Beating the Rap

The Governator must be breathing a sigh of relief. California will be spared a high-profile, expensive legal mess and Roman Polanski will stay in Europe– the Swiss refuse to extradite him.

I was not happy with the prospect of him coming back and straining our overloaded criminal justice system.

I would like to see some rational discussion of the abuses of power. Polanski, if he stays true to form, will be acting like he’s been vindicated, and exonerated, and his publicists will again be slandering his victim and her family. Or maybe he’ll just stop trying to get back in the US since he almost came here in cuffs.

He’s not a supercriminal. He’s ordinary. There’s people like him everywhere. Whenever we give power to an individual we risk making a tyrant, petty or large. It’s not as if children here were safe while this one perp was out of the country. It’s not as if adults don’t also suffer abuse.

Roman Polanski has not expressed remorse or even paid the compensation for damages he promised Samantha Geimer. But he did not completely escape justice.

The court of public opinion, that in the 1970’s convicted Geimer of being a ‘Lolita’ who inconvenienced a Great Man by telling the truth about what he did to her, has made a later judgment that the drug-facilitated rape of a child is a crime. We couldn’t even use words like that back then. It’s progress, of a bitter and ironic kind.

Today in the ACI there are people sitting in cells for smoking things or failing to pay fines. Law is law, and in this case Justice is God’s. Crimes against children are an assault on society, but this time the offender gets away. How do we repair the damage?

Parents want to know how to protect their children. America needs to create a society where our children can express their independence without such a high level of fear.

There’s a parallel here to the Catholic Church scandals. Polanski didn’t jump out of an alley, he won the trust of parents to get access to a child. He used prestige to get past the defenses that are intended to protect children. We can’t lock our children up, so the challenge is to find ways to identify abuse at the start, and to stop it.

Of course, teaching children early to question authority could have consequences later on. It’s an experiment I’d like to see. Maybe someone will make a film about the lies and bluffs and basic human frailty that induce us to give away power to people who are untrustworthy. Maybe that film has already been made. Seen any good movies lately?

SO MISUNDERSTOOD: Since some commenters may have mistaken my lack of faith in high-profile justice for an attempt to minimize an awful crime against a child, I offer my previous post from 2009, Fangirl and Fanboy,where I take on Hollywood apologists and link to some brave critics who tell it like it is. Myself, I’ve been on the press to tell the truth about Polanski for years, writing to the ProJo’s Michael Janusonis by snail mail before blogging was invented.

AND ANOTHER THING: A blast at Polanski from Salon.

THE WHOLE STORY: Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post sums it up, including a link to the victim’s testimony… (thanks to Daily Kos for the tip)

For Roman Polanski, the long, unspeakable nightmare of being confined to his three-story chalet in Gstaad, the luxury resort in the Swiss Alps, is finally over. The fugitive director is free once again to stroll into town, have a nice meal, maybe do a little shopping at the local Cartier, Hermes or Louis Vuitton boutiques.

Or he could just scurry like a rat into France or Poland, the two countries where he has citizenship — and where authorities have a long history of acting as if Polanski’s celebrity and talent somehow negate his sexual brutalization of a 13-year-old girl.

I’ve watched this case for over thirty years. For me the justice is in seeing a wilder and less timid press, aided by the Net, finally tell the truth. He did not ‘have sex with’ an underage girl. He raped a child. You can all thank the ‘feminazis’ and the ‘politically correct’ for the voice to say this. In the 70’s such words were not allowed in print, so all the media parroted the perp’s version. Like any other pitiful loser, Polanski made himself out to be the victim. He owes Samantha Geimer a settlement for the injury he inflicted, that he promised and never paid. He also owes her a public apology and to promise to stay out of her life. But he’ll die of old age before that happens.
California needs to put its money into getting active abusers tried and convicted. All fifty states need to put resources into prevention. If the Feds do scoop Polanski then let him face the judge like any other offender. Justice has already been greatly served by exposing his lies.

Unravelling a Crime Network

This isn’t a game of ‘ain’t it awful’ because we all know that people do awful things. What we don’t understand well enough is the paralysis that afflicts people who have a responsibility to protect the powerless, and the network of complicity that arises around centers of power…

Ireland’s police colluded with the Catholic church in covering up clerical child abuse in Dublin on a huge scale, according to a damning report on decades of sex crimes committed by priests.

The devastating report on the sexual and physical abuse of children by the clergy in Ireland’s capital from 1975 to 2004 accuses four former archbishops, a host of clergy and senior members of the Garda Síochána of a cover-up.

The three-volume report found that the “maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church and the preservation of its assets” was more important than justice for the victims.

Read the rest, here.

Feministe links to an article by French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levi on the Polanski case that is so one-sided you’d never know that Polanski plead guilty to a crime. I think there are parallels here. Power is attractive. Power can bestow favors. Standing with the people who are injured in the rush to power is costly. Social disapproval is a powerful weapon. You could end up dis-invited to a lot of parties, or denied Communion.

Some belated justice is necessary, but it’s not enough. Understanding the social protection that lets abusers get away with their crimes is crucial, because prevention is the best cure.

Who Can Stop the Media Circus?

Roman Polanski is on my computer, on my radio, in my newspaper. A petition signed by a host of actors and writers begs for the case to be dropped. His victim, now a mature woman, is enduring a new media onslaught. Who can stop the madness?

It’s simple. Roman Polanski can stop it.

He ran from his own plea bargain. He can stop dragging this thing out and tell his lawyers to end it. He’s 76 years old. California does not want or need another geriatric ward of the state. They have more dangerous prisoners that they have to release for lack of space.

He just needs to get his lawyers and his entourage and face a judge and end this. He’s not going to persuade the US legal system that he deserves a free pass for being rich and famous, but he can probably clutch his heart a few times and cough pitifully, and persuade them that locking him up is more trouble than he’s worth.

Fangirl and Fanboy

In today’s Huffington Post there’s two excellent examples of the Roman Polanski celebrity fan club. They think he’s being persecuted. He’s rich, he’s charming, he made a lot of movies. The survivor of the assault he committed thirty years ago wants a normal life, and has kept her privacy.

Polanski, on the other hand, invited a documentary filmmaker to show his side of the story, and these two Huffpo writers watched it. What more do they need to know?

This from Joan Z. Shore, Women Overseas for Equality…

But there is more to this story. The 13-year old model “seduced” by Polanski had been thrust onto him by her mother, who wanted her in the movies. The girl was just a few weeks short of her 14th birthday, which was the age of consent in California. (It’s probably 13 by now!) Polanski was demonized by the press, convicted, and managed to flee, fearing a heavy sentence.

This astounding piece of victim-blaming leaves me wondering whatever ‘Women Overseas for Equality’ stands for.

It’s pretty much the line that the press swallowed in the 1970’s when the poor, troubled film director succumbed to the conniving nymphet who seduced him. And in Shore’s version it’s not rape, or even seduction. She ‘seduced’ him. Jeeze, maybe they should put her in jail instead.

One of the nasty aspects of this crime is that Polanski used his famous charm to deceive the mother and daughter to get the child alone. I can’t imagine the guilt and shame, the damage to the relationship, that resulted. Parents who trusted their children with priests, camp counselors and other authority figures that betrayed them do know.

For an alternate view, the Huffpo has ‘John Farr– Leniency for Polanski’.

Watching Wanted and Desired, I did not get the impression that the now-adult lady Polanski seduced, who after all bears the most right to carry a grudge, would herself want to see the aging director slapped behind bars at this stage. (Perhaps others who saw the film had a different impression.)

Well, Farr watched the movie too. And the fact that Samantha Geimer has not devoted her life to seeking revenge is taken as evidence that she was not wronged. Her life wasn’t trashed enough to satisfy people who expect their victims to display bruises. If she is able to forgive that is very much to her credit. But Polanski has never acknowledged his real crime, or asked forgiveness.

If this were happening in Rhode Island, I wouldn’t want our tax money to pay for three squares and a cot for this loser. We have more offenders than our parole officers can keep track of and we don’t need to import them from France.

I guess he would end up in a court in California. He could appeal to a Governor who himself is from the movie business. Who himself has faced allegations of sexual bullying and sex with a minor. Who as governor pleases his constituency with a tough stance on offenders. That would be interesting to watch.

A majority of Californians decided to give Schwarzenegger a pass on his dubious history. Americans in general are more tolerant of consensual adult sex and less tolerant of exploitation of children than we were in the 1970’s. But we still revere power and hate to deal with the messy contradictions of human nature.

Florida puts its sex offenders under a bridge. We don’t know what to do with people who are fine with adults, but a danger to children or the vulnerable. The press, especially the film industry, doesn’t want to put the scarlet ‘P’ for perp on one of their own. But what do you do with a story like this? It’s not a satisfying narrative where justice wins out. It’s just messy reality. It’s discouraging to see the same distortions and evasions thirty years later, after all we should have learned.

Update– Samantha Geimer wants the case dismissed. Polanski’s thirty year game with the US legal system has ensured that the whole story will keep on coming back to haunt her and her family. Her wishes should be respected, and understood. The enabling press will take a dismissal as exoneration, but she has a right to try to put an end to the notoriety. Polanski, on his part, should stop trying to justify himself and do his best to make amends by leaving her alone.

Another View– Salon has a strongly worded post on why the case should not be dismissed. Dodging justice is not just an offense against a victim, but an offense against the law.

And besides that– the Wikipedia entry for Nastassja Kinski says that Polanski ‘had a romantic relationship’ with her when she was 15.

An opposing view–Mary Elizabeth Williams argues that the legal process of reporting a sexual assault is so traumatic to the victim that justice would be served by letting Polanski go. Williams doesn’t condemn a legal system that is hostile to victims, she seems to take is as a given, like the weather. You could apply her logic to all personal crimes and conclude that none of them should ever be prosecuted.

Too Hot for Salon– just noticed at 6:50pm they have taken Kate Harding’s toughly worded post off the front page and left Mary Elizabeth Williams’ ‘If you want justice for Polanski, let him go’ up. What, is someone there afraid they won’t eat lunch in Hollywood anymore? What is aggravating is that Harding is very blunt in telling it like it is, where Williams says that really, it’s ‘all of us’ who harmed Polanski’s victim. That must be the theory of dispersed culpability that fogs up the painful truth.

More of What’s Not on Salon– okay, this is a year old. Bill Wyman’s analysis of the bias in the documentary, ‘Wanted and Desired’ and the distortions in the press. Tough reading, as it includes testimony from the victim. An ugly crime.

More Links– on Feministing links to opinions on the case. It’s just such a relief to see so many discussions that take it as a given that there was an actual crime.

Not Singing With the Choir–Anna Wainwright short post on Salon just so it’s not all about how the poor guy is being persecuted.

Turns the Tables– Nina Burleigh at Huffpo calls out Polanski’s defenders who think that the genius of the Great Man is worth the sacrifice of a few nobody girls.

Doubletalk–Salon’s Glenn Greenwald calls out the Washington Post for putting mushy untruths on its editorial page and then criticizing ‘the left’ for the same thing.

Priesthood of Fame–Eve Ensler, author of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ questions the defenders of Roman Polanski’s crime.

Flashback: Roman Polanski Arrested

Roman Polanski has been arrested in Switzerland for the conviction he walked away from thirty years ago. Last year he was trying to get his record cleared in the US without actually having to come here and face a judge.

Polanski is not the only criminal who used wealth and power and friends to evade the law by hopping a plane. Maybe it’s a good thing that there are consequences.

At this late date, it’s hard to imagine he would do any prison time. But he’s had thirty years to publicize his version of events, and the child he preyed on is now a woman who must only wish he would stay away from her life and her family.

She’s already spoken to the press, they should leave her alone.

No Big Deal

Forgiveness is a blessing. Face transplant recipient Connie Culp wants to let the past be past and look to her future…

In an interview Friday with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the 46-year-old Unionport, Ohio, woman said she forgives her husband, who went to prison for seven years. The blast shattered her nose, cheeks, the roof of her mouth and an eye.

She was a pretty woman before her husband shot her face off. It is her prerogative alone to forgive or not forgive.

In related news, Roman Polanski’s lawyer, Chad Hummel, tried to use the victim’s words to argue that Polanski should have his charges dismissed without the inconvenience of appearing in court.

He also noted that [Judge] Espinoza’s refusal to dismiss the case is contrary to the wishes of the victim, Samantha Geimer, who joined in Polanski’s bid for dismissal. She has said she wants the case to be over.

I’ll bet she wants it to be over. She has a life, and every time Polanski sics his lawyers on the State of California she has to see her name in the papers again.

He could make some kind of amends if he would apologize, admit he was wrong, and stop this nonsense. He’s a free man in Paris, is that so bad? Why does he have to keep dragging this woman’s name into the news?

It’s her prerogative to forgive. Connie Culp and Samantha Geimer are better human beings than I am. But their forgiveness doesn’t mean that no harm was done. Connie Culp still has scars, has lost an eye, the damage is visible. When the damage is lost trust, a life derailed, it may not show on the surface, but it is just as real.