Debunking the Myths Surrounding the Roman Polanski
by Tony Medley
On March 10, 1977, Roman Polanski drugged, raped,
and sodomized a 13-year-old girl on what he represented to her family
would be a “photo shoot.” Her mother requested that she accompany her
daughter, but Polanski dissuaded her. Polanski was charged with Unlawful
Sexual Intercourse, Furnishing Drugs to a Minor, Lewd or Lascivious Acts
upon a Child under 14 Years of Age, Rape by Use of Drugs, Perversion,
and Sodomy, all felonies. On August 8, 1977, Polanski pled guilty to one
count of Unlawful Sexual Intercourse and the other five counts were to
be dismissed in a plea deal. Before sentencing, Polanski fled the
country and has been a fugitive ever since.
He was arrested in Zurich, Switzerland in September
and extradition proceedings are in process to have him returned to the
country for sentencing. While most of the country apparently thinks that
Polanski should face the music for what he did, Hollywood doesn’t agree
and has flown to Polanski’s defense. Whoopi Goldberg said on national TV
that what he did wasn’t “rape” rape.
Putting an additional spin on it, Film critic Ben
Mankiewicz said on October 4, on CNN’s Reliable Sources, “Prosecution
didn’t think it should be jail time.” This went uncontested by host
Howie Kurtz (the media critic for the Washington Post) and the two other
panelists, Lisa Bloom of CBS and the Washington Post’s Amy Argetsinger.
As with lots of what comes out of the media today, this was dead wrong,
although it is probably the prevailing view, due to biased media
coverage, which might have contributed to hundreds of Hollywoodites
signing a letter of support for Polanski.
But what are the facts? Anybody interested would
easily be able to discover that Mankiewicz was talking through his hat.
At the hearing on August 8, 1977, prosecutor Roger
Gunson asked Polanski:
Mr. Gunson: Mr. Polanski,
do you understand that at the time of probation and sentencing, the
prosecutor may argue that you should be sentenced to State Prison, or be
incarcerated in the County Jail?
The transcript picks up later:
Mr. Gunson: The District
Attorney will make a motion to dismiss the remaining pending charges
after sentencing. Other than that promise, has anyone made any promises
to you, such as a lesser sentence or probation, or any reward?
Indemnity? A Court recommendation to the Immigration and Naturalization
Service, or anything else, in order to get you to plead guilty?
After Gunson asked Polanski’s attorney, Doug
Dalton, if he consented to the plea and Dalton said “yes,” Judge
The Court: Before you do
so, however, I must advise the defendant, under Section 92.5 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).
After hearing this, Polanski pled guilty.
On September 19, 1977, Polanski returned to appear
before Judge Rittenband again. At this hearing Dalton asked that no jail
time be given Polanski for his crime. Contrary to what Mankiewicz said,
here’s what the transcript reveals that the Prosecutor actually said in
Mr. Gunson: …I believe
that the probation report and the doctors have overlooked a few
important facts in this case that demand that Mr. Polanski receive time
After reviewing the facts presented to the Grand
Jury the transcript continues:
Mr. Gunson: This all
indicates that this is more than a normal course of action, a
situational event…It appears that it was almost planned. If you consider
the photographs, and consider the fact that Mr. Polanski is a
teetotaler, and he’s drinking alcohol and furnishing the alcohol, and he
indicates that he is a user only of prescribed drugs, when in fact he
furnishes a girl drugs that were not prescribed, and has – or, has in
his possession drugs that were not prescribed, based upon those facts,
your Honor, the people are requesting that Mr. Polanski be placed in
custody for a violation of Section 26.5, the offense that he has pled
So any claim by Mankiewicz and the others that the
prosecution didn’t think that jail time was required is pure hogwash.
On another subject, was Polanski’s arrest in Zurich
set up by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office? When I first asked
this question, I got a complete denial from the spokesperson for the
District Attorney. She said that in 2002 an Interpol Red Notice was put
out for Polanski that alerts law enforcement agencies throughout the
world that someone is wanted. He’s been on that notice for seven years.
There have been other sightings of him; this is the first time he’s been
arrested. They’ve been trying to arrest him for 31 years. She said she
was surprised because they’ve gone through this so many times over the
past, so it snuck up on her.
She said that Swiss authorities arrested him on the
basis of a warrant that was issued by authorities in Washington, not
anything done by the District Attorney’s office. Her clear implication
was that the DA’s office had done nothing special, and denied that there
was a concerted effort to arrest Polanski, other than the Red Notice
issued by Interpol.
However, later in the interview, she said that she
couldn’t tell me how it all came about, implying that it was
confidential. But she then said that they were “informed” that he was
going to be there. When asked who informed them, she said that was
confidential. The conclusion I draw from all this is that the DA’s
office was involved and that Polanski’s trip to Switzerland was
When I asked if it wasn’t a crime fail to show up
for sentencing and to be a fugitive, her response was simply that they
hadn’t yet charged him with that. I asked a judge about a defendant’s
failure to appear and his response was, “After guilty pleas, I sometimes
look defendants in the eyes and make them solemnly pledge that they will
report to prison on their report date. Failing
to honor that pledge, regardless of the crime, is
very serious.” As to
the severity of Polanski’s crime and what would be an appropriate
sentence for someone who pled guilty to such acts, he said, “Our
sentencing guidelines tell me to send people to jail for years
for looking at pictures of 13 year olds.”
The upshot is that a man who drugged, raped, and
sodomized a 13-year-old girl and admitted to it will finally see some
measure of justice meted out, however minimal it might be. Steve Cooley
and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office should be commended for
staying with the Polanski case so that the man gets the punishment he
deserves for what he did.