Everybody loves Raymond

>> Thursday, October 01, 2009

I haven't been hugely interested in commenting on the Roman Raymond Polanski mess. Much like the late Michael Jackson, Polanski is someone whose artistic work has to be divorced from his personal life: at his best, Polanski is a brilliant, brilliant director. Fine. There's also not a whole lot of doubt that he committed statutory rape in the 1970s, sodomizing a thirteen-year-old girl that he drugged and who says she tried to fight off his advances--not that these latter two points actually matter that much: while both of these elements might also make for a rape, the whole point of statutory rape is that individuals of a certain age are unable to consent even when sober. I.e. even if the child had soberly initiated contact, it would have still been rape.

But I did find this interesting: I'm looking at the sample of pages from Polanski's plea hearing that's up at The Smoking Gun, and I can't help noticing that on pages 15 and 16 of the transcript it appears that the following exchange occurred:

MR. GUNSON: Your Honor, may I take the plea?

THE COURT: Yes. Before you do so, however, I must advise the defendant, under Section 1192.5 of the Penal Code, that the approval of the Court to the plea is not binding on the Court; that the Court may, at the time set for hearing on the application for probation or pronouncement of judgment, withdraw its approval, in light of further consideration of the matter; and three, in such case, the defendant shall be permitted to withdraw his plea, if he desires to do so.
(emphasis added)

Those who have risen, for some reason, to Polanski's defense, keep pointing to a documentary made last year that alleged Polanski's bail-jumping flight and "exile" to Europe for three decades was the result of questionable judicial and prosecutorial conduct that led Polanski to believe the judge was going to impose a stricter, more conventional sentence than the relatively light sentence that had been negotiated on Polanski's behalf. Leaving aside the fact that the source of this story has retracted his story (offering a fairly pathetic excuse for his lies along the way), the fact remains that Polanski was clearly advised during his plea colloquy that he could retract his plea and take the case to trial if the judge gave him a harsher sentence than the plea agreement called for.

Given the pervasive ignorance of Polanski's supporters, perhaps one shouldn't be surprised that this detail is missed (e.g. consider the idiot Huffington Post columnist who believes it was legal to fuck fourteen-year-olds in California at the time and probably legal to bang a thirteen-year-old now; a belief that (1) would be legally incorrect even if true, since statutory rape laws constitute absolute cutoffs and a victim can be a day too young and it's still considered rape, and (2) appears to be based on a misunderstanding of Polanski's original charges: Polanski pleaded to having sex with someone under the age of eighteen, the age-of-consent at the time, a reduction from the more serious offense of having sex with someone younger than age fourteen). Indeed, Polanski's supporters seem to be operating under a number of misunderstandings--that the current wishes of the victim matter, or that the offenses are merely "alleged" (the man did plead guilty, you know), that child-rape isn't a very big deal, and so forth.

Anyway: it's not something I wanted to get too much into. The man has made some extraordinary movies. He's also a bail-jumper who needs to face the music, a convicted felon who shouldn't be surprised to be treated as a convicted felon. That's probably 'nuff said.


Leanright,  Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 6:05:00 PM EDT  

Mark this date; I am 100% in agreement with everything you have said, Eric.

I wonder how many people would support a bail-jumping pedo-rapist if his name was Joe Smith, and had zero artistic talent?

His supporters need a better defense than "But, he's ROMAN POLANSKI"!

Random Michelle K Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 6:09:00 PM EDT  

This is one of those times when I need to stand up and go, "What in the holy flying hell is WRONG with these people?"

Pedophile. The man plead guilty to pedophilia.

That is NOT an OK thing.

Nathan Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 8:40:00 PM EDT  

I've considered writing about this one a few times over the last few days but I keep deciding not to bother. You've pretty much pointed out everything I might have said about it.

The only thing I'd add is that the only thing unfair about pursuing someone for a 30 year old crime is that the defendant/convict got to avoid punishment for 30 years. You don't get a pass for good behavior during the time you dodged the law (unless, of course, the judge decides to take that into account when pronouncing his sentence).

I really don't get how all of his defenders reconcile that defense with the rest of their causes. It's pretty far up there on the scale of hypocrisy.

(Oh, and thank you for reminding everyone that the victim has no say in a decision to drop prosecution. I mean shit...I learned that much from Perry Mason!)

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