On Roman Polanski

All right, this is getting to be too much.  I ignored it when a friend warned me not to “defend rapists” on her LJ for linking to an article  (See sidebar for the link.)  Now another friend has signed a petition calling for this 76-year old man to “receive justice.”  The cynicism is appalling.

There many issues and sides to this, but three of them come to mind: One, the power of the media to sway even smart people.  Two, as an example of PC thought: if you say rape, or child molestation, or racism, or certain other words, then suddenly nothing else matters, and people must line up and declare their allegiance or be A Bad Person.  Three, the way the wishes of the victim are being systematically ignored, as if she has no interest in this whatsoever, with the result she and her family are forced to be victims still and again.  That is what really pisses me off.

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89 thoughts on “On Roman Polanski”

  1. At risk of getting yelled at, a response:

    1) I’m not sure what this first point means. Did he not rape a 13-year-old girl? Is that incorrect? If it is, then why did he plea bargain the charge down with some relief, then when he thought he wouldn’t get off fled his sentencing? These are not conjurations of the media befuddling smart people, these are facts.

    2) I agree that you should not automatically be labelled a bad person for your opinion on the matter, but a lot of folks are seeing a power elite line up behind this man and argue that he has done nothing wrong and that his art should excuse him from any punishment or following of legal procedure. That rankles folks. I’m sorry that people are trying to make you feel bad about it, but it’s a hot-button issue for some of them. I mean, are we not supposed to get upset when we hear about child rape?

    3) The wishes of the victim should be taken into account, but the legal system does not bend to their (or, ideally anyone’s) will. So, if a battered wife tells the cops to not arrest her husband, should they honor her wishes? If a child is molested and the perpetrator threatens them if they don’t drop the charges, should they be allowed to do so? I understand her desire for it to not be brought up again, but the fault here is Polanski’s for not seeing the process through as he was legally obligated to do under a stipulation that he agreed to at the time.

    I honestly don’t think there are many sides to this issue.

  2. 1: The plea bargain was agreed to by the defendant, the prosecutor, the judge, and the victim; at the last minute the judge changed his mind and threw it out, threatening Polanski with a 50-year sentence, against the wishes of (did you notice?) the prosecutor and the victim. How do you call that justice?

    2. To what power elite do you refer? The LA times, the New York Times, and all of the Right Wing asshole journalists and talk show hosts are lining up for extradition, not to mention the Swiss government and the US State Department.

    3. There is a difference in kind between a terrified wife “protecting” an abusive husband in the terror of the moment, and a judge unilaterally throwing out a plea bargain agreed to by prosecutor, defendant, judge, and victim. Did you follow the link and read what the victim says? Just in case, here it is again: http://articles.latimes.com/2003/feb/23/opinion/oe-geimer23

  3. I am so glad to finally hear someone talk rationally about this. Shouldn’t taxpayer money be spent going after criminals that are currently a threat? Ones that need to be removed from society to keep the public safe?

  4. If the judge was in fact going to impose an illegal sentence – or one outside his discretion – that’s a winning issue on appeal, and Polanski had one of the best defense lawyers money could buy at the time. Furthermore, any time a judge refuses to approve a sentence recommendation in a plea agreement, the defendant has the opportunity to withdraw his plea and go to trial. This was the late ’70s, when the facts had to be extraordinarily damning to get a jury to convict. These points taken together lead me to think that Polanski buggered off simply because he wanted to, and because he could live in high style without risk of extradition, and not out of any real appreciation of consequences.

    Moreover, the feelings of the victim stopped mattering the moment Polanski buggered off. When he decided to become a fugitive from justice and failed to appear in court, the State of California became the victim.

    So you see, I can be pissed off at Polanski’s arrogance and the benighted people who embrace him without once touching the third rail of rape apologism.

  5. Have you read the transcript?


    No means no, especially when you’re talking about thirteen year olds.

    I’m off to follow your links now. I have read what the victim said, but the point of law is to move mercy and vengeance out of the hands of victims and into the hands of more objective members of the community.

    Which isn’t to say US law isn’t fucked up.

    Back in a bit.

  6. Okay, I had read the victim’s account, and I sympathize with her wishes, but I don’t think Polanski is a simple fugitive from the forces of capitalism. For one huge thang, he had the money to continue the fight on legal grounds. He chose to flee.

    I was a bit disappointed with wsws.org for bringing up racism in this context–I don’t think Polanski has to worry about that with the LAPD. They treated OJ Simpson as well as they treat any other rich guy. I’m sure Polanski can expect the same special care.

    Also, I’d never noticed that Polanski was some kind of red who would be singled out for persecution.

    And do you think Pinochet should’ve gotten a pass because he was old?

  7. Two more points:

    I do feel for Whoopi Goldberg, whose statements have been taken badly out of context.

    I don’t know what Polanski is currently saying about drugging and raping a thirteen-year-old, but here’s what he said shortly after he fled: “If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But… f—ing, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to f— young girls. Juries want to f— young girls. Everyone wants to f— young girls!”

    The censoring of “fuck” is from the first source I found:


    Like most people who make statements about everyone, Polanski is wrong.

  8. Mark: “If the judge was in fact going to impose an illegal sentence – or one outside his discretion”

    I saw you palm that card. No one said the sentence was either illegal or outside his discretion; the defendant, the prosecutor, and the victim all said it was *wrong.* Do you think right and wrong ought to have nothing to do with the criminal justice system? If so, be assured you are not alone.

    Will: I don’t think he’s being singled out because he’s a red, I think he’s just available in the Swiss government’s efforts to appease the US. A convenient tool.

    “And do you think Pinochet should’ve gotten a pass because he was old?”

    If his victims all said so, 27 years after the crime, and after the judge went back on a plea agreement agreed to by the victims, if he admitted his crimes, and if his prosecution was being used to distract people from crimes being committed by his prosecutors, then yes.

    Side note Will: I keep being unable to figure out how to post on your blog; it won’t recognize either my LJ name or my open URL (whatever that means).

  9. Steve, there’s something odd with Blogger just now–several people have mentioned that. I’m hoping it’ll pass. If it continues, I’ll be forced back onto WordPress or LJ.

    Why would the Swiss want to appease the US by giving them a rich director?

  10. “Why would the Swiss want to appease the US by giving them a rich director?”

    Because the US has been pressuring Swiss banks to release the names of depositors.

    To answer your other question, yes I’ve read the transcript. What an ugly, appalling web site that is! What an unforgivable thing to do to that poor woman. And now we have people spouting legalistic sophistries like “The State of California is the victim” in order to justify her continued abuse. The more you examine this, the uglier it gets. Fox News must be having a field day.

  11. It’s all proof that there is a big problem with how we presently handle such crimes as drugging and raping a 13 year old girl – pleas? Please! Perhaps this pathetic pervert should have his skull caved in and be done with it all already. What a ridiculous mess farting around with this so many years later.

  12. Legalistic sophistries? The man buggered off for no defensible reason. He was a fugitive from justice and failure to appear in court is a felony all on its own without having to even look at the underlying charges.

    And for all you claim I palmed a card, you focused so intently on the card you thought you saw that you ignored the rest of the hand. I’ll say it again so you don’t have to be bothered to scroll back:

    ANY time a judge does not accept the sentencing recommendation of the prosecution in a plea agreement, the defendant has the absolute right to withdraw the plea. In that event the matter is set for trial and, most often, negotiations continue.

    In the late 1970s, with a non-virginal victim, a pushy stage mother and no evidence of violence, a jury conviction would have been disturbingly unlikely. And he had the best legal representation available.

    Steve, it is very unlike you to be so supportive about an elitist using his money and influence to sway the artistic community to a conclusion that violates principles of equal justice. Strip away the Oscar and the multiple houses in Europe and what you’re left with is a bail-jumper, pure and simple. If Polanski had been a Wall Street financier who’d raped a union pension fund and buggered off to Europe, would you be as forgiving?

  13. Steve, I’m having trouble connecting the dots for pressure on depositors and directors, and I’m not sympathetic to the notion that Switzerland should be able to hide the funds of the rich, whether they’re capitalists, feudalists, or mobsters. A pox on all their houses.

    I do agree that having the transcript available has created one ugly aspect of this–people keep talking about “anal rape” as if the exact way Polanski raped her is significant. Sounds to me like there’s a little homophobia in the folks obsessed with that. What matters is she said no. And that’s why the transcript is important.

    And, yeah, this plays right into Fox News’ hands. Which is why the left should say that drugging and having sex with people who say no is wrong.

  14. Mark: “The man buggered off for no defensible reason.” No defensible reason? A 50-year sentence, after having made an agreement that judge, prosecutor, and victim supported? With all due respect: rubbish.

    Will: In the case of the Swiss bankers vs the American Government, I don’t see it as preferring one to the other, but of understanding the connection. I have no more sympathy for the Swiss bankers than you do. Sympathies in this case extend to a woman who would really like not to have herself and her family dragged through all this again, and to a 76-year-old man who, according to everyone in the case who ought to be listened to, has paid enough.

  15. You persist in ignoring the point. You fixate on this “50 years” nonsense, ignoring the fact that Polanski had a range of legal options and outcomes still before him if the judge rejected the prosecutor’s recommendation. The aspects of law and procedure that are inconvenient to your position are not going to retroactively cease to exist. They existed, Polanski’s lawyer knew them, and Polanski buggered off anyway. It doesn’t matter how many times you repeat the 50 years canard, it’s still rubbish.

  16. I understand you’re angry, but for the third time I notice you doing something you and I have both decried in others. You read up to the one sentence in a comment that agitates you strongly enough to reply, you run with that one sentence, and you apparently ignore the rest of the content that follows. You’ve done it to me twice now, and to Will as well.

    I’d prefer an argument that moves more slowly, but is conducted more thoroughly and thoughtfully.

  17. Whoa! I come back to this after my workday and there is quite a spirited debate!

    I think that Mark and Will have brought up a lot of relevant points, but to respond directly myself (at the risk of a bit of repetition):

    1) My understanding is that the judge did not sentence him to 50 years, but instead said he was considering another 48-day examination period for Polanski. Polanski did not want to go back to a prison cell for any reason, panicked, and fled. As others have said, the judge’s actions were eminently opposable, especially by a rich defendent with a crackerjack lawyer. It sounds irregular, but why should Polanski get special dispensation because he had the status, money and citizenship to flee to a lifetime of creative fulfillment and comfort?

    2) The power elite I am referring to is the monied, cultural power elite, many of whom are turning out to plead Polanski’s case based on his status and artistry. The US State Department has specifically not gotten involved, saying that it is up to the State of California to handle the case. The papers are more interested in taking what they think is the populist stance and selling papers than in some idea of justice.

    3) I think this point has already been well-covered, but to reiterate: the victim’s wishes should indeed be a factor, but the person who has guaranteed, through his actions, that this keeps coming up is Polanski, by fleeing and by refusing to return to resolve this case. I’m glad that she has moved past this incident and I understand that she would like it to be laid to rest, and she has done a lot to get to that point. But Polanski is the one who refuses to follow the procedures that would put the case to rest, and just because he has scampered and dodged those procedures after admitting to the crime does not mean that it should be dropped. He has to bring closure to it.

    The US justice system is imperfect, sometimes even petty and pitiless. There are a lot of folks in prison who should not be there, for a host of reasons (in fact, I think that prison in a lot of cases is counter-productive). There’s no doubt in my mind that the US justice system is designed partly to maintain an unfair power structure. But it is also the currently functioning system for resolving criminal issues, and in Polanski’s case, it was resolving pretty heavily in his favor. The current judge wants to review the case, including charges of misconduct, and come to a conclusion that resolves the matter, not one that enforces a flawed decision. I think such a resolution is needed for all the parties concerned with this matter. Could it go badly for Polanski? Maybe. But more than likely it will not.

  18. The plea bargain was agreed to by the defendant, the prosecutor, the judge, and the victim; at the last minute the judge changed his mind and threw it out, threatening Polanski with a 50-year sentence, against the wishes of (did you notice?) the prosecutor and the victim. How do you call that justice?

    The “50-year sentence” is nonsense, presumably based on news reports of what the maximum possible sentence would have been, had he been convicted on all six original charges (including the more serious charges of “giving drugs to a minor” and “rape by the use of drugs”). Since the plea bargain meant that he was only convicted on the statutory rape charge, the maximum possible sentence would have been twenty years, and could have been as low as one year (in addition to the possibility of probation, which Polanski was obviously hoping for).

    A plea bargain is an agreement about what crime(s) the defendant will admit to doing, and thereby be convicted of, in exchange for other charges being dismissed. It carries with it an expectation that the sentence might be reduced, but this is not a legal requirement; the final sentence is ultimately up to the judge.

    You can read this for yourself in the transcript of the original plea: Polanski was specifically asked if he understood that the sentencing would be decided by the judge, and that no actual decision on his sentencing had yet been made, and he said yes.

    Of course, as others have pointed out, if the actual sentence were unjust, Polanski would have been able to appeal it. Just like another other convicted criminal (except those who weren’t wealthy enough to flee to a country that wouldn’t extradite them would have had to do so from prison).

  19. No one said the sentence was either illegal or outside his discretion; the defendant, the prosecutor, and the victim all said it was *wrong.*

    And there are ways to correct such wrongs, especially, as has been pointed out, for the rich. In the past, you’ve complained that the rich seem to get a free pass when it comes to paying for their crimes, so it’s unclear why you think in this case a rich, influential man would be completely helpless before the justice system.

    “And do you think Pinochet should’ve gotten a pass because he was old?”
    If his victims all said so…then yes.

    That only works when it’s a question of a civil wrong; a criminal act, by its very definition, is a wrong against society, and it is only by an effort of that entire society that it can be dealt with, either by its being prosecuted by its chosen agents or its being made into an innocent act by repealing the law that was broken. I realize it’s possible you think laws against rape, statuatory rape, child molestation or fleeing from a sentence should be repealed – and that’s not a backhanded insinuation of moral depravity by the way – but if that’s not the case, then why, exactly, as in on what legal grounds, should he be cleared of all charges?

    To quote the WSWS, So, the possibility that human rights might be violated occurs only under “totalitarian regimes” and not in capitalist “democracies?”

    The WSWS is drawing a non-existent connection between this case and international terrorism, and it has failed to explain in any way what human rights violations are being perpetrated on, or threatened aganist, him. In fact, this entire article is replete with emotionally charged language designed to arouse indignation without providing any explanation of why the original issue – the charges aganist RP – are wrong.

    What it does do it bring in a lot of other issues – terrorism, Mark Rich, Auschwitz and Swiss banking practices to name a few – to excuse RP’s actions without actually explaining why it’s OK to let a defendent who fled rather than stand trial get away scott free.

    The article also brings up several examples of guilt by association. Does that fact that the Swiss may have ulterior motives to hand over a fugitive cancel out the crime of RP’s flight from the legal system? Why is that pertinent? Are you now, or have you ever been, associated with a Swiss bank?

    Summoning up all its philistine smugness…

    Philistine? The article also critisizes the New York Times for not appreciating the fact that RP is an “extraordinary artist”, as though one’s work should offer a free pass on whatever a person does. Do the ends justify the means? As long as you make nice films it’s not a criminal act to flee from the legal system?

    The WSWS editorial is a pretty standard peice of special pleading, and a prime example of trying to throw enough mud in hopes some will stick. It is not based on any sort of intellectual reasoning, legal or social study. In fact, it has much more in common with 911 conspiracy articles than with any form of factual reporting.

  20. In California, as in every other juridstiction I’m aware of, the judge has the option to reject a plea bargain. SKZB asks if right and wrong should have a place. Yes. And the agreement was clearly wrong, as wrong as finding OJ Simpson not guilty because he, too, was rich and famous. In the Polanski case, the judge wasn’t the ludicrous incompetent OJ got and stopped it.

  21. Bawrence, be fair.

    While I stand by my assertions regarding the facts and law, it seems upon reflection that my tone may not be what you have a right to expect from a healthy debate among friends. Steve, I apologize for that.

    If you would like to continue the debate at a more measured pace, I’ll endeavor to maintain a tone in keeping with the respect I have for you as a person and a creative intellect. If you’d prefer not to, we can let it go.

  22. Bawrence, no. There are rightwingers who are cynically using this case for their own ends, and there are ignorant people who are presenting this case as being much simpler than it is. I understand Steve’s preference for honoring the victim’s choice. I think Steve’s concerns are generally good to raise. He was wrong to accept the “50 year” claim–my impression is the worst that might’ve happened if the judge had not accepted the plea bargain would’ve been serving another month or two, followed by deportation–but thanks to Polanski, we’ll never know what the judge would’ve decided, and I don’t really blame Steve for accepting a claim that’s being bantered about.

  23. Steve, *why* exactly should the wishes of the victim receive such a consideration? The legal system is based on an idea of justice. When person A and Person B commit the same crime, they should receive the same punishment. People should not go scot-free just because their victims are exceptionally forgiving types. I think the plea bargain that was reached was way too easy on the offender, considering what he admittedly did. This would have sent the wrong message to anyone else considering a similar crime. In such cases, I believe it is in the interest of society to sentence the offender to a more serious punishment, regardless of the wishes of the victim. The judge did right in rejecting the plea bargain.

  24. I can comment again!

    Let me get right to the question that strikes to the heart of my concern: “Steve, *why* exactly should the wishes of the victim receive such a consideration?”

    Why not? That is, exactly who benefits from harming this woman again? Who does it help? It certainly doesn’t help any future children raped by celebrities: is how she is being treated going to encourage them to come forward?

    You say the legal system is based on the idea of justice, as if there were some Platonic object called “justice” floating out there and we need to come as close as we can to it. But justice never exists outside of context, outside of circumstance, outside of individuals. Here we have two people: one is the victim, who only wants all of this to be over; the other is an old man, a Holocaust survivor, someone who has seen his 8-month pregnant wife murdered, and who has already spent time in jail, and time in exile because of his crime. Your idea of “justice” is doing neither of them any good.

    Various people have commented to the effect that the point of law is to leave out the wishes of the victims for vengeance or mercy. I’ll ignore the fact that this is drastic oversimplification, and instead observe that, to me, there is a HUGE difference between letting the family member of a murdered person decide on the punishment of the murderer, and listening to a rape victim when she says, “He’s been punished enough.”

    Does it not seem ironic that all of these people who go ballistic at the word “rape” are falling into line in a media campaign whose major effect is continue punishing the victim to the point where sleazebags release intimate details of her ordeal and good-hearted people link to it, just to make sure that everyone can add to her humiliation? Can’t we just let her alone?

    Here is another link that you may find interesting: http://wsws.org/articles/2009/oct2009/pola-o05.shtml

    Mark: I have no problem whatsoever with your tone; you have been reasonable, thoughtful, and polite throughout.

  25. Each to his own; I think that the left — particularly the Hollywood establishment left — playing into the hands of Fox News is a good thing, but mileage does vary . . .

    Steve, you do come up with the strongest argument for the Just Leave Brit — Polanski, that is, Alone thingee, and if one believes that rape is a private wrong where the sole interested parties are the rapist and rape victim, it’s inarguable. For whatever reason — perhaps because the victim doesn’t want to have her name dragged through the mud* again — she has been clear that that’s her preference.

    Then again, many people — I’m one of them — don’t accept that premise.

    Yup; one of the real obstacles in punishing rapists is that victims do often feel afraid to come forward, for fear of being humiliated. That bell’s long since been rung and rerung in this case. Polanski and his lawyers aren’t going to be able to subject her to cross-examination again — and it was apparently the threat of that happening in court that motivated her and her family to agree the plea bargain, decades ago — by pleading guilty, he waived that. The only question, now, is going to be his sentence for the original crime, and — after the formalities of a finding of fact as to whether or not he fled to avoid punishment — his sentence for that.

    *Yup; one of the unfortunate things about our society’s sick view of rape is that there are some people who do, for reasons that escape me, seem to think that there is some failing and humiliation in a thirteen-year-old girl (having been fed a quaalude and champagne) being unable to fight off a 44-year-old old man.

  26. He pled guilty to a crime and then fled the jurisdiction to avoid the penalty therefor. We lawyers call that a ‘crime’ and the perpetrator of same a ‘criminal’. The ‘wishes of the victim’ don’t enter into it.

    But anyone who worries about the victim might want to reflect on the fact that if Polanski had faced the music 30 years ago, it would be a dead issue, so if ‘she and her family are forced to be victims still and again’ it is because of his actions. If you want to be pissed off about something, that would seem a good place to start.

  27. Steve, I continue to be disappointed with wsws.org on this: citing a documentary made by an apologist is not sufficient. The writer clearly didn’t bother to do any more research, or he would’ve seen this:


    One bit from the wsws article that indicates an unwillingness to think critically: “The judge would pretend to arrive at a decision that he had already made.” How do they know what the judge had decided? That Polanski should be afraid of the judge is perfectly reasonable–rich child rapists, like poor ones, should be afraid of judges.

    I have two questions for you:

    1. Do you think civil and criminal law should be different, or do you think the victim should always be able to decide whether a case proceeds?

    2. Do you think the law is only for the victim and accused, or do you think society also has an interest in declaring what is acceptable within a community?

  28. You’re asked: “Steve, *why* exactly should the wishes of the victim receive such a consideration?”

    “Why not?” you respond, in part.

    Here’s another reason why not.

    Making the wishes of the victim a major determining factor (or the deciding factor) would (and perhaps does) have some bad side effects. Many people could (and perhaps some do) get away with rape, as long as they could/can hold out the threat of mud-dragging and — for the rich — a promise of a large enough check to make the victim choose not to have the perp prosecuted.

    Hmmm… it would, it would seem, make the rapist more incented toward making the crime even more horrible and humiliating than the great extent that rape already is (no matter how bad something is, after all, somebody can always make it worse, given an incentive), in the interest of making said public mud-dragging even more of a deterrent to prosecution.

    I’m pretty sure all that would be a bad thing.

    And, no doubt, to some extent it already is a bad thing; rumor has it that, from time to time, the victims of rich people are bought off so that they won’t testify. (Rumors are that that’s what happened in some of the Michael Jackson cases. I don’t have any way of knowing if that’s true in the Jackson cases, plural, but if it is — and surely it is in some cases — that’s not a good thing.)

    I guess there’s some sort of argument that a kid is better off with a large financial payoff and nonconsensual intercourse than with neither, but it’s not one I’d find persuasive. It sounds a lot like the justification I’ve heard about for the kiddie sex tourism trade in SE Asia — that the kids are better off being used as sex toys for some (relatively very) rich Western tourists and having regular meals than not.

    That’s a bit — well, a lot — too laissez faire for me.

  29. Who plans to harm the victim again? She won’t be asked to testify at a trial, the only one that might take place is for the crime of fleeing, with which she had nothing to do.

    The media vultures are likely to get on her case, but they’re already doing that, and will continue to the extent they feel like, anything the justice system does to Polanski notwithstanding.

    As to who might benefit from further prosecution, the answer is some future 13-year-old girl who doesn’t get raped as a result.

  30. This whole Roman Polanski thing to me is just another corporate media fiasco to me.

    It never should have become media fodder.

  31. GWW: That’s like saying that a shit in the woods should never have become fly fodder.

  32. Wow Steve you are doing a fine job of holding back a barrage of zombies rushing up the hill at you.. :)

    Several absurd though understandable assumptions are being made by the pro-state pro-vengeance crowd here. The first of which is that a crime is anything which is against the law. The very notion of crime precedes law, government, etc. A crime is the unjustified harm to another. In this case there was an unjustified harm, but what is being overlooked (somewhat dishonestly) is that the harm was compensated, or made right through mutual agreement of both parties. There was a civil settlement which is as close as was or is possible to come to rectifying the initial harm. The victim and the accused reconciled the situation to the satisfaction of both. This is the highest goal of any justice system.

    As Steve has already pointed out repeatedly, this ongoing witch hunt is doing clear and unjustified harm to the original victim. We should then seek to force those who are doing this harm to first stop and then second to compensate the twice victim for their choice to harm her in trying to promote their selfish, petty, authoritarian, political ends.

    ONLY the victim can determine harm (along with objective standards) and ANY victim can ALWAYS or at any time decide that the harm is gone or otherwise dealt with. For those who offer up all sorts of excuses for intentionally causing more harm to the victim, I would point out that quite simply you are assuming a position a profound arrogance in which you decree that your own selfish and petty political agendas are infinitely superior to the pain and objective harm caused to any individual.

    What this means to those of you who might be reason challenged is that you are adopting a self-defeating position. If there was harm to a worthwhile individual (aka a moral agent) then clearly the victim must first and foremost be a moral agent. If however they can be dismissed as those who adopt this position are in fact doing, then she must not be a moral agent. The law of non-contradiction and reductio ad absurdum leave the position without any hint of anything at all upon which to rest. Logically speaking of course..

    Polanski is not “getting away” with anything. Real justice, (you know that “make things right” thing which is never apparent in the government system?) was served ACCORDING TO THE VICTIM, who’s opinion is the ONLY one which matters in any way whatsoever. On top of the explicit settlement between the only two people who possibly matter in the case, Polanski has lived with the social consequences of this being a media and political frenzy. Having been a rape counselor, I feel no real pity for Polanski, but neither do I see any reason to be either intellectually dead or intentionally dishonest. Certainly there is no way to justify ANY of the continued harms to the victim in the case as so many both in this thread and in the media/government seem to not merely condone but relish with a demonstrable glee.

    Instead of dismissing the individual, justice, truth, and reason, why not try respecting individuals, and accepting that reason should prevail?

    I thank you Steve for making all of the sound arguments you have made here. If you are interested here is another fine post on the subject, one not from me.. :) : http://www.wendymcelroy.com/comment.php?comment.news.2765

  33. Joel,

    You are being either woefully blind else intentionally dishonest when you pretend that the harm to the victim comes from being cross examined. Spend some time with rape victims, particularly those who have gone the full trail and you will find that the cross examination is the easy part compared to the treatment they receive from the cops, the political lapdog media, and of course the ne’er do wells we know as “prosecutors.”

    I am not saying that the cross examination is easy, but rather shining a bright light on your absurd assumption that this is the one and only harm to the victim, or even that it is the greatest harm. This particular victim has explicitly cited the politically motivated media attention (on National Government Radio) and the ongoing harassment by the prosecutors who are trying to force her (and succeeding) to repeat the process of which she complained decades ago.

    This prosecution will not stop any future rape. It will not compensate the victim. It will ONLY harm the victim even more and laugh at her for being subjected to this new intentional harm.

    Or to put it much in terms which cannot be mistaken: this effort is purely evil. Try to respect the individual. Try to understand the nature of harm, and the nature of justice.

    If justice and harm are not separate from and prior to government, then the state is wholly justified in taking your firearms as well. Your assumptions in your position necessitate this.

  34. There are many examples of crimes with punishments that don’t necessarily benefit the victims (murder, for example), or where the offender probably won’t re-offend (crime of passion, or even OJ. Don’t recall anyone else being murdered). So why punish any of these offenders?

    The simple facts of this case are that he did, in fact, drug and rape a 13-year old girl. He was pretty unrepentant, and even encouraged the same of others.

    If she forgives him (after a substantial amount of money in a civil case), does that mean all pedophiles should be let go if their victim forgives them?

    We are supposed to be a nation of laws. If one breaks the law, the justice system is there to determine what, if any, punishment is appropriate. Not the victim. Not the media. Not popular opinion. Only the people dealing with that case with the facts at hand. Once the criminal complaint is filed, it’s pretty much out of the victims’ hands.

    The prosecutor’s job can be made more difficult by the victim, particularly if they testify on behalf of the accused, but that’s a decision made by the prosecutor. And seriously, can you think of any prosecutor who wants to keep their job deciding to NOT try a known pedophile? So they go to court. If the judge is unfair or goes against a plea agreement, well, that’s why we have an appeals process.

    I gotta admit, I’m a little disappointed in some folks on this. I mean, one of the (many!) things we didn’t like about the previous Administration was the complete lack of regard for the laws of the land. It’s hard to convincingly argue both ways without a tint of hypocracy.

    But that’s just what I think. I could be wrong.

  35. Storm, “zombies” is cute, but your theory that the rich should be able to buy their way out of raping children* is also cute.

    From your link, I liked “Sixth, the state is clearly pursuing prosecution not for the victim but on its own behalf because Polanski fled its jurisdiction and lived well thereafter. In short, Polanski has flouted authority and ‘authority’ is pissed.” Do you really see an extremely rich child* rapist as a folk hero?

    The seventh point at that link is nonsense–extradition is an ancient principle. Or do you think Pinochet should’ve been able to say, “I got away! Nyah-nyah!”

    * Yes, there are countries where his victim would legally be of age–but it would still be rape.

  36. At the risk of appearing “reason challenged” to someone who seems to have adopted the Leona Helmsley legal standard, Mr. P. isn’t being charged with rape, he has already pled guilty to that charge. Attack the press for revisiting his rape victim, his current offense is flight which, as has been pointed out, does not involve the aforementioned victim.

  37. Storm: thanks for the shot at my sight and honesty; haven’t had one of those for, well, days, almost.

    You might want to, in the interest of sight and honesty, apply the principles you’ve enunciated to rape prosecutions more generally; see any possible bad effects out of society refusing to prosecute a fled, convicted rapist (or, for that matter, a person merely credibly accused of rape) out of supposed concern for how the publicity might harm the victim?

    As many have noted, if this weren’t a famous film director, that whole defense wouldn’t have been raised in the first place. While it’s the strongest defense for the Just Leave Roman Aloooone folks, it’s demonstrably weak.

    And, for that matter, the publicity resulting from Polanski having fled after his conviction is a result of, well, Polanski having fled his conviction; had he he not been allowed bail after conviction while awaiting sentencing (and while IANAL, I’m not aware of any right to any bail at all after conviction; if there is one, I know a lot of CDLs who’s like to invoke that right on behalf of their clients), this would have been all over decades ago.

    This seems to me to go under the “no good deed goes unpunished” category. The agreement by the victim and her family — not a legal necessity, but . . . . — to letting Polanski plead out on a lesser was intended to avoid difficulties for her. It wasn’t as though there was any ambiguity in her grand jury testimony, or legal insufficiency in terms of her testimony in court being enough that, if a jury believed her (and one likely would have) for his conviction on rape and statutory rape, ‘way back when. The only way he would have walked would have been if the jury didn’t believe that it happened at all — that she was another Tawana Brawley/Crystal Gayle Mangum/Danmel Ndoye type. That would have been a very hard sell by Polanski’s lawyers, which is why they apparently got the sort of deal that a lot of CDLs would purely love for their clients.

    That, of course, was too much for the Great Roman Polanski; the judge, not party to the plea bargain, he thought (quite probably correctly) was going to put him in prison for raping a thirteen-year-old girl. And, had he just stayed in France, he would have gotten away with it.

    Heck, maybe if he made a really good movie, the French would let him bang a toddler.

  38. Still relying upon this false assumption that “society” has been harmed I see. Well here is a wake up call: there is no such entity as “society” (rather that is a reference to the sum total of INDIVIDUALS) and it is impossible to harm non-entities.

    Joel, I apply morality and justice to ALL crimes. If the one who either was harmed, or is supposed to have been harmed, says that there is no harm or that there is no need for the involvement of others, then necessarily it is unjust to subject that person to your whims. This is quite clearly a form of failure to respect the individual. What this woman said repeatedly is often what others have said: the treatment by the cops, prosecutors, judge, etc was WORSE than anything that the accused did to her. Stop the vicious, unjust, unreasoned, and uncaring harming of the woman in this case. There is no point to it other than to promote petty authoritarian political agendas.

    The defense you pretend is mine, that Polanski is famous, is extremely dishonest. Not only does NOTHING I have said rely upon fame, no one else is making this argument either. That you rely upon straw man tactics speaks volumes.

    As noted elsewhere the trial was a sham at best, but even if it had been a real trial, that is irrelevant! Appealing to “the law” for the sake of the law is simply fallacious. This is quite a conceit to pretend that the law precedes justice and that worse yet it trumps justice.

    The matter was settled the moment that the victim said that it was settled. NO ONE else has any right to aggress against either Polanski or this woman, yet here we see some tantrums calling for and celebrating exactly this sort of unjust behavior.

    Though Joel, you and others try to put anyone who reasons into the category of trying to avoid justice, the fact is that it is the pursuit of justice which is behind the effort by thinking people to stop this ongoing harm not only to the victim, but to all of us in its growth and support of the police state.

    Consider that by adopting the position that the law determines what is just, you exclude the possibility that laws themselves can be unjust. Slavery was legal in the US, so necessarily by your position it was just. This is an example of the reductio ad absurdum. What it shows is that your argument is logically invalid and does not support the conclusion it claims to support. This is also the same method I used previously to point out that by your argument, the state is always right to seize your weapons. But you must have missed that..

    Contrary to the pretenses, it is not as if anyone is saying that Polanski or anyone should get away with any harm to any other individual. The real difference between the two positions here is that some of us recognize that the individual who was harmed is a worthwhile moral agent who deserves to be treated as such.

  39. Storm, pinky swear: if you want to argue with positions I haven’t put forward as though they’re mind, it’ll continue to be lame. Honest.

    And, yeah, I’ve missed your previous arguments, but I don’t think I’ve missed much. The notion that putting a justly convicted, fled rapist in prison does something to grow and support a police state is, well, silly, as is the notion that “the matter was settled the moment that the victim said that it was settled.”

    To belabor the obvious: no, it wasn’t. It wasn’t settled in terms of the legal system — which treats the matter of criminal and civil wrongs in parallel, and you stomping your foot repeatedly saying otherwise doesn’t make it so.

    Maybe it should have been. It’s arguable, I guess, that when the victim of a violent crime is impelled — for whatever reason — to ask that the perp not be punished, or futher punished, that should end it. I think — as I’ve argued — that that’s a bad path to go down. If, say, Charles Manson had had a few million dollars to throw Polanksi’s way, way back when, should he have been left on the street after the murder of Sharon Tate? Nah.

    I was thinking about Polanski late last night, actually, and wondering what it was that went wrong with him. Was it an — entirely reasonable — skepticism about the ability of criminal laws to draw good boundaries about sexual behavior gone awry? After all, I can think of many people who might have gotten into trouble that way; back when I turned sixteen, some decades ago, it was several weeks before my then-girlfriend did, in that place and time I could have found myself in some difficulties, although it wasn’t common.

    Nah. There’s no slippery slope between a sixteen-year-old kid fumbling with his several weeks younger girlfriend and a forty-plus-year-old man holding down a drunk, drugged thirteen-year-old girl and forcing himself into her, regardless of the orifice; it’s a chasm.

    Occured to me that maybe a lot of things could have broken Polanski, while leaving his talant intact. Certainly the Special People treatment he was used to at the time didn’t help; maybe it was his father’s rejection, or maybe . . .

    And then, pace youknowwho, it occurred to me that he was sitting in a prison cell and unlikely to be out for years, and at least for the foreseeable future, the scumbag wouldn’t be hurting any more little girls. Maybe he and his great talent will die in a California prison.

    That suited me just fine; I went to sleep.

  40. Storm, do you really believe that because there’s no “victim” when a convicted criminal flees, such flight to avoid imprisonment should not itself be a punishable crime? Do you really want all convicted criminals to (attempt to) flee? Will that make society better off?

    And your apparent implication that prosecuting Polanski for *flight* will somehow involve his rape victim: how does that work? She had nothing to do with his flight. Had she died 5 years ago, the issue now would be exactly as it is.

    If you want to change the rules so that crimes where the victim has forgiven the perpetrator no longer count, I’d suggest that starting with completely victimless crimes would be a much better way for society to go. And society is nowhere near there.

    As far as logic goes, crimes are against the law, and criminal cases are “The State vs. Defendant”. Notice the lack of victim in that; the place of the victim is merely sometimes to provide testimony as to what happened. Prosecution often takes place without the presence of the victim at all (e.g. every murder case, burglary, and an assortment of others). Even if the victim later decides that the act that constituted the crime was a good thing, and to the victim’s benefit, it’s still the State’s prerogative to prosecute for the violation of its laws (and it often will).

  41. will shetterley @ 24:
    … my impression is the worst that might’ve happened if the judge had not accepted the plea bargain would’ve been serving another month or two, followed by deportation …

    This indeed seems to be the case. The most recent AP article on the Polanski case (e.g., here) says that the judge was planning on sentencing Polanski to serve out the remainder of the 90-day psychiatric evaluation term (which he had just served 42 days of), and then request he be deported. That is, Polanski fled because he was looking at a grand total of 48 more days in prison, and then possible deportation.

  42. Joel,

    We can only work with what you actually say. If you now want to distance yourself from your position, and no one would blame you, by claiming that these are not your arguments, then by all means do so. However to make this change seem convincing you will have to try to refrain from offering the same arguments again in the same post in which you deny them. Just some practical advice.

    To add to the logical errors of your position which have already been cited, and which alone are sufficient to demonstrate that your conclusion has not been supported, you now add in a false premise, that the trial was not the sham that it clearly appears to have been. The judge did not justly convict, he decreed. If you consider this justice, then literally anything goes as long as the king or his man decrees it.

    If the one harmed deciding that the harm has been rectified is not the basis for actual justice, then what pray tell do you decree must be justice?

    If the one harmed is to be dismissed as being unworthy of consideration in the issue of justice, as you are indeed asserting, then how can the harm itself be considered any more than you would consider the “pain” that your hammer feels when you use it?

    In essence you are claiming that X and Not X are both true at the same time, which is clearly contrary to the Law of Non-Contradiction.

    That civil and criminal proceedings are treated as separate in this system is irrelevant to the issue of justice. The harm resulted from an act between two individuals. Therefore justice is also a matter between those individuals. It is only by treating the victim as having no value and appealing to the law as its own justification, can you even begin to get your position moving.

    If John steals from me, but returns the property, must he be viciously attacked by the state, and must I also be viciously attacked by the state, in order for justice to be served? Or is the fact that the harm has been removed or rectified what matters with regard to justice? I contend that the latter is what matters, else if we have it your way, then without the state and whatever arbitrary procedures are created, no issues of justice can exist. By straight forward application of your assumptions, rape is not rape until the state is created.

    To compound the problems of your claims and positions, since procedures differ in different countries, then what counts as justice or a just outcome must also differ. What this means is that the justice of the exact same action or event, is not determined by the harm or any other issue than what power lays claim to the soil where it happened. And you call recognizing that the one harmed matters silly?

    When all of your examples and arguments nearly immediately lead to false or absurd conclusions, the rational action to take is to abandon that conclusion. We’ve seen clearly and logically that all of your arguments do exactly this, so why then continue to hold onto the false conclusion?

    I will keep on pointing out that the victim matters and is a worthwhile moral agent. She cannot be so blithely dismissed as you clearly wish.

  43. Peter, it’s one of those internet coincidences–I just made a post on my blog about that before coming here. Thanks for saving me from having to repeat it here!

  44. Wow. ad hominem boy whined about the strawmen of another, then resumed creating more of his own. It is to laugh.

  45. Strange how there is no content in the posts advocating state action. Maybe one of y’all would like to actually answer the relevant questions or address the issues?

    If the victim cannot determine that no harm was done, or that the harm has been rectified, then by what standard must we use and why?

    Upon what basis can this appeal to the state or the appeal to the law qua law, be justified? How then do we refer to or recognize unjust law, or an unjust state? Can these even exist under this assumption?

    How is anything a crime if no harm exists?

    How can you account for any of the counter-examples which have been offered?

    What is justice? Can it exist prior to the state? Can it exist arbitrarily in as many forms as there are governments, or is there something separate from the state by which justice is determined?

  46. Storm, if you don’t believe in law, that’s cool. I have my doubts about it, but I’m not about to throw it out until we’re into the dictatorship of the proletariat, because transitions can be a son of a bitch.

    If you think rich people should be able to do what they please, well, that fits with the whiff of Ayn Rand at the site you linked to.

    Mostly, I think if you can ask “How is anything a crime if no harm exists?” when we’re talking about the principle that follows from a 43-year-old rich fugitive drugging and having sex with a 13-year-old girl who repeatedly said no, there must be more interesting conversations to be had elsewhere.

  47. Will,

    None of what you assume reflects anything I have said, but rather are simply convenient strawmen used to avoid the issues.

    I know law exists, but I contend that appealing to law merely because it is law is not only logically flawed, fatally so, but also completely misses the point of justice while necessarily leading to attrocious consequences such as justifying slavery or anything at all which is ever legal. Legal moralism is a failed position.

    The site I linked to was not Ayn Rand’s, nor even an Onjectivist site. Regardless this is a bald faced red herring.

    I asked about harm since the pro-state aggression folks keep on dancing between the claim that we have to go after rapists, and at the very same time claiming that the victim is completely worthless because this has nothing to do with her, being supposedly a case of violating the law against fleeing (WHERE NO HARMS OCCURRED!!). I ask the question to address this latter half of the contradictory pair. Either the victim matters and should be granted the respect of being a worthwhile moral agent, and thus this matter is settled, else the victim is as unworthy of considerations of justice as would be a fallen tree limb or a stone, and then there is no matter of justice and the matter should never have been pursued.

    No matter how we look at it, provided we use the facts present, critical thought, and sound reasoning, we end up at the position that there is no basis in justice for pursuing this effort which has the added negative consequence of forcing the victim to be once again victimized by the state.

  48. Or, to use an analogy:

    Little girl gets bit by rabid dog. Dog’s owners pay for her medical bills, pain and suffering, and prevail upon her to understand that it’s a sweet family pet, and people will think she’s a bad person if it gets put down. She and her family agree, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s that she and they are a soft touch; maybe it’s the money; maybe it’s that she doesn’t want to relive the biting as coverage of Bowser getting the needle hits the papers. Any and all of that is understandable, but Bowser’s still going to get the needle.

    While the dog’s caged, awaiting said needle, along comes somebody who explains, repeatedly, his or her view of justice, logic, victimization, the nature of the state, the use of ALL CAPS AND MULTIPLE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!, legal moralism, law qua law, quo vadis, aggression, conviction, decreeing, and decrying, and avers that to put the dog down would be to negate the moral validification of the girl as a party worthy of considerizalyzation for her moral agentitude, or something, until eyes glaze over more’n a box of Dunkin Donuts.

    Bowser still gets the needle.

  49. Storm, the victim didn’t say that no harm occurred. Really.

    As to why the victim isn’t definitive, suppose that a criminal steals $5,000 from you. He gets caught, so his brother returns $1,000 and threatens to kill your family if you don’t agree there was no harm.

    As for the trial being a sham, there was no trial. He pled Guilty. In a trial, I believe he’d have been found guilty of a lot more crimes than he pled to.

  50. Not having read all of the comments, I’m probably repeating other people’s points.

    Let me give you a different scenario. Someone rapes a 20 year old woman. He gives her a large sum of money and at the trial, she talks about forgiving him and pleas to the jury to let him off.

    A policeman enters a room where a clear adult is having sex with a 13 year old. The cop arrests the man. At the station the 13 year old wants to not have to deal with any of this and requests that they just let him go to protect herself from unwanted attention. The cop files the charges giving himself as the witness.
    Should the cop have given into the victim?

    Polanski is personable and an artist. He also benefits from our desire to not believe bad things about people we know, even if only through his work. None of this should alter how he’s treated by law enforcement.

  51. Storm, I’m having the wrong kind of fun here, so forgive me for another go-around.

    “Straw men” should go on the list of terms that are now meaningless. It only means, “I won’t bother to address that.” Which is your right, of course.

    There was a link to an article about a couple of Ayn Rand biographies at that site.

    No one’s appealing to law because law exists. Since you like the phrase: straw man.

    I can see the argument that the rich should pay for their crimes with money rather than time. But I reject it.

    Heck, I’ll get more serious: I’m a communist. That means I care about the good of the community and the individual equally, unlike capitalists, who believe the person with the most money wins. Communities come up with ways to regulate themselves because they recognize that individuals make mistakes, and shared wisdom is, more often than not, greater than individual wisdom.

    Capitalist law is, of course, perverted by capitalism, but it still has to address concerns that exist under any system. Among those concerns are drugging and raping very young people, and fleeing from justice. If Polanski had been a red who was unjustly persecuted by the US, I would have more sympathy for him using his wealth to escape an extra 45 days of jail time. But he was a child rapist. Perhaps the psychiatrist was right that he was unlikely to rape another thirteen-year-old. But he still should’ve gone back to jail and had his lawyer continue the fight.

  52. @50 I have my doubts about it, but I’m not about to throw it out until we’re into the dictatorship of the proletariat, because transitions can be a son of a bitch.

    That and your comments in #56 bring up a point I’ve long wondered about. I’ve never been able to find anything that outlines the legal system that would support the dictatorship of the proletariat and wonder if you have pointers to such information. I’ve read a lot of theory about what such a system should accomplish or how it should be formed, but nothing on the practical aspects of what laws there would be or the manner of enforcement. The closest I’ve seen thus far is quite old, Rose Luxembourg’s comments in “The Russian Revolution”, and those are entirely negative, stressing there are, in fact, no practical plans for a legal system inherent in socialism. All other references I’ve come across have been criticisms of Marx or the USSR but not actual proposed constitutions, statutes or other practical plans offered by reputable parties.

    Clearly I’m ignoring the USSR’s legal system since I know its communism != socialism, but what of other nations with socialist leanings? Are there any considered good examples of what complete socialist legal system is?

  53. I’m reminded of a story — perhaps apocryphal — of a Bill Janklow, when South Dakota AG (he later became governor, and even later killed a guy while speeding), encouraging low bail for accused criminals, with the implicit understanding that they would simply abscond, and never return to South Dakota, where they would face both the original charges and the flight ones.

    There’s a certain efficiency about that, if the objective was to permanently remove the accused (and quite possibly guilty, and also possibly capable of additional naughtinesses) criminals from South Dakota.

    As there might be, in a general sense, of allowing convicted or even accused sex offenders to flee to France, and not just for the viewership for the new NBC Show: To Deport a Predator, S’il Vous Plait.

  54. L. Raymond, maybe Steve’ll come back in here to add or clarify, but so far, I haven’t found any groundwork for what the dictatorship of the proletariat will be or how long it’ll last. I think it just refers to the final transitional phase, when the proletariat is at last in control, but the bourgeoisie are still working to take back power. Kind of like how in the last ten years in the US, we had a dictatorship of the Republicans.

    If the time of the “workers’ dictatorship” is democratic (which it should be–both Marx and Engels thought the proper way to communism was through democracy), the bourgeoisie will be voting as furiously as they can for the restoration of capitalism. But they’ll wither away as people become less comfortable with hierarchy and see more clearly the benefits of sharing.

    Uh, here endeth the sermon. *g*

  55. Wow, so much has been written I think I am going to take a different approach.

    I see two separate crimes. The first is the original crime, the rape. The second is the flight from the law. A simple analogy is that of someone pulled over and arrested for carrying drugs. If that person hops in the car and flees then there is a second crime – resisting arrest (and possibly reckless driving, endangering others, etc.). They are different crimes with different “victims” and circumstances which should not really be mixed. It does not make sense to argue that the person should not be arrested for resisting arrest because he was only carrying marijuana (and you feel that marijuana should not be a crime). By the same token it does not make sense to argue that Polanski should not be tried for running away from the law because the victim forgives him for a _different_ crime.

    Or put another way, if Polanski gets a speeding ticket later on should that be waived because the victim of the rape has forgiven him? No, they are separate incidents.

    My question to Steve, Storm and others who seem to argue against continuing with the legal proceedings is why stop? You say to prevent the victim from going through anymore. Well, wouldn’t Polanski being returned to the US, being sentenced and serving his time bring closure as well?

  56. Wow. A lot of thunder and smoke about a perv who couldn’t abide by his sworn testimony to the court, and ran away.

    FRIAR BARNARDINE. Thou hast committed–
    BARABAS. Fornication: but that was in another country; And besides, the wench is dead.

    – Christopher Marlowe, “The Jew of Malta,” Act IV, Scene i, ll 40-42 (1589?).

    Is it the most appropriate use the State of California’s limited resources? Probably not. But should he get off because he is rich, or a great artist, or it was a long time ago, or “the wench is dead”? Also probably not.

  57. Storm: you seem to be unaware of (or are ignoring on purpose) the basis of the modern criminal law.
    The modern criminal legal system serves two main purposes:
    1. Keep offenders away from society so they cannot do further harm.
    2. Provide a deterrent to future offenders by threatening would-be offenders with jail time or (in the case of murder) death.

    The wishes of the victim have no impact on either of these purposes. The justification for criminal law is all about society and benefiting society in general.

  58. @59 Wouldn’t you say that’s one of the problems with the idea of a worker’s revolution, then? Without practical principles there’s nothing ready to put into place when the old ways are swept away, not to mention how bizarre it sounds when something like the WSWS spouts so much empty rhetoric about human rights abuses with regard to Polanski (yes, this is now back on topic).

    It seems that after more than a century, there would be a good explanation of why a defendent who doesn’t care for a sentence and skips town deserves to be held up as a martyr to the liberal, right-wing, reactionary, law & order conservative crowd (I really can’t figure out whom the WSWS is attacking). I assume there is an anti-capitalist aspect involved, but I can’t figure out what it is.

  59. L. Raymond, don’t judge Marx and Engels on the basis of a stupid editorial from WSWS! Heck, don’t judge WSWS on the basis of one editorial. Every new movement has to go bravely into new territory. We just hope it also goes wisely.

    And when the time of transition comes, there are practical principles: democracy, sharing the wealth based on ability and need, etc. It’s the implementation of the principles that’s vague. But if it’s democratic, I’m comfortable thinking it’ll be okay.

    And, yeah, I’m still trying to figure out why WSWS cares about Polanski. His situation seems totally tangential to any socialist’s concerns.

  60. Steve, the claims are a bit less wild, but they’re still off-track:

    1. The judge didn’t threaten to sentence him to a lengthy term, unless you think another six weeks is lengthy.

    2. Saying there’s an antisemitic tone seems really, really desperate.

    But, yeah, we’ve probably jumped up and down on this enough now.

  61. Well, the judge didn’t do much threatening, at all; but during his guilty plea, Polanski did say, under oath, with his lawyer standing right there, that he understood that the judge would decide how long, if at all, he would go to prison (up to twenty years, as I recall).

    The wsws article is entirely correct that the victim’s testimony wasn’t tested in court, but I guess they left out the part where they explained that that was because Polanski chose to waive that right by pleading out on the lesser. Understandable; she would have made a credible witness, and his defense would have almost certainly been that he “only” committed statutory rape, which is what he was pleading out to, leaving the sentencing judge having heard her testimony, which might have influenced him, more than just a little, when it came to sentencing, even if (as was possible, certainly), the jury didn’t believe her enough about it being forcible rape.

    As a general rule, I’m told by those who actually know something about this stuff, that judges do consider all kinds of allegations about conduct when sentencing. There’s a fair amount of indignation in CDL circles about considering “acquitted conduct” in sentencing — where the judge, when sentencing on the charges that the accused has been found guilty of, considers the conduct that the jury has found insufficient evidence for to convict on other charges — but that’s a bit of a different thing; those charges have been tested in court, and found wanting.

    The comparison to the Leo Frank case is, though, just bizarre. After Frank’s sentence was commuted (evidence had come forth showing, pretty clearly, that he just plain didn’t do it) he was kidnapped from a prison and lynched.

    As it is, in practice, it’s pretty clear that Polanski was probably facing a few more weeks in jail, rather than the years he now faces.

  62. Your letter didn’t touch on the problem that I find most significant: at what point is it OK to tell someone he can get away with a crime by fleeing the jurisdiction?

    Remove all the emotional bits, and that’s the base question as many see it. Does having enough money put you outside the legal system? Following a certain profession? Knowing the right people?

    There is a bewildering array of people being blamed for persecuting the man, but there has been nothing said of why it’s OK for him to buy his way out of his sentence.

  63. I seem to be diving back into this after I said I was done. Call me Will.

    I don’t know if I can come up with a general rule for when it ok (morally) for someone to flee the jurisdiction, but if I could, it might look something like this: When A) there has been clear misconduct on the part of the judge, B) when the individual is blatantly being persecuted for matters unrelated to the crime and obviously has no chance at receiving justice, and C) when the victim agrees that A) and B) are the case and considers such flight reasonable and appropriate.

  64. I should add: D) When the entire matter is being used by the most backward and reactionary elements of society to distract attention from real problems, and, more important, as a justification for increasing the repressive power of the state.

  65. I don’t know if I can come up with a general rule…

    With respect, while I’m interested in your opinion I was hoping you might know of some practical applications of socialist (or Marxist) legal theory. I’ve read dozens of books and articles about what’s “wrong” with the US or capitalist legal systems, or the idea of common law, or the adversarial system, each of which outlines what should be, but not how to reach that point. A good example is recommending Richard Posner to anyone wondering how a purely capitalist legal system would function; he’s quite specific in how to apply his ideas, while the socialist writings I have read are more like Madison’s saying we really should have a government without monarchs, and it should have an elective body of some sort, and definitely the courts should be independent of the not-king and the elected body, but we’ll work out the details as we go along. That is, no details or practical applications.

    But for what you did write:

    As general rules, points A&B would be sound, but who would define “clear misconduct” or “blatant persecution”? So many people honestly feel they are arrested and tried solely because of skin color, ideology, sexual orientation etc. when to a disinterested observer, none of that matters.

    C) when the victim …considers such flight reasonable and appropriate.

    How can it be acceptable for one person’s preference to overturn a society’s entire judicial system? An act is deemed criminal precisely because it is considered dangerous to all of society; less dangerous actions are handled as civil complaints.

    D) When the entire matter is being used…

    This observation would come so far after the fact of the fleeing that I don’t see how it can honestly be considered, even as a side issue.

    Out of curiosity, have you any intention of attending the Texas Socialist Conference to be held in Austin this November?

  66. Neither Cromwell nor Robespierre (to pick two obvious examples to go along with Madison) were able to describe the legal system, nor, indeed, any details of system they were fighting for–how could they? It didn’t exist. They knew that, for society to advance, state power must be held by what was at that time the progressive class, and, if they thought about it at all, they’d have expressed confidence that this class would organize society and answer all such questions to its own benefit. To attempt to determine such details is neither possible nor necessary, nor even desirable; once we have true democracy, I think letting the people decide is entirely appropriate.

    This is the first I’ve heard of Texas Socialist Conference; I’ll look into it.

  67. Given that the people have some history of dragging others out of jail before trial and lynching them only to find out later that they were innocent, perhaps what you espouse isn’t the best course.

  68. Steve,

    I am late to the party, but I want to add my two cents into the mix. First, thank you for the “bad person” remark. If these are serious issues, they need more thought not knee jerk reactions. Second, I tend to agree that the values and desires of the victim are the best way to measure harm. The problem with adopting this standard is that it make the legal system terribly unfair. Imagine a woman who would rather die than be raped. Would it be fair to prosecute the rapist for murder? After all, the woman believes that murder does less harm. Therefore, prosecuting the rapist for murder still fails to capture the full harm done the victim. I think it is a bit of a conundrum.

    What say you?

  69. Again, once the defendant pleaded guilty the law was through with the victim, she has no standing regarding his prosecution for flight. That matter is entirely between Polanski and the court. How does letting wealthy individuals buy their way out of prosecution for crimes committed and admitted to serve the people?

  70. Steve, why does the victim’s opinion matter? Consider a different case: someone is charged with, and tried for, blasphemy, based on a complaint from someone who was “injured” by hearing him pray to the wrong gods. He’s convicted, and manages to flee. The “victim” believes the defendant should be punished.

    Is he morally right to flee?

  71. I think Steve has made the only salient point here, and he made it at the outset. The only two questions are “is the perp still a threat to others” and “what does the victim want done with the perp now that we can extradite him?”

    I think most would agree the answer to the first is “no” – or this would be a different debate; society has a right to defend itself.

    After that, this not being a case (albeit “anymore”) of Polanski against me per se, given I have 2 daughters, the only one with a compelling voice is the original victim. If she says “enough,” that should be enough.

    My two cents.

  72. @73
    Neither Cromwell nor Robespierre (to pick two obvious examples to go along with Madison) were able to describe the legal system, nor, indeed, any details of system they were fighting for–how could they? It didn’t exist.

    Those are interesting examples. Robespierre, the Terror and Napoleon have a parallel in Lenin, Stalin and pogroms. Cromwell failed completely to establish a new government or even to maintain his nebulous ideal for a single generation. Both wanted to impose an entirely new system of government on a nation by revolution but really had no way to support their new ways other than pure personality, whether their own individually or the collective personality of a party.

    I’m not actually attacking Marxism or socialism per se, just the idea that a philosophy, whether economic or political, can produce viable long-term results without having established in advance the practical, boring, tedious day-to-day details necessary to support it, and I can’t help but wonder those who support such ideas anticipate success in the long run. In that light, the WSWS article which started it all just seems so typical, an emotional outburst criticizing something without the author’s offering specific ideas on how to change what he felt was wrong in the first place.

    To attempt to determine such details is neither possible nor necessary, nor even desirable; once we have true democracy, I think letting the people decide is entirely appropriate.

    Another interesting question, one which is maybe so far afield I shouldn’t ask, but how does true democracy fit in with Marxism? As I recall, the vote was to be constrained to only those who earn a living with their own labor, which would disenfranchise a significant portion of the population, while true democracy would mean everyone with no limits – social, economic or otherwise – gets to vote.

    ….Texas Socialist Conference; I’ll look into it.

    I’m sure you’ve found it, but I should have included this link.

  73. Criminal justice isn’t just about the interests of the proximal victim/s. This girl (now woman) was trespassed against , to be sure. But society has an interest too. There are (were) other potential victims in the future to consider (and we don’t know the details of Polanski’s life since). Moreover, allowing someone to simply buy-off the system like that? If there was judicial malfeasance, that can be raised, on its own, as a distinct issue. Polanski’s guilt in this matter is not controversial, is it? So, the judge acting like a schmuck essentially writes Polanski what amounts to a papal indulgence? And as for this “repressive power of the system” stuff… come on, dude. That might possibly be relevant of Polanski were being charged with a political offense, as opposed to a violent crime. You feel that the motive behind bringing him to justice is the furthering of the repressive power of the state? Fine: protest the repressive power of the state. Why does Polanski have to get a free pass as a consequence? Polanski committed a crime and trespassed against both the proximal victim *and* society. The proximal victims do not get to excuse Polanski from his trespass against society. Malfeasance on the part of the agents of society doesn’t excuse Polanski and is a separate matter to be pursued separately. Perhaps, if he can prove that the judge back in the day was out to get him, he can mitigate or even eliminate any penalties for flight. But simply throwing in the towel because he managed to celeb his way out of trouble? Dude, that’s crap.

  74. @ Chimera: “The proximal victims do not get to excuse Polanski from his trespass against society.” I think that’s the crux of the question, right there. If, and I grant it’s a big and loaded if, but if we can agree that he NO LONGER presents a danger to society, then I think the proximal victims should be allowed to decide his fate. The role of society in pursuing “justice” against such (or any) trespass should be one of self defense – “will this person commit further harm” – and not vengeance.

    He’s a bad and cowardly man who did a very bad thing, and if it had been my daughter the flight to France would not have saved him. But I ask, who – now – will benefit from re-opening this case for closure?

    @ Bawrence: Actually, I’m only trying to ignore the facts irrelevant to my position. ;-)

  75. Again, the case for rape isn’t at issue. It was concluded by his guilty plea. Flight is the open charge.

  76. “It was concluded by his guilty plea. ”

    The guilty plea is null and void, because it was part of the plea bargain that was set aside by the judge who caved into the same extreme right-wing forces you are now defending. There is, at this time, no actual guilty verdict against him for any crime whatsoever.

  77. @73 — Wow.

    The whole notion of a progressive class just yanking all the reins of power to save society or bring it forward — Fritz Leiber’s _Gather, Darkness_ makes a nicely eloquent argument about how that pretty much always turns out. And he had exactly such folks as Cromwell, Robespierre, Hitler, Stalin, and Tojo to use as archetypes, but nicely made his attack on the guys who developed the bomb.

  78. I skipped over quite a few posts, so perhaps this was addressed, but Steve, I understand your point about the victim needing to be listened to and left alone at this point.

    But, what about any future victims of this man, Roman Polanski?

    He is an admitted child rapist, and, we all know that these guys don’t get better. I would bet anything I own that he has raped other young girls in his lifetime and I believe he is a danger to do so again.

    So, having a daughter, I have a difficult time with the idea that this man should be allowed to go free. I understand the victim’s wishes, but can you in good conscience take the fate of other potential victims in your hands and say he will never do it again?

    Justice is about more than the wishes of the victim, which is why we don’t allow vigilantes and cruel and unusual punishments. The other side holds true as well, sometimes, we must do what is necessary to protect more potential victims, even though it may cause more hardship for the victim.

  79. @biguglymandoll —

    “I think that’s the crux of the question, right there. If, and I grant it’s a big and loaded if, but if we can agree that he NO LONGER presents a danger to society, then I think the proximal victims should be allowed to decide his fate. The role of society in pursuing “justice” against such (or any) trespass should be one of self defense – “will this person commit further harm” – and not vengeance.

    He’s a bad and cowardly man who did a very bad thing, and if it had been my daughter the flight to France would not have saved him. But I ask, who – now – will benefit from re-opening this case for closure?”

    I tend to agree with your general stance, if not the specifics — I’m not a fan of retributive justice. Punishment without the valid, reasonable expectation of fruitfully altering the probabilities of future behaviour is vacuous and essentially torture. Just making someone suffer for wrong-doing for the sake of making them suffer is wrong, IMV. As such, prison (again, IMO) should serve one primary function — segregating from society those that prove themselves unable to deal with others nonviolently. As an aside, I think prison is largely stupid in most cases and causes more harm than good — about the *only* people who should be in prison are violent offenders (not that I think there shouldn’t be other measures in place for other crimes — just that prison is a bad one-size-fits-all solution to criminal trespasses on society). But that’s a separate can of worms to open.

    Let’s leave the question of Polanski’s chances for re-offending in the future (or any possible criminal re-offense he may have done since his flight) as open, or even at nil — let’s say that he hasn’t done anything criminal since and that he won’t again in the future. He was still a participant in that society, enjoying the benefits thereof. Fleeing like that is wrong. He cannot engage in selective participation. And while vacuous punishment is wrong, his offense is no longer simply the act against the girl in question, but his flight and circumvention of the mechanics of society that are in place to adjudicate wrongdoing. That trespass in particular is outside of the scope of the proximal victim’s discretion, real or imagined, over due process. That machinery, even if it is flawed, has to be seen to work for all — allowing those with wealth and prestige to summarily avoid the system is wrong, IMV.

  80. The best (and briefest) commentary on the whole mess can be found here:


    As someone who’s worked as a victim advocate for 7 years, I’m glad to see Polanski in the slammer. Rape is to women as lynching is to African-Americans. Rape is a political act, whether or not the perpetrators think of it as such, because its effects are absolutely and every day felt in the public realm. (This is not to discount the trauma suffered by male rape victims–they certainly exist. But males in general aren’t as often raped as women are.)

    Yep, the wishes of victims should always be respected. Most often, however, rape victims’ wishes are ignored in the other direction–prosecutors choosing not to take a case to trial when a victim wants to because they don’t think they can win it. This causes trauma, too. Once someone has been raped, there’s really no winning, no matter what happens with the criminal justice process.

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