In 1977, film maker Roman Polanski, whose life story reads like a tragedy, pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. The plea followed a damning testimony, available in full on The Smoking Gun, from 13-year-old Samantha Gailey who told the LA grand jury how, during a photo shoot at the house of Jack Nicholson, Polanski had provided her with Champagne and part of a Quaalude tablet before having sex with her, despite pleas to “keep away”.

Although Polanski served 42 days in jail undergoing court-ordered psychiatric evaluation, fear of further incarceration forced Polanski to flee the US to France in 1978.

Fast forward 30 years and after spending decades avoiding a US and international arrest warrant, Polanski’s freedom was brought to a halt when he was arrested on Saturday by Swiss authorities upon entering Zürich to accept a film festival honour.

Why wasn’t he caught earlier? After all, Polanski supposedly owns a chalet in Switzerland. And what’s the expiration date on a statutory rape conviction anyway? The Christan Science Monitor has answers to all the water cooler questions.

Meanwhile, as Polanski sits in Zürich Jail waiting for America to make a formal extradition request, the rest of the world is busy showing their support/contempt for him:

Surely time heals, doesn’t it?

The thought occurs that while Polanski’s crime against Samantha Gailey was utterly wrong, the 1970s were a different time, and his behaviour was not aberrant by prevailing entertainment-industry standards. If every member of British rock bands touring America who seduced an underage girl had been arrested, our music industry would have been decimated. – David Gritten, The Daily Telegraph (UK)

But is putting a man in prison after 31 years from his sexual intercourse with a minor in California and fleeing justice going to do justice? What good does it do to imprison anyone, whatever their lifetime achievement, after the deed ceased to matter for the parties involved? — Marcin Sobczyk, Wall Street Journal Blogs

He’s already paid for this. He did commit a crime, but he has paid for the crime in many, many ways: In notoriety, in lawyers’ fees, in professional stigma. He could not return to Los Angeles to receive his recent Oscar. He cannot visit Hollywood to direct or cast a film. – Anne Applebaum, The Washington Post

And I used to like those Swiss….

When I learned, years ago, that they had blithely allowed German military trains to transit their country during the Second World War, while claiming Swiss “neutrality,” I was shocked, but tried to excuse them on grounds that they were protecting their country from invasion and armed warfare … Arresting Roman Polanski the other day in Zurich, where he was to receive an honorary award at a film festival, was disgraceful and unjustifiable. – Joan Shore The Huffington Post

He still raped a child.

Roman Polanski may be a great director, an old man, a husband, a father, a friend to many powerful people, and even the target of some questionable legal shenanigans … But none of that changes the basic, undisputed fact: Roman Polanski raped a child. And rushing past that point to focus on the reasons why we should forgive him, pity him, respect him, admire him, support him, whatever, is absolutely twisted. – Kate Harding, Salon

Yes, his life was truly, truly heartbreaking. But is it possible for a man to be a brilliant director, survive the Holocaust, tragically lose the love of his life to a brutal murder, and still not rape a 13-year-old? Of course. – Lauren Bans, Double X

This was a thirteen-year-old girl… somebody’s daughter. Yes, she now says she has forgiven him, but I seem to recall the Pope forgiving the guy who shot him some time ago. That doesn’t mean we let the perpetrator walk. – Jazz Shaw, The Moderate Voice

On Twitter…

@gracebfrance TO THE USA, Leave Roman Polanski ALONE!U got a 89years old playboy director who f*cks 2 19years old girls u hypocrites!

@junglist4life Hoping that by some unlikely chance, Roman Polanski now will see some prison time and maybe get a little bit of quid pro quo.

@ baawfatml They can’t get Osama bin Laden but they can get Roman Polanski.

@ tvcritics Roman Polanski, love his films but he did supposedly take advantage of a younger person years ago, so I think the arrest was right.

@ Swoopy So glad the Los Angeles district court spends it’s time on important things like arresting Roman Polanski (eye roll)

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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