Sunday, October 11, 2009


On Sept. 26 Swiss authorities arrested Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski, a French citizen who was wanted in the United States for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. In 1978 Polanski pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sex with a minor in California, but fled the country before being sentenced. Given that the victim of his crime has publicly forgiven Polanski, is it wrong for American prosecutors to continue to pursue his extradition? Or does the nature of his crime require that he pay the penalty, even 32 years after the fact?

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Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

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Bill Jacobson said...


I have no sympathy for this admitted but unrepentant child rapist who has managed to evade justice for his crime for 32 years. I am shocked that entire nations (France) and industries (Hollywood) would pour out to defend a man who knowingly kidnapped, drugged and raped a thirteen year old girl.

The only justifiable outrage here is that Roman Polanski evaded justice for 32 years not by disappearing and hiding underground but in the public eye and the press at every turn. Imagine the continued wounds he caused both the little girl who was raped and the entire justice system which was unable to reach him.

The victim has publicly stated that she has forgiven Polanski, not because he has done anything to deserve it, he hasn't, but rather because she didn't want this issue to destroy her. The public charges are not hers to forgive, though, and charges, once filed, have no statute of limitations so will continue until justice is served. He plead guilty, let him now serve his time.

The right thing, Jeffrey? What if the victim were your daughter, your sister or your mother? This is not a hard call and Roman Polanski should not be handed special exemptions because he is famous or because he has managed to evade justice for so long.

William Jacobson
Cypress, CA

S. said...

Mr. Jacobson, your last paragraph is breathtaking, and not in a good way. The victim has made it very clear that she wants this to be over, and that continuing to prosecute Polanski effectively continues to violate her. What if the victim were your daughter, your sister, or your mother? Obviously, you'd do everything you could to shut this case down ASAP.

Now, you can argue that there are more important factors. You can argue that personal pain is irrelevant, and that society's interest in this matter is the overriding concern. Alternately, you can argue that the satisfaction of taking revenge on a twisted celebrity is worth causing the victim further pain. But to victimize the original victim further, against her wishes, while claiming to be thinking of her? That's just perverse.

Shmuel Ross
Brooklyn, NY

Bill Jacobson said...

Mr. Ross

As you note, the victim's wishes are immaterial on whether the state pursues charges against and admitted rapist. Perhaps my concluding paragraph was poorly written but the point still remains - Polanski is an admitted and charged child rapist who has voluntarily evaded justice for his crimes for 32 years. He certainly does not deserve our sympathy nor leniency for his actions.

William Jacobson
Cypress, CA

louken said...

The 44 year old Polanski plied a 13 year old girl with champagne and Quaaludes and had intercourse, anal sex and oral sex with her all the time she was saying no and faked an asthma attack to get him to stop. He did not stop till someone knocked at the door.
He pled guilty with a plea bargain to have additional charges dropped.
She "forgave him" after settling undisclosed civil suit. It's not up to the victim to to stop punishment either.

Anonymous said...

The rape of a child is a crime against humanity. When Polanski raped that 13 year old girl, he committed a terrible crime. That the girl later forgave him is not an issue here; she has the right to forgive him but she does not have the right to . That Whoopi Goldberg said it wasn't "a rape rape" is of no importance: that's Goldberg's opinion. That directors of equal fame feel he should be released with no punishment is of no importance.

What is important is that Polanski committed a crime, a crime against society. He should pay for that crime. Period.