to France, and live the next 30 years doing some of her most creative work as a well-respected American exile. We know she likes French food, and who knows? It could be her most brilliant move to rehabilitate her flagging film career. Maybe she could even star in Polanski's next film. And in 30 years, when she's under house arrest at her Swiss chateau, she can always fight extradition by citing the Polanski case. Because when it comes to celebrity justice, sometimes the story isn't about the crime. It's about the punishment.