Fugitive child rapist freed on technicality

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Convicted child rapist and fugitive from justice Roman Polanski was freed this week by a Swiss court, on the grounds that the American request for extradition might not have been sentenced to more than 90 days in jail, and that he really didn’t think he’d be arrested despite, you know, being a fugitive:

In rejecting the extradition request from the United States, the Swiss ministry cited two factors: first, the Swiss said, the U.S. had failed to provide the records of a January hearing in Los Angeles County Superior Court that would have shown the judge in charge of the Polanski case in 1977 agreed that “the 42 days of detention spent by Roman Polanski in the psychiatric unit of a Californian prison represented the whole term of imprisonment he was condemned to.”

Second, the Swiss said, when Mr. Polanski traveled in September 2009 to the Zurich Film Festival where he was arrested as he arrived at the airport, he did so in “good faith” that “the journey would not entail any legal disadvantages for him.” The Swiss justice ministry noted that Mr. Polanski had been staying regularly in Switzerland since 2006, and though “he was registered in the Swiss registry of wanted persons, he was never controlled by the Swiss authorities.”

Well, that’s nice. I’m going to use that should I ever be arrested on an outstanding warrant. “Judge,” I’m going to say, “when I went to the mall, it was on good faith that I wouldn’t be arrested for my outstanding warrant for punching a mime. I mean, I wasn’t arrested yesterday. So that means that the warrant doesn’t count. So there.”

Obviously, this is a defeat for those of us who view child rapists as people who deserve punishment, and a defeat for the rule of law. It’s also a defeat for Roman Polanski’s legacy, though Polanski today is, I’m sure, ready to invite Bernard-Henri Lévy over to his posh Paris home for a big freedom party. This was Polanski’s last, best chance to get this over with, to pay his debt to society, to eliminate the “fugitive” part of “convicted fugitive child rapist.” He could have brought some closure to his victim, and maybe, just maybe, allowed the wound to heal. Instead, Polanski has guaranteed that when he dies, he will be remembered as much for assaulting a child as for his film legacy.

Polanski will always be remembered as a child rapist who, I assume, will die in exile. That’s his choice. It’s just too bad that the Swiss courts had to agree.