While justice delayed may be justice denied, but justice appears to have caught up with Roman Polanski — just 31 years delayed. To the surprise of his family and lawyers, Swiss authorities arrested the seventy-six-year-old famous director on the outstanding international warrant.
Polanski was able to move freely in Europe for decades despite being one of the world’s best recognized fugitives.
He was detained when he arrived at Zurich airport and was being held in provisional detention in preparation for a possible extradition to the United States.
He has been avoiding arrest after his conviction in California for sex with a 13-year-old girl, Samantha Geime, at the home of Jack Nicholson. She claimed to have been drugged. She has since said that she forgives him.
Polanski fled before sentencing and relied on his fame and friends to continue his artistic work and opulent lifestyle.
Polanski’s lawyers have been trying to get the case dismissed, here. That effort may have backfired in drawing renewed attention to his case — and the fact that the California courts still want him arrested.
The French have been accused of protecting Polanski and he went to Zurich for its film festival, where he was going to receive a lifetime achievement award. France continues to defend Polanski and is working for his release, here.
If presented to a United States court, most judges would feel compelled to hit him with a heavy sentence due to his open contempt and flight from the prior court. This is a case where “celebrity justice” may be harsher than ordinary justice. For a prior column, click here.
A good point of comparison would be the sentence given to Sara Jane Olson (aka Kathleen Ann Soliah). She committed her crimes with the Symbionese Liberation Army (including kidnapping Patty Hearst) and was indicted in 1976. That was just one year before Polanski and remained a fugitive for 24 years (as opposed to Polanski’s 31 years). Moreover, she was in hiding as opposed to Polanski who was viewed as virtually taunting the court by living in the open and was seen as conveying that the wealthy could live by a separate set of rules than the rest of society.
Olson was just released (here) after seven years prison. She pleaded guilty in 2001 (unlike Polanski who pleaded guilty, she was not tried in the seventies). She received 20 years to life. She was released after seven years due to a decision of the parole board to reduce the sentence.