Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Even More on Polanski
Here is the money quote:
There's little question that this case was mishandled in many ways. According to a recent documentary, the now-deceased judge inappropriately discussed sentencing with a prosecutor who wasn't working the case. And Polanski's lawyers allege that the director fled only because he believed the judge would cave under public pressure and renege on a promise that he would serve no more time.
Regardless of whether there was such a deal, Polanski had not yet been sentenced, and under state law at the time, he could have been sent away for many years. Does anyone really believe 42 days was an appropriate penalty given the nature of the case?
Yes, Polanski has known great tragedy, having survived the Holocaust and having lost his wife, Sharon Tate and their unborn son, to the insanity of the Charles Manson cult.But that has no bearing on the crime in question.
His victim, who settled a civil case against Polanski for an unspecified amount, said she does not want the man who forced himself on her to serve additional time.
That's big-hearted of her but also irrelevant, and so is the fact that the victim had admitted to having sex with a boyfriend before meeting Polanski.
Polanski stood in a Santa Monica courtroom on Aug. 8, 1977, admitted to having his way with a girl three decades his junior and told a judge that indeed, he knew she was only 13.
There may well have been judicial misconduct.
But no misconduct was greater than allowing Polanski to cop a plea to the least of his charges. His crime was graphic, manipulative and heinous, and he got a pass. It's unbelievable, really, that his soft-headed apologists are rooting for him to get another one.
And my two cents:
Because there was no sentence, there was no judicial misconduct. Talking about the alleged bad conduct of the now dead judge is merely a rationalization for Polanski's fleeing the jurisdiction after pleading guilty. That judge won't be involved in any sentence Polanski is given. Death cured any defect. Polanski was told the range of the sentence he could receive. He, I believe, was also told that the Judge would impose the sentence he felt was appropriate. (I believe this based on slightly sketchy contemporary accounts and because I have helped take the pleas of thousands of defendants and that's what we did). Now, if the Judge was going to renege on a specific promise, made to Polanski, regarding the length of the sentence he would receive, and give Polanski more time, then the Judge would have had to allow Polanski to withdraw the plea. Otherwise Polanski could have successfully appealed the sentence and withdrawn his plea. What I believe is that the prosecutor agreed to make the recommendation for a very light sentence (in order to sell the deal to Polanski to avoid the supposed trauma to the victim from testifying) but it was merely a recommendation and if the Judge rejected it and imposed at sentencing a number of years, for example, Polanski would have had no chance of withdrawing his plea. (Look at the trouble Senator Craig (R-ID) had trying to withdraw his plea in Minnesota. He never got it withdrawn). So faced with the possibility of a failed gamble that he'd get only 42 days in the prison diagnostic center, Polanski refused to try to withdraw his plea and refused to be sentenced. He fled to a long time of self-imposed exile (in Paris--poor baby). His rejection of the remedies the legal system afforded him was solely the decision of Polanski. Now his arrest for fleeing the system has perhaps put an end to that exile.
He's had his dance, time to pay the piper.
UPDATE: Here is a list of people who support Polanski. No real surprises.
UPDATE 2: I believe I'm right about the plea, there was a promise of recommendation of little jail time if any but an understanding by Polanski that the Judge would do what he wanted up to the maximum allowed by law. My source? Not, unfortunately the NYT, but a left-wing journalist, Gerald Posner, who gets the facts right but doesn't know the justice system well enough to draw the right conclusions. Behold:
This is precisely the language prosecutors use to take a plea. These paragraphs have the ring of truth to me beyond the quote marks that Posner uses. And so Polanski acted rationally when he committed the crime of flight to avoid the sentence above the ADA's recommendation which he feared he would get. It is also pretty clear that he will never be able to withdraw his plea and, if he gets back to LA, he will be sentenced at a time when we are much harsher on child rapists than we used to be.
At his 1977 hearing, the prosecutor asked Polanski if he understood that if he pleaded guilty, he could be sentenced from probation to 15 to 20 years in state prison. Polanski said yes. And since the victim was under 14, California law required that mentally disordered sex offender proceedings be commenced to determine whether Polanski should be sent to a “state hospital for an indeterminate amount of time.” Polanski acknowledged he understood this, and that only the judge, Laurence Rittenband, could determine his ultimate sentence. Finally, the prosecutors asked Polanski if he understood that since he was not a U.S. citizen, the immigration service could deport him and bar him from re-entry as an undesirable alien. He again said yes.
"The district attorney will make a motion to dismiss the remaining pending charges after sentencing,” said Assistant District Attorney Roger Gunson. “Other than that promise, has anyone made any promises to you, such as a lesser sentence or probation, or any reward?”
He'll always have Paris, though.
Oh, Posner writes about Polanski's answer to the last question above:
Of course that was a lie. The promise made to Polanski was that if he pleaded guilty he would walk free after his mandatory mental evaluation. In September, the judge ordered Polanski to jail for a 90-day psychiatric study. He spent 42 days in Chino State Prison for those tests, which also were favorable and recommended probation.
What is it about the charge of lie with lefties? The prosecutor could have said that he would recommend probation after the 90 day evaluation or he could have said that he would go with the Probation Department's recommendation. He could not promise the Judge would only give Polanski the 90 days and he did not. He probably was perfectly willing to make the lenient recommendation up to the time Polanski ran away to Paris. Polanski doesn't get to complain about the ADA's actions here. He doesn't get to complain about the dead judge's actions either for the obvious reason that the dead judge won't be sentencing Polanski if he ever gets back to LA--an option looking a little more likely today.