The director Roman Polanski is a significant artist of international stature. He is also 76 years old. More than 30 years ago, Polanski had sex with an underage girl in California. The judicial proceedings which took place at the time were improperly influenced by the superfluity of media attention focused on a famous Hollywood director entangled in a sex scandal.
Marina Zenovichâ€™s 2008 documentary film Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired made it generally known that Polanski accepted a plea bargain which put him behind bars in very unpleasant circumstances â€œfor psychiatric evaluationâ€ for 42 days in Chino State Prison. After which time, according to the deal made with prosecutors, Polanski was supposed to be let off without further incarceration.
Newspaper reports, however, inflamed public opinion about the case, and Judge Laurence Rittenband arbitrarily decided to void Polanskiâ€™s plea bargain and impose an exemplary sentence, essentially sacrificing the unlucky director for the gratification of the tabloid mob. Polanski was temporarily at large when he learned of the judgeâ€™s intentions, and prudently fled into exile in Europe.
Polanski was certainly guilty of a form of sexual misbehavior which, depending on the overall circumstances, can be prosecuted as a serious crime. But consensual sex with underage girls is only â€œrapeâ€ in a technical sense. Michelle Malkin is making a regrettable spectacle of herself striking ridiculous moralistic poses, calling Polanski a â€œperv,â€ and describing sensible persons disinclined to support wasting government time and resources on seeking pointless vengeance on an old man a generation after the fact â€œcrime-coddling apologists.â€
This kind of naive legal absolutism rests on a childish fantasy that human acts, their legal status, and the outcome of judicial proceedings are matters of black and white, that good people, like Michelle Malkin and the rest of us on the Right, are always in favor of enforcing the letter of the law. Iâ€™m not. Laws (like our immigration and drug laws) can be ill-considered. Courts are sometimes corrupt. They are sometimes mistaken. Laws can be wrongly or simply arbitrarily enforced. After 30 years, some laws are no longer worth enforcing, some cases are no longer worth punishing.
The young woman who had sex with Polanski, now middle-aged, has said publicly that she thought she was being exploited by the court at the time, that she forgives Polanski, and that she finds the idea of re-opening the case against him embarrassing to herself and her family. So whom do we need to be avenging?
Patterico, who actually works at the same Los Angeles District Attorneyâ€™s Office has gone even more loco with the same law-and-order zealotry.
He is raving about a conflict of interest in Anne Applebaum editorializing in favor of clemency in a stale and aged case involving an internationally renowned artist who is elderly, who has made significant cultural contributions, and who has himself been more than once a victim of terrible injustices. Anne Applebaum, you see, is married to Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski. Polanski is a Pole, and Poland is protesting his arrest, so Patterico thinks her editorials need to be accompanied by a warning of undue influence from the Polish Government. Lord!
I personally think conservative righteousness, outrage, and pettyfogging argument is more appropriately reserved for graver issues than a case of Hollywood hanky-panky from thirty years in the past. And, until Utopia is achieved and we have a perfect legal system administered by angels, applying a flawless legal code in every case with precision accuracy and scrupulous evenhandedness, I think we can skip all the rah-rah law-and-order nonsense.
Sometimes the law is an ass. And the day the US undertook to extradite Roman Polanski over a roll in the hay that occurred during the opening days of the Consulship of Jimmy Carter is one of those times.