We've Got Hollywood Covered

Hollywood Success Is No Free Pass for Molesting a Child

The movie industry should have told Roman Polanski to answer for his crime.


Why is there a double standard for Roman Polanski?

The director is now being held in Switzerland, awaiting extradition. If you’ve been following the story you’ll see that there has been a significant amount of criticism leveled against the Swiss government for acting on the U.S. extradition request. The criticism has come mainly from France and Poland, but also from others.

During the more than 30 years that Polanski was a fugitive from the United States, the film industry continued to act as though he had done nothing wrong, even going so far as to give him an Academy Award in 2002 for directing "The Pianist." Now that Polanski has finally been caught, the press is full of commentary by those that seem to think Polanski has somehow been treated unfairly.

More than 30 years ago, Polanski pleaded guilty to the charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. His victim was 13, he was 44. Polanski apparently engaged in various sexual acts with the girl, who was then under the influence of champagne and Quaaludes during a photo shoot. Polanski ultimately fled to France after his plea bargain wasn’t honored.

France, the country whose credo is "Liberte, Egalite, and Fraternite," accepted Polanski and has since shielded him from extradition. "Liberte" is apparently given broad meaning in France. Polanski is certainly not the first American fugitive to flee there and avoid extradition.

You may remember the case of Ira Einhorn, the Philadelphia resident who was accused of bludgeoning his girlfriend to death and then keeping her body stored in a steamer trunk. Einhorn fled to France in 1981, prior to his trial. It was not until 2001, that he was eventually returned to the U.S. to stand trial.

France refuses to extradite any defendant that is either subject to the death penalty, or whom it believes may not be able to obtain a fair trial. France also will not extradite anyone who is a citizen of France. In this case, French citizenship was Polanski’s out.

Polanski admitted to committing a crime upon a child. He pleaded guilty. Although the victim has recently stated to the press that she believes Polanski "made a mistake" and that she has moved on from it, until now, Polanski has essentially gotten off with no consequences.

While Polanski, post-departure, no longer directed films from Hollywood, he did so from France. He traveled freely to countries that did not have arrangements for extradition to the United States. He married his third wife and has two children with her.

In the 30-plus years that have elapsed since the time of that crime, Polanski has moved forward in his career, both with the support of the foreign film community, as well as the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In addition to his 2002 Oscar, Polanski also received the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or and its awards for Best Film and Best Director.

While there may be issues surrounding Polanski’s 1977 conviction, Polanski himself has not allowed anyone to delve into those issues because he has refused to allow himself to be held accountable. Having made that choice, we must assume that Polanski’s guilty plea had merit.

On a regular basis we hear about sexual predators and the concerns that our citizens have about them. There are ongoing stories in the news about people placed in the registry of sex offenders, about our neighbors not wanting to be their neighbors. It seems to be the consensus that child sex offenders are the "lowest of the low," treated with disdain by all of society.

This disdain apparently does not apply to Mr. Polanski. Instead of being excoriated, he is honored by the film industry. Now that he’s been caught, people are outraged. It seems absurd that success in Hollywood is a free pass for molesting a child.

Instead of supporting Polanski all these years, Hollywood should have told him to answer for the crime. There simply cannot be a double standard simply because the perpetrator is a member of the Hollywood elite.

Fred Silberberg is a Los Angeles attorney who has been specializing in family law for more than 20 years. For more than 10 years, he has authored an often controversial and oft- quoted opinion column in the Los Angeles Daily Journal; he also regularly quoted by media including te Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Daily News, the Los Angeles Business Journal, USA Today, Entertainment Tonight, E! Entertainment Television, KCBS and KCAL, among others.

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