Roman Polanski’s American Dream

It is hard to see any useful purpose in Switzerland's arrest of the filmmaker Roman Polanski for a 30-year-old crime committed in the US. But, while American justice may be populist and media-driven, the idea that the law should treat great artists differently – conspicuous in the outraged statements of Polanski's defenders - is fundamentally undemocratic.

NEW YORK – What purpose is Switzerland serving by jailing the renowned Franco-Polish film director Roman Polanski on a 30-year-old warrant? Arrested in 1977 for allegedly raping a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles, Polanski pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of having unlawful sex with a minor. In the belief that his judge, the late Laurence J. Rittenband, would renege on his promise to let Polanski go free after serving 42 days in a California prison, the director fled the United States in 1978 before his final sentence was announced.

Since then, the victim of Polanski’s sex crime, Samantha Geimer, publicly forgave him, and expressed her wish for the charges to be withdrawn. So the reason to pursue the case now can have nothing to do with the rights or feelings of the victim. Nor is Polanski, a married father of two children with no other criminal record, likely to repeat his offenses.

So the good of society is not served by forcing him to return to LA for a trial. Common sense would seem to leave no other conclusion than that his arrest – in a country that is obliged by treaty to extradite fugitives from US justice – serves no purpose at all.  

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