Polanski Back In The Day ...
What part has the financial settlement of his accuser's lawsuit against him played in her current position?
By RICHARD MEEHAN
The Cool Justice Report
Oct. 2, 2009
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report, http://cooljustice.blogspot.com
Director Roman Polanski pled guilty in 1977 to unlawful sex with a minor. Polanski absconded when the sentencing judge indicated that he was reneging on the plea deal.
Through the years Polanski has enjoyed freedom in France, which does not share an extradition treaty with the United States. Lax enforcement of extradition treaties among other European nations allowed Polanski unfettered travel throughout Europe; that is, until the Zurich Film Festival announced his imminent arrival.
It's been revealed that the original sentencing judge engaged in misconduct, and efforts have been under way by Polanski to seek dismissal of his charges. Even the victim has come forward to endorse his dismissal efforts. None of this is because he suddenly proclaims his innocence. What part has the financial settlement of his accuser's lawsuit against him played in her current position?
Polanski escaped from a Krakow ghetto as a child and his mother died in a Nazi concentration camp. In 1969, his wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by the Manson gang.
But, in all of my 35 years of criminal defense, I have rarely represented someone accused of crime that didn't have some sad story as well. Life's tragedies don't provide anyone with a license to commit crime.
Lost in this story is that today Polanski would have been vilified as a predator from his admitted conduct. I can't help but have this vision of Chris Hansen, of NBC's "To Catch a Predator" walking over to the hot tub at Jack Nicholson's home (where the director was admittedly engaged in sex with a 13 year old girl), cameras and boom mikes trailing behind.
There was no Megan's Law sex offender registration in 1977 when Polanski copped his guilty plea. There is today. Life for those on the Registry is difficult. Sex Offenders are shunned. Towns have enacted sex offender free zones. None of this has affected Polanski. Whether his charges are dismissed or not the fact remains that he acknowledged his guilt in a courtroom. His flight made him a fugitive from justice leading to efforts to seek his extradition.
The authority of states to extradite fugitives stems originally from Article Four of the Constitution: "[a] Person charged in any State with . . . Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime." To create an orderly process most states are signatories to the Uniform Compact on Extradition. The compact establishes the legal authority for the requesting state to seek the fugitive's return from what the asylum state. There are limited issues that may be raised by a detainee contesting extradition in the asylum state. In the usual case detainees may be held for a limited time while the demanding jurisdiction obtains the necessary documents to perfect the extradition. Guilt or innocence is adjudicated on the detainee's return to the requesting jurisdiction.
International extradition, however, is a creature of treaties among the various nations. Each treaty sets forth the authority and process governing the demand for the fugitive's return. In some instances where there is no extradition treaty, international fugitives have been surreptitiously seized and turned over to U.S. authorities.
While some in Hollywood are looking forward to Polanski's eventual freedom, let's not lose sight of what created his dilemma.
Bridgeport, CT attorney Richard Meehan Jr. was the lead defense counsel for former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim's corruption trial. Meehan is certified as a criminal trial specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1994 and serves on the organizations Board of Examiners. He is a Charter Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America -- Trial Lawyer Honorary Society. Meehan has also obtained multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements in complex medical and dental malpractice and personal injury litigation. He is a past president of the Greater Bridgeport Bar Association and appears regularly on Court / truTV. His column also appears in the Sunday Norwich, CT Bulletin. Website, www.meehanlaw.com
Cool Justice Editor's Note: The prosecutor was cleared of accusations leveled by Allen and has since retired.