Should Roman Polanski Be Forgiven for Sex with a Minor?

Roman PolanskiAs many people know, Roman Polanski is not allowed to return to the United States or travel to countries that have an extradition treaty with the U.S. (like Great Britain) due to his conviction of “engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor” in the late 1970’s.

With a new movie called Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired looking to be a major contender at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, I figured now would be a good time to gauge what people think of Polanski and what should happen to resolve everything. The movie, directed by Marina Zenovich, details the events revolving around Polanski’s conviction and flight to France, is sure to stir up controversy…

These are not all the facts, but this is what I pulled from Wikipedia:

  •  In 1977, Polanski got the permission of Samantha Geimer’s mother to conduct a private photo shoot of the 13-year old (or was she 14?) girl.
  • On March 10, despite her reservations, Geimer returned for a second photo shoot. “We did photos with me drinking champagne,” Geimer says. “Toward the end it got a little scary, and I realized he had other intentions and I knew I was not where I should be. I just didn’t quite know how to get myself out of there… I said no several times, and then, well, gave up on that.” This took place at Jack Nicholson’s home.
  • Polanski was initially charged with rape via use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under 14, but put in a plea agreement for a lesser charge.
  • On a tip that the judge was going to throw out the plea agreement, Polanski fled to France, where he was still a citizen. France and the U.S. do have an extradition treaty, but France will not extradite its own citizens. The U.S. could put in a request for France to try him, but they have not do so and will probably never do so.
  • While Polanski admitted to unlawful conduct, psychiatric experts did not consider him a sexual predator and both the defense and prosecution believed probation would be sufficient punishment rather than jail. (Yahoo!)
  • In a 2003 interview, Geimer (now Samantha Gailey) said, “Straight up, what he did to me was wrong. But I wish he would return to America so the whole ordeal can be put to rest for both of us… I’m sure if he could go back, he wouldn’t do it again. He made a terrible mistake but he’s paid for it”.

So, here are some questions:

  • Is Roman Polanski likely to re-offend?
  • Has Polanski already “paid his due”?
  • Since Polanski has directed several great films and the crime committed was thirty years ago, does that factor in?
  • Do any of the previous questions matter? He had sex with a 13-year old.

What do you think? I’m torn myself. I must admit that I do have some compassion for people who committed crimes decades earlier. More than likely, those people have grown beyond whatever they did in the past, experience guilt and suffer as a result. And the fact that Polanski has won Oscars and contributed extensively to the arts does provide some bias. At the same time, Polanski had sex with a young girl. He knew how old she was, and he knew she was really, really young. And according to the initial charge and statements from Geimer, the sex was definitely not consensual or pleasant in any way or form.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Movies
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