Hollywood Burning
The Polanski affair reveals selective outrage among the film crowd.


So it has come to this: Drugging and raping a 13-year-old is now a “so-called crime,” for which artistic talent, the approbation of peers, and the passage of time can coalesce to earn the rapist immunity from official sanction, if indeed any was called for in the first place.

“Whatever you think about the so-called crime, [Roman] Polanski has served his time,” says film producer Harvey Weinstein in The Independent. His piece is notable not only for its moral obtuseness but also for its sickeningly unctuous tone. “I was with him the day he won the Legion of Honour in France,” writes Weinstein, “which was a spectacular day. I remember the incredible love and affection that people have for him.”

Mr. Weinstein overlooks the fact that the history of mankind is liberally dotted with despicable men who could draw an adoring throng. Even so, there is another, more compelling (at least to Weinstein) reason Polanski should be freed: His peers in show business demand it. “I hope the US government acts swiftly,” he writes, “because film makers are looking for justice to be properly served. I will be organizing the effort myself by emailing everybody I know to sign the petition.”

By justice being properly served, Weinstein means that Polanski should be freed from Swiss custody and the original rape charge against him should be dismissed. This opinion is evidently shared by a growing number of people affiliated with the movie business, including Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, and that paragon of virtue Woody Allen, all of whom have added their names to a petition in which they “demand the immediate release of Roman Polanski.”

So we had better apologize to Mr. Polanski for the inconvenience and call the whole thing off. Otherwise, Mr. Weinstein might retaliate by withholding what will surely be a classic of the cinematic art, Piranha 3D. Why, he might even do the unthinkable and shelve the upcoming Rambo V, which would be a cultural privation of such monstrosity that legions of Stallone-starved movie fans would surely take up torches and pitchforks and storm any jail that dared detain the misunderstood and mistreated auteur, so-called child rapist Roman Polanski.

There have been so many distortions in the media as to the facts of the case against Polanski that addressing them here would place a heavy burden on me, the writer, and you, the reader. For those keen on wading into the details, I recommend Patrick Frey’s blog, (Full disclosure: I post there from time to time.) Frey is a deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County (though of course in addressing the Polanski case he speaks only for himself as a citizen and not on behalf of his office). He has done an admirable job of aggregating the many news stories on the matter and, more important, correcting the record as it pertains to the applicable laws and Polanski’s original guilty plea. And, as he so often does, he skewers reporters and pundits who misrepresent the facts (see here, here, and here, for example). The victim’s grand-jury testimony should disabuse any reader of the notion that she consented to what Polanski did to her. A warning, though: It is indeed graphic.

It’s interesting to note that among the more common rationalizations for letting Polanski off the hook is the fact that so much time has elapsed since he committed the crime. For example, Washington Post writer Anne Applebaum (on whom Frey heaps particular scorn) had this to say in the paper’s “Post Partisan” blog:

I am certain there are many who will harrumph that, following this arrest, justice was done at last. But Polanski is 76. To put him on trial or keep him in jail does not serve society in general or his victim in particular. Nor does it prove the doggedness and earnestness of the American legal system. If he werent famous, I bet no one would bother with him at all.

Ms. Applebaum should consider me among those harrumphing, just as I presume she herself harrumphs at the efforts of Jerry Mitchell, who was glowingly profiled (and deservedly so) in Sunday’s New York Times. Mitchell, a reporter at the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., was recently awarded a “genius grant from the MacArthur Foundation for his efforts in investigating civil-rights violations dating back decades, including the 1964 case of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman, a fictionalized version of whose murders served as the backdrop to the film Mississippi Burning. He has aided in the arrest and conviction of men who long ago escaped punishment.

Would Anne Applebaum, Harvey Weinstein, and other Polanski defenders dare to suggest that Jerry Mitchell, in refusing to “move on,” is some kind of modern-day Inspector Javert?

Jack Dunphy is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. “Jack Dunphy” is the author’s nom de cyber. The opinions expressed are his own and almost certainly do not reflect those of the LAPD management.