Roman Polanski, it seems, "can remain silent no longer."
The famed film director (and rapist of a 13-year-old girl), who was arrested in Switzerland seven months ago, has issued a statement at La Regle du Jeu, a magazine run by noted French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy.
Polanski's self-defence amounts essentially to this: While he pled guilty 33 years ago, and served some time, he claims that the judge initially determined that his sentence would only be time served:
I can remain silent no longer because there has just been a new development of immense significance. On February 26 last, Roger Gunson, the deputy district attorney in charge of the case in 1977, now retired, testified under oath before Judge Mary Lou Villar in the presence of David Walgren, the present deputy district attorney in charge of the case, who was at liberty to contradict and question him, that on September 16, 1977, Judge Rittenband stated to all the parties concerned that my term of imprisonment in Chino constituted the totality of the sentence I would have to serve
But the judge, apparently, changed his mind:
I can remain silent no longer because for over 30 years my lawyers have never ceased to insist that I was betrayed by the judge, that the judge perjured himself, and that I served my sentence. Today it is the deputy district attorney who handled the case in the 1970s, a man of irreproachable reputation, who has confirmed all my statements under oath, and this has shed a whole new light on the matter.
I can no longer remain silent because the United States continues to demand my extradition more to serve me on a platter to the media of the world than to pronounce a judgment concerning which an agreement was reached 33 years ago.
All this may be true. I don't know. And I certainly do not hold anything against Polanski for wanting "only to be treated fairly like anyone else."
But how can he ask for fair treatment under the law when it was he who left the U.S. to escape the law in the first place? Most others in his position, guilty of such a crime, are hardly free to leave the country and, in exile, to pursue an extraordinarily successful and profitable career with the support of famous Hollywood friends. Polanski may think that the judge's "reversal" (if in fact there was one) justified his "leaving the United States," but this is self-righteous arrogance.
But, fine, let's give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the judge really did lie, and maybe did "repudiate" his initial decision (if not formal ruling) "in order to gain himself some publicity at [Polanski's] expense," and maybe Polanski really did face serious jail time despite the initial agreement. Should we fault Polanski for fleeing? Perhaps not, but then Polanski should defend himself before the law. He is doing that, it seems. The New York Times is reporting that "[t]he Los Angeles court has scheduled a hearing for next Monday on an effort by Mr. Polanski to unseal recent testimony in which, Mr. Polanski's lawyers say, the prosecutor who handled his case, Roger Gunson, describes Judge Rittenband's misconduct and intended limits on the sentence."
We'll see how that turns out, but, while all this is playing out in the courts, let's not forget this: Polanski spent just 42 days in prison, undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, for "unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor," that is, in more blunt terms, for anally raping a 13-year-old girl, twice.
As I put it back in October:
Mr. Polanski, come back to America, and defend yourself. If you were wronged, prove it. I, for one, will surely have an open mind. But if you weren't, and you really did what you are alleged to have done, and for which you were convicted, then challenge whatever you like in a court of law and, ultimately, accept responsibility for your crime.
He should have a chance to defend himself, but what is troubling is that he hasn't accepted responsibility for anything. In his statement, he says only that he "served time at the prison for common law crimes" and that "the California court has dismissed the victim's numerous requests that proceedings against me be dropped, once and for all, to spare her from further harassment every time this affair is raised once more."
Could he not for once speak directly to what he did? Could he not acknowledge that the real issue here isn't the court's "harassment" of the victim but his turning that 13-year-old girl into a victim by raping her? (While the victim's requests should certainly be considered, the law must still be applied, it seems to me.)
So many years have passed, and it still seems pretty clear that Polanski thinks he did nothing wrong.
I'd be a bit more sympathetic if he showed an iota of remorse, and if he were truly and genuinely honest both with himself and with us.
For more, see my previous posts on the Polanski saga:
(Cross-posted from The Reaction.)