A celebrity then as now, three decades ago Roman Polanski drugged and raped a protesting 13-year-old girl during a photo session a lesser artistic light might not have been able to arrange.
Polanski fled to France in 1978 on the day of his sentencing, was arrested in Switzerland on Saturday and is predictably the focus of special pleadings on his behalf. For example, the French who protected him for years now argue that there is a case for mercy based on Polanski's "exceptional artistic creation and human qualities." Polish Filmmakers Association chief Jacek Bromski told the Associated Press that Polanski had paid for his crime "by not being able to make films in Hollywood."
They sound like Southern Baptist ministers seeking special treatment for a clerical sexual predator or star believer at sentencing time while the predator is in denial. Thomas J. Reese, S.J. at On Faith indicates the appropriate reaction:
Imagine if the Knight of Columbus decided to give an award to a pedophile priest who had fled the country to avoid prison. The outcry would be universal. Victim groups would demand the award be withdrawn and that the organization apologize. Religion reporters would be on the case with the encouragement of their editors. Editorial writers and columnist would denounce the knights as another example of the insensitivity of the Catholic Church to sexual abuse.
And they would all be correct.
And I would join them
As should we all. Special pleadings for Southern Baptist sexual predators, Catholic priest sexual predators and Academy Award winning director sexual predators are all “elite deviance” and when those pleadings succeed, their success tends to foster repetition of the kind of crime involved.
…illegal and/or unethical acts committed by persons in the highest corporate and political strata of society who run little risk of exposure or serious punishment, even though their deviance poses danger to the well-being of many others.
The film industry and the French should fall into shamed silence and Polansky should go to prison. There is no special standing which should be permitted to excuse use of one's celebrity, authority as an adult and ability to manipulate to rape an adolescent who was placed in one's care.
Along the way we were reminded that Polanski's plea bargain, three decades ago, was itself a clear example of “elite deviance.” Polanski was to be allowed to plead guilty to one of six charges - unlawful sexual intercourse - and have his sentence commuted to time served.
Polanski fled when the judge indicated he might reject the plea bargain - a worthwhile thought given Polanski's forcible rape of a 13-year-old - and sentence Polanski to prison.