The arrest of Roman Polanski by Switzerland is “outrageous,” wrote Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, normally a sensible center-right voice. Applebaum proceeds to lecture readers on the “facts” of the case, but then neglects to mention a fact about her own conflict of interest in the case:
Of all nations, why was it Switzerland — the country that traditionally guarded the secret bank accounts of international criminals and corrupt dictators — that finally decided to arrest Roman Polanski? There must be some deeper story here, because by any reckoning the decision was bizarre — though not nearly as bizarre as the fact that a U.S. judge wants to keep pursuing this case after so many decades.
Here are some of the facts: Polanski’s crime — statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl — was committed in 1977. The girl, now 45, has said more than once that she forgives him, that she can live with the memory, that she does not want him to be put back in court or in jail, and that a new trial will hurt her husband and children. There is evidence of judicial misconduct in the original trial. There is evidence that Polanski did not know her real age. Polanski, who panicked and fled the U.S. during that trial, has been pursued by this case for 30 years, during which time he has never returned to America, has never returned to the United Kingdom., has avoided many other countries, and has never been convicted of anything else. He did commit a crime, but he has paid for the crime in many, many ways: In notoriety, in lawyers’ fees, in professional stigma. He could not return to Los Angeles to receive his recent Oscar. He cannot visit Hollywood to direct or cast a film.
He can be blamed, it is true, for his original, panicky decision to flee. But for this decision I see mitigating circumstances, not least an understandable fear of irrational punishment.
Applebaum leaves out a few facts from this rather meager presentation. As Roger Simon notes, the idea that Polanski didn’t know of the victim’s true age doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, since he had to get her mother’s permission for the photo shoot. Applebaum also neglects to mention that Polanski drugged her with a Quaalude and champagne, forcibly had sexual intercourse, and then sodomized her afterward. Polanski negotiated the charge down to statutory rape rather than actual rape, but the actual facts show that this was not a case of an older man with poor eyesight and judgment.
Patterico notes that Applebaum left out another pertinent fact in her blog post:
Applebaum failed to mention that her husband is a Polish foreign minister who is lobbying for Polanski’s case to be dismissed … Radoslaw Sikorski is married to Anne Applebaum[.] Applebaum failed to mention this little fact.
So at the same time that she was giving readers a fact-challenged screed in support of Polanski, she was failing to disclose that her husband was a Polish official who was lobbying for Polanski’s freedom.
I’m certain that Applebaum sincerely thinks that the charges should be dropped and is not merely using her position at the Post to act as a proxy for her husband. However, that little factoid should have been presented to her readers to make them aware of her interest in the case. It certainly could explain why Applebaum left out a number of inconvenient facts from her presentation, all of which make clear why the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office wants Polanski extradited and brought back before a judge.
Polanski raped and sodomized a 13-year-old girl. The only thing outrageous about his arrest is that it came 32 years after he fled, not from “irrational” punishment, but from justice for his own actions. It’s outrageous that Polanski’s fans continue to support him even after knowing the facts of the case. As for Applebaum’s final argument — “If he weren’t famous, I bet no one would bother with him at all” — it’s very clear that if Polanski hadn’t been famous, no one would have bothered to hide him for the last 32 years, and he would have done his jail time decades ago. That’s completely unworthy of Applebaum, and patently ridiculous.
Update: Jazz Shaw weighs in with “Roman Polanski: Scumbag”.
Update II: The Smoking Gun has the victim’s testimony.