In recent months, numerous men and women have spoken out about sexual abuse being perpetrated by powerful figures in the entertainment industries. As a result, some people might recall the case of the film-maker Roman Polanski, who fled the United States to escape punishment by the U.S. legal system.
For those who are unfamiliar with the case, Polanski was arrested in March of 1977 because he had raped a 13 year-old girl, who had been alone with him because her mother had permitted a private photo shoot. Initially, Polanski pleaded not guilty to the charges, but he was convinced to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for serving nothing but probation time. However, Polanski became convinced that the judge presiding over the case was going to renege on the plea bargain and sentence him to 50 years in prison, with the result that he fled to England and then France. Since that time, the United States has sought his extradition to face punishment under the U.S. legal system, but so far, it has not met with success in this regard.
Why Has Roman Polanski Not Been Extradited to the United States?
There are a couple of reasons that Polanski has not been extradited to the United States in spite of U.S. efforts in this matter. First, he has stayed away from countries that are likely to send him to the United States, with the result that he spends most of his time in France, Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Second, the one time that he was detained in Switzerland because of the U.S. warrant for his arrest failed to result in his extradition to the United States because the Swiss court rejected the request for said occurrence.
It is important to note that the incident provoked a rather strong response from France at the time, which is one of the two countries where Polanski has citizenship. What happened is that a number of important figures in the French government spoke out in favor of him, with the French Minister of Culture and Communication being a particularly notable example. Likewise, a number of French celebrities called for his release as well, citing his accomplishments as a director as well as the time had passed while ignoring the fact that he had committed a crime for which he had never been punished.
However, it should be noted that the French government withdrew its open support of Polanski in the end, perhaps because the French public is rather similar to their counterparts in Poland and the United States in that a clear majority of them has consistently supported extraditing Polanski when polled on the matter. Unfortunately, the detainment in Switzerland went nowhere, while a subsequent effort to get Poland to extradite Polanski met with a similar lack of success.
Will Roman Polanski Ever Be Punished?
At this point in time, it seems probable that Polanski will never be punished for his crime, no matter how frustrating that might be. None of the countries that host Polanski are interested in extraditing him, while the United States remains interested in seeing him extradited so that he can face his punishment under the U.S. legal system. Barring something unexpected, this stalemate will continue into the future, though some people might be consoled by the fact that Polanski’s victim was able to secure some monetary compensation by suing Polanski and then settling out of court.
Instead of becoming frustrated by this case, a more productive course of action might be focusing on creating an environment in which the victims of sexual abuse feel more comfortable about speaking out about those who have committed such crimes. Judging by the recent news, it seems clear that our society still has a long way to go in this regard, but considering that the stories are actually getting told as opposed to being suppressed in the not so distant past, it seems clear that our society has also made some small measure of progress. Still, people should never be satisfied with the progress that has been made but instead continue striving to improve things so as to prevent future cases such as that of Roman Polanski.