I just stuttered and “um”-ed my way through a BBC radio interview about Roman Polanski’s new-found freedom. That’s because I didn’t know how to adequately answer the host’s question: What do you make of this news? It might also have something to do with freezing up in front of a global audience of — god, I don’t even want to think about it. Mostly, though, I didn’t know what to say, aside from: “But, but … he fled final sentencing.”
Swiss officials say their ruling was purely technical and hinged on the United States’ refusal to supply a confidential transcript of a hearing with the prosecutor in charge of the case. This should come as no surprise to Swiss authorities: A court ruling barred the release of the requested material. As a result, though, the Swiss say they were unable to “exclude with the necessary certainty” that Polanski had already served his sentence. He was ordered to serve a 90-day psychiatric evaluation and was released after only 42 days, thanks to a favorable review. But even more important: he fled sentencing.
Of course, his supporters point to judicial misconduct — by way of inappropriate communication between the judge and the prosecutor — and argue that the charges should be tossed out as a result. As Brian Palmer explained in Slate, however:
Outright dismissal is an exceedingly rare remedy for ex parte communications, especially when the communications came after the plea agreement was reached. It’s far more common for the plea agreement to stand, with a new judge brought in to preside over the sentencing.
That didn’t happen, though, because Polanski fled sentencing. Did I mention that Polanski fled sentencing? Yeah, Polanski fled sentencing.
It’s amazing how much about this case has to be repeated, again and again — as Kate Harding did with her Broadsheet post titled, “Reminder: Roman Polanski raped a child.” One rarely thinks of child rape as the sort detail that is easily forgotten — not to mention the initial charges of child molestation, rape by use of drugs and sodomy — but so it was in the wake of the director’s arrest late last year. And, once again, I find myself resorting to a single, though different, refrain.
Some are grasping for an optimistic angle, suggesting that the extradition denial might be a good thing for Polanski’s victim, who has voiced her desire for the whole thing to just disappear. As Jezebel’s Anna North pointed out during the BBC segment this morning, it would have disappeared a long time ago if the state of California hadn’t waited over 30 years to actively pursue and settle the case — or if Polanski hadn’t fled sentencing.