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December 10th, 2009
10:00 PM ET

Sex, fame, and the case of Roman Polanski

The case surrounding the arrest of director Roman Polanski has both supporters and critics.

The case surrounding the arrest of director Roman Polanski has both supporters and critics.

Jeffrey Toobin | BIO
AC360° Contributor
New Yorker

ABSTRACT: ANNALS OF LAW about Roman Polanski. Writer describes Polanksi’s arrest in 1977 by Detective Philip Vannatter. Polanski was accused of raping Samantha Gailey, a thirteen-year-old girl. On August 8, 1977, pursuant to a plea bargain, Polanski pleaded guilty to the least serious of the charges against him, statutory rape. On the eve of his sentencing hearing, which was scheduled for February 1, 1978, Polanski fled to Europe and has not returned. Earlier this year, on September 26, he was arrested in Switzerland after the American authorities made a provisional request for his arrest. After spending sixty-seven days at a Zurich detention center, Polanski was transferred to house arrest at his chalet in the ski resort of Gstaad on Friday. Polanski is one of the most famous fugitives from American justice in the word. The question of whether Polanski’s celebrity has helped or hurt him hovers over his long legal battle. In Polanski’s case, the effect of his celebrity was doubly, and inconsistently, pernicious; it obscured both how badly Polanski treated his young victim, and how badly the legal system treated him. Tells about Polanski’s early life: his escape from the Warsaw ghetto and his career as a director. Polanski came to Hollywood in 1963. He married Sharon Tate in 1968. Tells about Tate’s murder by members of Charles Manson’s “family.” Describes the events leading up to Polanski’s sexual encounter with Samantha Gailey, whom he was ostensibly photographing for a feature on adolescent girls in Vogue Hommes. Discusses the legal case that followed in detail. Polanski was represented by Douglas Dalton; Gailey by Lawrence Silver; the judge was Laurence J. Rittenband. Considers how criminal sentencing has changed in California since the nineteen-seventies and gives an account of the legal wranglings that preceded Polanski’s flight. Polanski’s status as a fugitive has made it difficult, but not impossible, for him to continue to direct major films. Describes various attempts by Polanski’s lawyers to broker a resolution. In 2003, Polanki won the Oscar for Best Director for “The Pianist.” Mentions Marina Zenovich’s documentary, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.” Gives an account of the events leading up to Polanski’s arrest in Switzerland and describes the public response after he was arrested: the initial support for Polanski from other celebrities and the backlash that followed. It appears likely that at some point Polanski will be returned to California, and there he will face a legal situation of daunting complexity. Describes how Polanski continued to work on his new film, “The Ghost,” from his prison cell. The movie will be released, on schedule, next year.

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soundoff (One Response)
  1. carla

    roman should have been in jail long ago ....i think it odd but not surprizing that he is free...but in america it seems that raping children is no real crime or how else could a man that raped children kidnap a child for years and father children and be on parole.....only in america....he must know someone who knows someone ....or not

    December 10, 2009 at 8:46 pm |