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STEVE LOPEZ

Polanski's defenders lose sight of the true victim

The grand jury transcripts of the sex abuse case paint a far more damaging picture of the events that allegedly unfolded between the director and a 13-year-old girl at Jack Nicholson's home in 1977.

September 30, 2009|STEVE LOPEZ

According to her, that didn't stop Polanski, who began having anal sex with her.

This was when the victim was asked by the prosecutor if she resisted and she said, "Not really," because "I was afraid of him." She testified that when the ordeal had ended, Polanski told her, "Oh, don't tell your mother about this."

He added: "This is our secret."

But it wasn't a secret for long. When the victim got home and told her story, her mother called the police.

Now granted, we only have the girl's side of things. But an LAPD criminalist testified before the grand jury that tests of the girl's panties "strongly indicate semen." And a police officer who searched Polanski's hotel room found a Quaalude and photos of the girl.

Two weeks after the encounter on Mulholland Drive, Polanski was indicted for furnishing a controlled substance to a minor, committing a lewd or lascivious act upon a child under 14, unlawful sexual intercourse, rape by use of drugs, perversion (oral copulation) and sodomy.

Three months later, a plea bargain was worked out. Court records indicate that the victim and her family had asked the district attorney's office to spare the victim the trauma of testifying at a criminal trial.

"A stigma would attach to her for a lifetime," the family's attorney argued.

So Polanski pleaded guilty to just one count -- unlawful sexual intercourse. The other charges were dropped.

Polanski spent 42 days in prison for pre-sentencing diagnostic tests. After his release, but before his sentencing in 1978, he skipped, boarding a plane for Europe because he feared he would be ordered to serve more time in prison. A warrant for his arrest has been in effect ever since, and Polanski was arrested this week in Switzerland.

He is fighting extradition, but I hope he loses that fight, gets hustled back to California and finally gets a sentence that fits his crime.

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.

--

steve.lopez@latimes.com

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