For the second time in her life, rape victim Samantha Geimer has been forcibly violated. This time, not by Roman Polanski, the famed filmmaker who had agreed in 1978 to plead guilty to the charge of having sex with a minor, but by both the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office and the Los Angeles County judiciary. This recent action came after much tumult was created by a television documentary that openly revealed the subterfuge of a judge who disregarded the victim in favor of his own self-aggrandizing pursuit of media fame. After three decades, the prosecutors now in charge of the matter have declared by their actions that a victim's rights be damned -- at least when the accused is a high-profile target. Geimer herself has proclaimed: "I have become a victim of the actions of the district attorney."
Over thirty years ago, Roman Polanski played by our legal system's rules. At that time, the then district attorney chose to side with the best interest of the child, as he so simply and eloquently put it, so that she could not be exploited or victimized "a second time." So he allowed Polanski to plead guilty to having sex with a minor and receive a sentence of time served equal to the time he spent imprisoned in a California penitentiary for psychiatric evaluation. Polanski correctly discovered that the judge was going to ignore the plea arrangement and sentence him, essentially, to a lifetime in jail, so that the judge could look like a hero to the press. This forced Polanski to take his only out: fleeing to his home country to be protected from an American justice system gone awry.
Samantha Geimer is making another kind of plea now -- not to a crime, but for the privilege of her and her children to be left alone. It is a plea to be allowed to be free of the past and to live in peace with her dignity uncompromised. But the response of the prosecuting attorneys who orchestrated Polanski's arrest when he entered Switzerland to accept a film festival award did not even come from them directly. Reportedly, it was their press spokesperson who answered cold-heartedly, "This is an issue between Mr. Polanski and the court." It is Geimer herself, as well as her family, her husband, and her two young children who need suffer now because of the actions of law enforcement; and they are being told to get out of the way of Lady Justice. Or to quote another tormented Lady -- Lady Macbeth, "Out, damned spot! out, I say!"
In a misplaced attempt to quell international fervor against the United States legal system and their move to arrest Polanski at this belated time, the District Attorneys' Office attempted to demonstrate that a continuous pattern of action to apprehend Polanski has existed over the last thirty-one years. It announced that there had been seven prior attempts either to locate or arrest Polanski. Rather than buttress their position that the government had been proactive in its pursuit of Polanski, this vague revelation, with its embarrassingly low number of obviously lame attempts to locate a person who committed the heinous crime of the statutory rape of a minor, did just the opposite. It underscored questions about the real motivation for the timing of Polanski's arrest in Switzerland. Polanski is not and never has been an Osama Bin Laden. He has not ensconced himself in a cave in Afghanistan. His everyday whereabouts could have easily been tracked from the GPS in even the most minimalist mobile phone. He has moved about many western countries very freely in pursuit of his own vocation. Obviously, he visited Switzerland many times in the past because he owned a home in the ski resort of Gstaad. Except for one reported time in Israel, no arrest warrant was ever executed by any government agency during these very visible trips. This in itself supports the argument that this latest maneuver coming from the American legal system is driven either by some other undisclosed motivation. This may work briefly, given the hullaballoo in the peanut gallery from those who argue out of some politically correct position that Polanski should serve a sentence of fifty-five years. But it does long range damage to our notion of supporting a person who is truly the hurt party in a crime: the victim. Many television legal eagles who vehemently espouse victim's rights in other high-profile cases have contempt for this victim's position because it isn't in tune with their personal beliefs concerning what a victim should want. But they are wrong; and actually, it is far from unusual in rape and molestation cases for prosecutors to make the views of the victim their highest priority. This is still done today in many places and very often for pleas to lesser charges with less jail time.
At any rate, the furor over this case is misplaced. Any decisions regarding the continued prosecution of Polanski must take into account the voice of the victim in order to hear it yelling, once again, "No Mas." The press and, especially, our legal communities should be supporting her instead of their own self-indulgent ideas about justice. They should acknowledge that in 1978 there was an agreed-upon sentence. This case should not be determined by the kind of sentence that Polanski would receive now, but by the sentence he was set to receive at the time under the negotiated agreements. Plea arrangements are made every day in the criminal justice system, for better or for worse. Courts are not supposed to reject them because a judge is narcissistically calculating his Nielsen ratings. Any court that has accepted a defendant's allocution to a crime based on a set term of imprisonment, however mild it may seem in retrospect, is not supposed to reject its decision surreptitiously and without notice to the defendant. The system was and is still broken. So far, it has not been concerned about justice for Samantha either then or now. Even though a trial judge in the United States has allegedly already acknowledged that prior substantial misconduct occurred, he has refused to dismiss the case because of some arcane fugitive doctrine. And the district attorney's office which was pointedly asked in the recent appellate legal argument if it has an interest in doing justice by "finding out what happened here?" reportedly replied not with action but by offering an excuse for inaction. "Yes, we are interested. But I'm not sure we have the proper agency to do this." And despite criticism of both the past events and the historical players, the California appellate court offered no judicial remedy for the "extremely serious allegations of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct that have been brought forward."
As of now, only the Swiss government has the power to ensure that another miscarriage of justice will not occur in the Polanski-Geimer matter. As of now, they are refusing to send Polanski back the United States while an appeal of his case is still viable. The Swiss government must be satisfied that there will be a just and fair adjudication, free from the pressure created by the incessant caterwauling surrounding this case. It must require as a condition of extradition to the United States that the State of California agree both that Polanski will not be sentenced to anything other than his original agreed upon sentence; and second, that no other arrests, such as those for flight, will ensue.
The present attempt to punish Polanski under the guise of Lady Justice has converted this saga into a Shakespearean tragedy. "Here's the smell of the blood still ... "