Justice Delayed and Delay-ed

 By Bob Gaydos

 Herewith, the tales of two creeps and slowly creeping justice:
 Creep Number One: Swiss lawyers for Roman Polanski have asked that he be freed from jail while he fights extradition to the United States on a 30-year-old conviction for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

 Really? I know lawyers gotta do what lawyers gotta do, but really guys, do you think the Swiss judge won’t know that the famed film director is behind bars precisely because he skipped out on bail 31 years ago rather than face punishment for his despicable act? He’s a fugitive from justice. Why should the courts trust him now? Because he’s made some good movies and millions of dollars? Polanski defined himself as a flight risk when he didn’t show up in court in Los Angeles to face the music and he’s been true to form by bouncing around Europe ever since to avoid deportation.
 The real surprise in this story is that Polanski was even arrested after living it up in Europe, mostly in public, for so long. So, first off, way to go, Switzerland. Not so neutral after all.
 Polanski was arrested Saturday when he showed up to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival. That’s so cool. He even had a tux on for the occasion. There was speculation the Swiss only arrested Polanski as a way to foster better diplomatic and economic relations with the United States, especially since the Swiss also recently tightened their laws on bank accounts used to hide ill-gotten gains. But Swiss authorities said the request to detain Polanski had come some time ago from U.S. officials and the film festival made things convenient.
 That’s different from, say, similar requests made to France, one of his two official countries of residence in Europe (Poland is the other). French official have refused to extradite Polanski to the United States. And he has been careful, living rather openly but moving about in 10 different countries to avoid extradition. For one thing, he stayed out of Britain, which would have had no qualm about sending him back across the pond.

 Some Swiss are upset because they fear Polanski’s detention — which could last a few months while appeals are heard — means their country will no longer be seen as a safe haven for international fugitives. What a shame. Others fear it will place their famously neutral tiny nation at the mercy of large powers, like the United States. Well, Switzerland finally joined the United Nations a while back, so maybe it’s time to join the rest of the real world.

 France may be another story. Polanski’s entertainment and media industry friends there have rallied to his support, questioning why he should be brought back to answer for his actions three decades later. One supporter, a philosopher, Bernard-Henri Lévy, said on radio that the Swiss should focus on more serious criminal matters. Polanski, he said, “perhaps had committed a youthful error.”

 For the record, Mr. Philosopher, Polanski was 45 years old when he plied the 13-year-old would-be model with alcohol and drugs and then had sex with her. He actually got lucky when the prosecutor accepted a plea bargain to a misdemeanor sex offense rather than rape and sodomy charges, but after spending 42 days in an L.A. jail awaiting sentencing, the maker of gritty films apparently wanted no more of real life. He split because he thought the judge was going to reject the plea bargain and make him serve real time.

 The female in question reached a settlement with Polanski and has said she doesn’t want anymore to do with the case. Fair enough, and not surprising. But another Frenchman, film director and producer Luc Besson offered a different take. “This is a man who I love a lot and know a little bit,” Besson said in a radio interview. “Our daughters are good friends. But there is one justice, and that should be the same for everyone. I will let justice happen. … I don’t have any opinion on this, but I have a daughter, 13 years old. And if she was violated, nothing would be the same, even 30 years later.”

 Creep Number Two: Tom Delay, the former majority leader of the House of Representatives, driven from office and under indictment on money laundering charges back home in Texas, is wiggling his hips and smiling grotesquely on “Dancing With the Stars.” Washed up actors and athletes aren’t bad enough, ABC has to recruit potential felons?

 Delay, who was affectionately known as “the Hammer” when he was browbeating fellow Republicans to support every lame-brained idea to come out of the George W. Bush White House, has done the cha-cha and the tango on the popular TV show and managed to scrape through two weeks without being eliminated. He finished tied for last qualifier this week.

 It’s not difficult to figure out why the man from Sugar Land, Tex., (an admitted Obama “birther,“ by the way) would want to be on the show. He wants to soften his image for the upcoming trial, even if in attempting to do so he comes off even creepier than people suspected. There’s something about Republicans from Texas and being oblivious. But why does ABC need him? The man is accused of breaching the public trust by using his office to transform large sums of corporate campaign donations intended for the Republican Party into funds targeted for specific GOP candidates in Texas. That‘s illegal and it’s hardly Fred Astaire material. Surely, there were other B, C, or D list celebrities willing to risk humiliation.

 What Delay has been most successful at since resigning his post in June of 2006 is in delaying his reckoning with justice, although two of his former aides were snared in a major lobbying/influence buying scandal. Delay was indicted in 2005. Neither he nor the prosecutor seems interested in a speedy trial and so it appears viewers of “Dancing with the Stars” will deliver a verdict on Delay before jurors in Texas get an opportunity to do so. May that justice at least be swift.

Bob can be reached at bob@zestoforange.com.


One Response to “Justice Delayed and Delay-ed”

  1. HackFlak Says:

    The Polanski case makes me nuts, especially after working 21 years in the criminal justice system. For justice to be seen as fair, it must be equitably applied.

    So if the judge was considering tossing the plea bargain and throwing the rapist in jail, what of it? It wouldn’t be the first time a jurist rejected a plea found soft. Many might agree with the jurist that a month in jail is insufficient for a rapist.

    The rapist admitted his crime and pled guilty. His guilt is not at issue. He fled because he feared a judge might impose real time. Since the sole purpose of bail is to ensure one’s presence in the courtroom, the judge’s only error was not ordering the rapist to remain in jail from his plea until sentencing.

    The defense attorney’s claim of any expired statute of limitations on the rape charge is pure idiocy. He’s being sought as as a fugitive bail-jumper, not as a rapist. That’s his on-going status until he appears in court. And when he does, he will sentenced as a bail-jumper and as a rapist. If the judge wants to send a message, in this case, the former might draw more jail time than the latter.

    I’m unimpressed that the victim has forgiven him. Crimes are prosecuted in the name of the people, not of the victims. That’s to ensure justice instead of revenge. Certainly, the victim’s feelings should be taken into consideration, but they are not controlling. I don’t think a rapist should be freed because a victim forgives the attacker, any more than televised, public castration should be performed at the whim of the victim.

    A CNN poll showed 77 percent of respondents want this rapist jailed. The fact nabobs in Hollywood and elsewhere want him coddled only shows once again the disconnect between real people and those who see their movies and “special status” as their personal reality. The rest of us don’t have to join in.

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