should roman polanski be in jail?

In 1977, acclaimed director Roman Polanski was arrested for drugging, sexually assaulting, and raping 13-year-old Samantha Gailey. At first, he plead not guilty to all charges. Then a plea bargain was arranged where 5 of the 6 charges would be dismissed and he would only plead guilty to “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor”. The plea agreement was not supposed to include any jail time, but the judge decided to first give him 90 days of “evaluation” in a state prison before the final sentencing. However, the judge agreed to defer the sentence so Polanski could continue working on his next movie. On a subsequent trip to Europe, Polanski was photographed at the Munich Oktoberfest with a group of young women around him. This made the judge furious. When he returned to California, Polanski was ordered to immediately go to prison.

Polanski was released after 42 days of his 90-day “evaluation”, and he thought that would be the end of his jail time. According to the plea bargain, his sentence would be time served and probation. However, the judge had told others that he intended to disregard the plea bargain and sentence Polanski to a long time in prison. When Polanski heard about that, he flew to London and then travelled to France. Ever since then he has been living in France and continued to make movies in France and other European countries. Since he is a French citizen, he’s been protected from extradition back to the U.S.

The events happened about 45 years ago, but a lot of people still remember it. Anyone that has experienced a traumatic event – especially rape – or knows someone that experienced it will tell you it’s something that affects the rest of your life. It even affects people like me. I think Polanski should go to jail because of what he did over 45 years ago and because he has evaded prosecution.

The main reason I feel this way is because it happened to someone around my age and around my neighborhood. I grew up in Los Angeles, just a few miles away from the house where the sexual assault and rape took place. I was 8 years old in 1977 which was just 5 years younger than Samantha Gailey. I went to school with girls that were her age. Some of them may have known her. Also, in college I knew a guy that had a sister with a similar situation. Just like Samantha Gailey, his sister was drugged, sexually assaulted, and raped in 1977 when she was a teenager (she was 15).

However, the sister of the man I knew in college wasn’t raped at Jack Nicholson’s house (Nicholson wasn’t home at the time) like Samantha Gailey was, she wasn’t raped by a famous Hollywood director, she was never mentioned in the news, and the person who assaulted her was NEVER EVEN ARRESTED. According to what her brother told me, the man who attacked her evaded arrest with the help of his rich parents. Her case was quickly forgotten, just like the hundreds of other women who get sexually assaulted or raped every year.

Instead of being quickly forgotten, the case of Roman Polanski is still discussed to this day. I just read another story about it a few days ago. Unfortunately, most of the stories are about Polanski’s lawyers trying to get the case dismissed. They’ve been trying for quite a few years. Although there have been more women that have accused him of sexually assaulting or raping them – most recently a French actress in 2019 – and other people who sexually assaulted or raped women are currently being “cancelled” – including Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein – his lawyers are still trying to get his case dismissed.

Even worse is that there are several people in the entertainment industry who continue to defend and support him. For example: in the years since he fled the US, several big names like Harrison Ford, Ewan MacGregor, Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, and Adrian Brody have been in movies that he directed in France or other countries in Europe. There were enough people supporting him in the Academy in 2002 that he won the Academy Award for best director for his movie “The Pianist”. At the time, there was rumor that he might show up in person to accept the award. He continued to be a member of the Academy until 2018 when someone mentioned him while the Academy was deciding to remove Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein from their membership.

Something that makes me really angry is when Samantha Gailey has said that she thinks the case should be dismissed. She has said that it’s because she doesn’t want to have to go through a trial, however the real reason might be her 1993 settlement with him which could have been over $1 million. A 1996 court filing showed that he still owed her a little over $600 thousand – but they may have agreed to a lower amount in their financial arrangement made in 1997. Personally, I think that after she received the settlement money she should have stopped talking about the case. Unless she wants to share the money with the thousands of other women who have never received a penny from the person that attacked or raped them. I haven’t heard anything about her donating any money to a charity or an organization that helps other victims.

In 2008, the documentary “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” primarily took his side and focused on the judge changing his mind and deciding to give Polanski more jail time. After the documentary was released, there was an appellate court discussion about the case, but they decided against dismissing his case because “…flight was not Polanski’s only option. It was not even his best option.”

I agree that he should have tried other legal options like others are doing these days including Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and Kevin Spacey. Although I believe Weinstein and Spacey are currently in jail, it’s much better than running away to France like a coward.

If he doesn’t return to face the judgement, I can imagine other people fleeing the country the same way that he did if they ever get convicted. For example, a former President of the United States who I am guessing will consider fleeing the country he used to be the President of if he ever gets sentenced to jail time.

For 45 years, Polanski has evaded extradition back to America to face his crime. He has defiantly flaunted that he can live and continue to make movies out of reach of prosecution – thanks to France, Switzerland, and Poland rejecting the US requests for extradition. I get really upset when I continue to read stories that his case should now be dismissed and forgotten. I think Polanski needs to face his judgment for his crime plus face an additional judgement for being a fugitive from justice for decades.

One other similarity between Samantha Gailey and the sister of the man I knew in college: neither of them are currently saying that the person that assaulted them should go to jail. Samantha Gailey has said she doesn’t want Polanski to go to jail, and the sister of the man I knew in college isn’t saying anything anymore. After the police sided with the man that assaulted and raped her and decided not to arrest him, she committed suicide in late 1978 – less than a year and a half after she was assaulted. For her and for all the other women who have been sexually assaulted or raped but have never seen justice (and have never received any money) this case should not be dismissed and should not be forgotten. Roman Polanski needs to face his crimes.