Polanski Speaks — But Doesn't Apologize


Roman Polanski has finally spoken out about his rape trial, posting a statement on an online magazine run by his friend Bernard-Henri Lévy. The statement purports to include new information about the case, but what’s really interesting is what’s missing.

Polanski’s statement is available in full on Deadline Hollywood. Below, we break down some of the highlights:

I have had my share of dramas and joys, as we all have, and I am not going to try to ask you to pity my lot in life. I ask only to be treated fairly like anyone else.

Since Polanski’s celebrity has helped as well as hurt him in the years since he raped a 13-year-old girl, it’s a little disingenuous for him to ask to be treated “like anyone else.” If he’d been treated like anyone else, he might have received a stiffer sentence in the first place.

It is true: 33 years ago I pleaded guilty, and I served time at the prison for common law crimes at Chino, not in a VIP prison. That period was to have covered the totality of my sentence. By the time I left prison, the judge had changed his mind and claimed that the time served at Chino did not fulfil te entire sentence, and it is this reversal that justified my leaving the United States.

The first sentence is the closest Polanski gets to acknowledging his crime. He notes that he “pleaded guilty,” but doesn’t say to what. He may have made a calculated decision to avoid the words “rape” or “unlawful sex with a minor.” What he is explicit about: his “justification” for fleeing the US. Though he previously said he didn’t want pity, here Polanski clearly casts himself as the victim, and the judge as the villain. After this Polanski goes on to describe the entire reopening of his case as a vendetta by LA authorities angry at their portrayal in the film Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. Then he writes,

I can remain silent no longer because the California court has dismissed the victim’s numerous requests that proceedings against me be dropped, once and for all, to spare her from further harassment every time this affair is raised once more.

For Polanski to speak as an advocate of his own rape victim at this late date is, frankly, disturbing. He then adds,

I can remain silent no longer because there has just been a new development of immense significance.
On February 26 last, Roger Gunson, the deputy district attorney in charge of the case in 1977, now retired, testified under oath before Judge Mary Lou Villar in the presence of David Walgren, the present deputy district attorney in charge of the case, who was at liberty to contradict and question him, that on September 16, 1977, Judge Rittenband stated to all the parties concerned that my term of imprisonment in Chino constituted the totality of the sentence I would have to serve.
I can remain silent no longer because the request for my extradition addressed to the Swiss authorities is founded on a lie. In the same statement, retired deputy district attorney Roger Gunson added that it was false to claim, as the present district attorney’s office does in their request for my extradition, that the time I spent in Chino was for the purpose of a diagnostic study.

Polanski’s initial 1977 trial was riddled with problems, and Judge Rittenband may indeed have committed misconduct. This is what muddied the waters of the case so upsettingly, making a convicted rapist into a cause celebre. If Rittenband had behaved honestly, we might not today see so many celebrities defending a man who raped a child.

Later Polanski enumerates a few more reasons why he “can remain silent no longer.” He concludes with a statement of his current hardships (“I have been placed under house arrest in Gstaad and bailed in very large sum of money which I have managed to raise only by mortgaging the apartment that has been my home for over 30 years, and because I am far from my family and unable to work”) and the wish “that Switzerland will recognize that there are no grounds for extradition, and that I shall be able to find peace, be reunited with my family, and live in freedom in my native land.” What’s missing from the entire statement, however, is any sort of apology for the crime that got him in this mess in the first place. Perhaps Polanski feels that the time he served in Chino is apology enough, or perhaps he thinks no apology is necessary because, as his wife once said, it was a “crazy time.” Whatever the case, too many people fail to remember that all of Polanski’s legal troubles started when he raped a young girl — and he seems only too eager to let them forget.

Polanski Breaks Long Silence On His Extradition [NYT]
Polanski: “I Can Remain Silent No Longer!” [Deadline Hollywood]

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