Switzerland announced today that it will not extradite film director Roman Polanski to the United States to face his conviction for unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl. Polanski had been arrested on an international warranted issued by the United States on charges dating back to 1977. He had originally been charged with six offenses including rape and sodomy. He pleaded guilty to unlawful sex following a plea bargain that included a promise he’d serve at least 42 days in a US prison. But the director led the United States on the eve of his sentencing because of a fear he’d face more prison time than the agreed-upon 42 days.
The result of the Swiss decision means that Polanski is a free man.
Swiss justice ministry officials said that they based their decision in part because US authorities had failed to provide confidential testimony about Polanski’s original sentencing procedure. According to the Swiss, US authorities needed to clarify the length of sentence Polanski was facing and therefore failed to make a convincing case for extradition.
According to the Swiss, this decision cannot be appealed.
Polanski has had a lot of apologists, and as news of the Swiss decision was announced they all expressed their enthusiastic support for one of the “great” directors of all time. The problem, of course, is that artistic opinion is subjective, but application of the law should be objective. Polanski has never denied that he fed his victim drugs and then proceeded to have sex with her. Instead, he and his supporters have offered the “its no big deal” excuse because it was the 1970′s and he’s Roman Polanski.
The problem, of course, is that Polanski is a rapist. And it doesn’t matter how great an artist some may find him, he still pled guilty to felony criminal sex charges and then couldn’t man up to do his time. And this behavior was accepted by and enabled by not just parts of Hollywood but the government of France. The result was a de facto international endorsement of child rape.
Those who hoped for Polanski’s extradition did so not to make an example out of an elderly felon, but because justice demanded it. Once again we see race and privilege taking priority over blind application of the law. Polanski’s art was ultimately more valuable than the dignity of the young girl he drugged and raped, a fact that speaks volumes to the value we place on the lives and the dignity of all women.
photo courtesy of Jacob Freeze via Flickr