Sunday, November 15, 2009


On Sept. 26 Swiss authorities arrested Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski, a French citizen who was wanted in the United States on an old conviction for having sex with a 13-year-old girl: In 1978, in California, Polanski had pled guilty to one count of unlawful sex with a minor, but fled the country before being sentenced.

Of those readers responding to an unscientific poll on my column's blog, 88 percent believed that the nature of Polanski's crime requires that he pay the penalty, even 32 years after the fact and despite the fact that his victim has long since forgiven him and called for the dismissal of all remaining charges.

"He should finish whatever jail sentence he has," writes Carol Ludovise of Orange County, Calif. "He deserves no special treatment."

Mary Beth McCurdy of London, Ontario, agrees.

"American authorities should definitely pursue extradition of this predator," McCurdy writes. "The passage of time should in no way diminish the serious nature of this crime."

"The victim has publicly stated that she has forgiven Polanski," notes William Jacobson of Cypress, Calif., "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 and so will continue until justice is served."

"If Polanski were a poor, American black," Marilyn Johnson adds, "would we be asking this question?"

Check out other opinions here, or post your own by clicking on "Comments" or "Post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, 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.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2009 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)


Anonymous said...

The Polanski case is all about ethics. The State made a deal with Polanski in which several civil servants participated together with the victim. The imbalance of power between Polanski and the State is several magnitudes greater than that between Polanski and his victim. This means the state of oppression caused by the States action should be of much greater concern than whether Polanski did not complete the agreed upon punishment. Polanski should not be extradited because to do so condones the States grossly unethical behavior. Those who are happy to live in a Orwellian State can take solace in that Polanski is the Emmanuel Goldstein of sexual predators.

Anonymous said...

I (near) fully agree with the first post. But Polanski HAD in fact completed his punishment. He had done his time and was released early on the recommendation of impartial probation official, and his attorney had guaranteed him that was it. He was effectively on probation for a year to finish his film abroad after the original hearings and was recalled after ten months when the judge found himself suddenly pressured by a colluding DA to send him down. Polanski then pleaded guilty to unlawful sex after the other charges of drugging and plying the girl with alcohol were found unsubstantiated in view of the girl's own accounts to the contrary and for not corroborating their medical findings and other statements. They basically had no case of forced rape and advised him to plea guilty to one of the counts and on the wishes of the plaintiff not to incarcerate him.

So he pleaded to that, was sent inside to be psyche evaluated and in prison for 42 of the 90 days and then released early at no threat to the public and found of sound mind. He was declared not a paedophile at the girl’s age of adolescence and that would have been it. But the judge didn't like their unbiased findings and wanted to sentence him for decades and then deport him. Polanski had served his time and suddenly faced decades behind bars and that is why he fled. Everyone in their right mind would have done the same and even the prosecutor said he’d done the same. It was not the judges call to deport anyone, the case fell into racially prejudiced and illegal misconduct and BOTH attorneys removed the judge for his unlawful move to renege on their plea bargain they had agreed on and then was discredited.

When people blindly call for him to be extradited and serve more time, they obviously have no clear understanding that this is a case of judicial misconduct on grounds of the judge’s personal discrimination and was legally not sound. The judge publicly sentenced Polanski in absentia in a Hollywood style show of saving his personal reputation. Polanski was railroaded then and he’s being used as a political patsy now for others to gain rightwing support, while current rape case are ignored and tax payer’s money is wasted on an old man who never committed any crime and paid his own taxes. Instead of tackling today’s crime and bring in truly dangerous criminals and terrorists, they let them walk the streets freely. But they’re obviously not of famous and rich status to make a name by when being locked up and used to feed self-righteous moralists. It’s nothing but a shameful travesty of shady politics during which the US Congress has more criminals than Guantanamo Bay.