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A Most Curious Extradition

MsExPat's picture

The Swiss arrest of Roman Polanski on his outstanding California sex charge is most curious. Why now, after 32 years? Presumably Polanski, who's been living in France all this time, has been to Switzerland many times before this. I'm not saying that Polanski deserves to get a pass on his bad behavior. But there are far bigger scoundrels and criminals loose in the world (hello Dick! Donald! Wolfie!).

So I'm suspicious. And wondering what the international politics of this are. Perhaps the Swiss are suddenly going all law-and-order on things related to the U.S. because of the recent UBS investigations.


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BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

is to me a prime example of how we do not treat everyone equally. Tell me a factory worker accused of this would be allowed to wander around free for 32 years in Europe and have so many of our elite claim what he did was no big deal. And, it's not because Europeans are different, the girl, who was 13, was under the age of consent for France as well as the United States.

In other words, I don't care why it's coming now. It should've come a lot earlier and if Roman Polanski was someone other than, well, Roman Polanski, it would've.

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

She's a defense attorney so I'll cut her some slack in reacting to her post. Some of the others in that thread, it sure gives one pause when it comes to making common cause with them on other issues.

I now find myself curious as to how other people on the left, who I read regularly, react to this news story. My comment in the TalkLeft thread touched on the point you make here.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

and rated it a 5.

The thing so many people forget is that Polanski pled guilty. He fled only when it looked like the judge might not agree to a light sentence.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

but they grind sure. It is really important to tell other celebrity rapists that their fame will not protect them.

MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on

If the U.S. had sincerely wanted to extradite Roman Polanski, it could have done so decades ago, and it should have.

But what's happening now is a "Look, over there!". The U.S. is squeezing the Swiss banks right now to give up some financial fat cats to draw attention away from The Big Steal.

But the Swiss don't really want to turn over all their bestest bestest clients.

So they do a high profile sting on Roman Polanski, who's probably worth a couple of mega-billionaire secret bank accounts at least.

Understand, I'm not criticizing your outrage over Polanski's crime, but that outrage is going to work (at least on a media level in the U.S.) as cover up for criminality of a much grander scale.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

and we have a limited extradition treaty with them. We had a limited one with Switzerland too, but that seems to have changed. Marc Rich moved there in order to guard against extradition. That's why it hasn't happened until now. He was receiving an award and prosecutors knew that he would be in Switzerland and made their move.

His attorneys were in court last year asking for the charges to be dropped. Early this year, the judge refused to drop charges unless he appeared in court.

He drugged a 13 year old girl and sodomized her. Prosecutors are going to be very interested in seeing him complete the legal course. He's in his mid-seventies. If they don't grab him now, they risk him dying before they do - and you know how prosecutors hate that.

Ian Welsh's picture
Submitted by Ian Welsh on

most people here know the facts of the case. He pleaded guilty in exchange for a plea bargain, which was then set aside. His rights were violated. The man is a jerk, and worse, but it was an atrocious case of prosecutor and judicial misconduct - in particular the judge, who lied to defense attorneys, prosecutors and even held a press conference.

As a defense lawyer, Jeralyn probably doesn't like seeing judges overthrow plea bargains. While I despise plea bargains, I don't either.

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

Judges do have the right to overthrow plea bargains struck between the prosecutor and the defense. It's trickier in this case because it is argued that the judge had committed to agreeing with the terms prior to final sentencing.

Jaralyn has linked to the December 2, 2008 motion to dismiss the charges against Roman Polanski in this matter. The motion was, of course, submitted by Polanski's lawyers. (239 page pdf)

Being a member of the unwashed masses, the type of character Plato warned everyone about, I'm going to weigh in on the matter without having read the whole thing.

On page 8 it reads:

Before Mr. Polanski entered his plea, he was read the following condition of his plea agreement:

Mr. Gunson [the prosecutor in the case]: Further, do you realize that this Court will not make any decision regarding probation and sentence until after it has read and considered the report and recommendation that will be prepared and submitted to it by the Probation Department? And after it has heard the argument of your attorney and the argument of the prosecutor; --


It is thus clear that there were two conditions to the plea agreement. First, the Court was required to read and consider the report of the Probation Department. Second, the Court was required to hear and consider the arguments of counsel before making any decision regarding Mr. Polanski's sentence. But Judge [Laurence J.] Rittenband failed to heed either of these conditions.

Instead, Judge Rittenband impermissibly sentenced Mr. Polanski to confinement in state prison under the guise of a diagnostic study pursuant to Penal Code Section 1203.03. Both the prosecutor and the probation officer objected to the illegality of using the diagnostic study as a form of punishment, especially given the fact that the probation officer had recommended that Mr. Polanski not serve any time in prison, and the minor's family had urged the same. But the Judge persisted, informing all counsel ahead of time that he intended to sentence Mr. Polanski under Section 1203.03 and -- in a blatant abuse of the justice system -- instructing counsel to "stage" a hearing in which they would each present their designated arguments and the judge would proceed to impose the sentence as if his ruling had not already been decided.

When Mr. Polanski was released from maximum-security prison after spending 42 days undergoing the unnecessary and unjustified "diagnostic study," Judge Rittenband did not conclude the case as promised but instead called counsel into his Chambers again to tell them that he had received "criticism" about his failure to impose greater punishment on Mr. Polanski...

Now that's how Polanski's lawyers described the events which occurred in late 1977 and early 1978 in their 2008 motion. However, it seems the State of California, even at this late date, does not see things exactly this way though some of those who are outraged at Polanski's treatment argue as if they believe the recounting of the events and the characterizations found in this motion have been stipulated to as facts by all the parties.

And it's not clear to me from what I've read of the motion that the Judge was bound to issue a particular sentence upon reading the Probation Department's report and listening to the arguments of counsel when Polanski entered his plea or at final sentencing. And I would think the judge was allowed to have Polanski confined while his mental state was being assessed. Whether ordering the confinement at a maximum security prison was unreasonable, my impression from what I've read is that that was unusual.

There is also discussion in the motion about improper ex parte communications between the Judge and a prosecutor who was not assigned the case. Now I've not reviewed either the then operative code of conduct for trial judges nor for the attorneys in the District Attorney's office but it's not clear to me, from what I've read in this motion so far, that Rittenband's communications with then Deputy District Attorney David Wells were improper. Seems to me it might be permissible for a judge to discuss, in a theoretical sense, a matter of law that was before him with an officer of the court without giving notice to the attorneys of record in the case.

This was a very high profile case when it was before Judge Rittenband and Polanski likely had very competent representation. Regardless of what Polanski's lawyers now claim, I find it hard to credit that the Judge was able to make one or more public rulings during the case that were unequivocally "impermissible."

On a related note, I found this comment informative.

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

Failing to appear in court for sentencing and fleeing the jurisdiction are crimes regardless of how a Judge is conducting a case.

MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on

So why didn't the Swiss nab him before? There's something extremely fishy about the timing of all this and the way it's been done.

From the Guardian:

Polanski has a house in Switzerland and spent much of the summer there, according to British writer Robert Harris, who in recent months has been working closely with the director on a film adaptation of his novel The Ghost. Harris told the Guardian he thought there was "something very odd, very suspicious" about the timing of the arrest. "To my knowledge, Roman in recent years has travelled to Germany, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Greece, Russia, China. So why now, all of a sudden, is an elderly man grabbed off a plane on a Saturday night and stuffed into jail?"

MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on me. And they bloopered by sending their internal story memo out to the wires:

no surprise, new york is really hot on this.
they particularly want to know why now. (has he never set foot in switzerland before?) sheila, theorizes that's because they're under intense pressure over ubs and want to throw the U.S. a bone, but can you check with justice department sources there?
is frank around too, or are you alone?